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5 tips to maintain your ISO 14001-based EMS after certification

In previous articles we have looked at various components of preparing your Environmental Management System (EMS) for ISO 14001:2015 audit and registration. Articles such as How to get management buy-in for ISO 14001Twelve steps to make the transition to ISO 14001:2015, and others will hopefully have helped you navigate the specific requirements you will need to meet to ensure you are ready to face and pass your registration audit. In our previous article: Why you should certify your ISO 14001 Environmental System, we examined why registration is recommended, but after the auditor leaves and your certificate is being processed, it may occur to you amidst all the work you have completed for compliance and audit that you may be unsure about what to do to maintain your EMS from that stage onward. So, what tips exist that can help you maintain your EMS effectively after certification?

Tips for effective EMS maintenance

As we now have successfully navigated the registration audit, what do we need to pay heed to in order to ensure our first year of registration to the ISO 14001:2015 standard is a success?

Repair any mistakes

Revisit any recommendations, minor non-conformances, or even auditor comments from the audit itself. Obviously, non-conformances need to be tackled within a predetermined period, but in the case of any other comments, pull together the team who were involved in the audit and gather any information arising from contact with the auditor him/herself. This can be critical in the event of any follow ups, or in the instance of having the same auditor visit again next year.

Repeat your winning formula

Remember what you did to get to where you are – and repeat it. If the standard has not changed, then exactly the same principles apply, and you need to perform the same disciplines as you did in the period running up to the audit to ensure you remain compliant.

Focus on leadership and communication

Continue to focus on leadership and communication. We have looked at the importance of both in previous articles, and continued focus will ensure that the importance of EMS results remains at the forefront of your company consciousness and culture. Many companies lose some focus after the registration audit is over, so ensure this does not happen – it can be difficult to get this focus back amongst your employees.

Use an EMS diary to remind yourself

Create an EMS diary. This makes it easy to specify when critical actions such as internal audit, customer feedback, review of corrective action, risk discussions, and so forth should take place. This is an excellent way of ensuring that critical EMS functions do take place when scheduled, and leaves the team to focus on improvement and the strategic decisions that can drive the EMS forward. This can be constructed as information is passed down from the Management Review and frequency of these critical functions is decided.

Clearly define responsibility

Ensure your organization delegates responsibility for EMS functions clearly and accurately. A formal management representative may no longer be mandatory, but a clear definition of who is responsible for what (and ensuring that they have the skills and training to deliver) is critical to the ongoing performance and success of your EMS.

So, given that we now have some ideas of how to embark on life with our EMS after the registration audit, what benefits can we hope to see if we can carry out the actions above effectively?

Life after the audit: The benefit

The main benefits of using the tips above should be that you have all the elements that make up your EMS under control and have a clear strategic overview of what tasks need to be carried out to ensure that your system can function effectively during the forthcoming year. As stated above, this leaves you free to ensure that the continual improvement, risk discussions, and conversations – which form the basis of ideas and inspiration to lessen your environmental impact – can take place.

In an effectively run EMS you will find that if the staple actions are planned and executed in an organized fashion, then the discussions and planning that will bring improvement will follow. This will ensure a benefit in terms of allowing you time and space to prepare for your surveillance audit, which we looked at in detail in the previous article 5 tips to help you prepare for your ISO 14001 surveillance audit, and also there will be a tangible benefit to the environment from your improved performance. If you plan your year after certification as carefully as you plan the year before for your EMS, it can be guaranteed that the benefits will be clear for both your organization and the wider environment.

Download this free white paper: What to expect at the ISO certification audit: What the auditor can and cannot do to learn more about how to maintain your certification.

Advisera John Nolan
John Nolan
John Nolan is a Fellow of the Institute of Leaders and Managers in the United Kingdom, and Prince 2 accredited with a background in Engineering and Electronics and Data Storage and Transfer. Having studied and qualified as both a Mechanical and Electronic Engineer, he has spent the last 15 years designing and delivering Quality Systems and projects across many sectors in the UK, including both national and local government.