How to measure the effectiveness of your EMS according to ISO 14001:2015

If your organization operates an EMS (Environmental Management System), then you will be aware of the effect that its results have both on company performance and the greater environment itself. If you are certified, or are seeking certification to the ISO 14001 standard, then you will have some awareness of the importance of measuring the effectiveness of your EMS performance, both as a guide to performance and as evidence that continual improvement is taking place. It therefore stands to reason that accurate measurement and the knowledge of exactly what needs to be measured are critical to your EMS performance itself. So, what factors do you have to consider to ensure that this vital consideration is met?

Measurement – What to consider

Clause 9.1 of the ISO 14001:2015 standard deals with “Monitoring, measuring, analysis and evaluation,” and this section gives us some pointers as to what is expected in order to comply with the standard. So, let us look at the elements that need to be considered here to ensure that the EMS both functions correctly and complies with the terms of the standard. Your EMS will need to define:

  • Exactly what needs to be measured – Ensure that your KPI outputs are recorded accurately, and any projects that have a bearing on your EMS are measured accordingly. For example, the effect of any new carbon footprint or travel policies could be measured by your organization.
  • Exactly how these elements will be measured – Define the methodology of how you will measure your outputs, ensuring your methodologies guarantee consistency and accuracy for the sake of comparison from one period to another.
  • The criteria against which the company should measure its environmental performance – This may be against legislation, or simply against internally set objectives; however, it is important for clarity that these criteria are defined.
  • When this measuring should be done – In order to ensure consistency, it is important that the periods when measuring is undertaken are agreed and defined. Whether weekly, monthly, or quarterly, it makes sense for results to be measured in a fashion that comparison with previous results can be made easily and accurately.
  • When the results should be analyzed – Importantly, after analysis comes action. It is critical for any business that results are examined and corrective actions defined (if required), with improvement in mind. As such, defining regular periods when this should happen is key.

So, we can see that the measurement of the elements of the EMS can be closely aligned to the system’s key performance indicators (KPIs), which we examined in more detail in the article How to define KPIs according to ISO 14001. It therefore stands to reason that the measurement and subsequent analysis of these KPIs could be scheduled into your EMS diary – it can often be a good idea to attach a diary of events to your EMS – the results communicated throughout the company, and any actions arising discussed by your internal team and initiatives planned accordingly. Measuring the outcomes of your KPIs should therefore form the very basis of determining your EMS performance; but, is this enough – or are there any other considerations we need to make to ensure our EMS performance is measured accurately?

Measurement – Is there anything else?

Strictly speaking, if you have agreed on your KPIs correctly and measured them accurately, then this should provide an accurate guide as to whether your EMS is performing well against the objectives you should have stated and recorded in your management review, as can be seen in the article The importance of management review in ISO 14001:2015. However, one of the main principles of the ISO set of standards, including ISO 14001:2015, is that of continual improvement, which we considered in the article How to achieve continual improvement of your EMS according to ISO 14001.

While it may not always be possible to improve your performance strictly against KPIs annually – think in terms of your organization’s carbon footprint growing as your headcount grows, for example – it is always required that you must demonstrate continual improvement. Consider recording projects that improve your EMS and its performance; perhaps creating a continual improvement log on your EMS may be a good idea? If you do this, you can measure the number of initiatives and projects undertaken annually to improve your environmental performance, and this can even become a new KPI to be considered by the team at the management review. This should ensure that as well as pursuing good performance through attaining the desired KPI results, continual improvement is considered, too. Inaccurate or infrequent measurement of your EMS outputs can render even the most efficient system ineffective; therefore, ensure that your measuring mechanisms are trusted, proven, and regular and that you have a plan to review their effectiveness regularly. Your EMS performance and the environment will both see the benefit.

Why not use our free  ISO 14001 Foundation Course to enhance your knowledge of the standard?

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.