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How to determine interested parties according to ISO 14001:2015

In the upcoming release of ISO 14001, there is a lot of emphasis put on interested parties of your Environmental Management System (EMS).  We need to understand the requirements of interested parties, the EMS scope and Environmental Policy must be made available to them, and management needs to review any communication from external interested parties.

With all of this importance placed on interested parties, you might wonder why you need to identify them and what their interest would be in your EMS.  Here I will look at why the ISO 14001:2015 standard wants you to identify these parties, and what is in it for them.

Why identify interested parties?

The requirements for identifying the interested parties for your EMS comes in Section 4.2 on understanding the needs and expectations of interested parties. In this section, it explains that the reason for identifying the interested parties is to then determine the relevant needs and expectations of these parties so that you can determine which of these needs and expectations are compliance obligations. Part of having an EMS is trying to fulfill the needs of your interested parties.

For instance, if you have a customer who expects your packaging to be re-usable and wants to return it to you for use on the next shipment, they will not be satisfied if you are sending your product to them in a disposable container. This would be one expectation of an interested party that you need to identify and strive to meet.

Further on in this section that discusses interested parties, it deals with the scope of the EMS and the Environmental Policy being made available to interested parties, and requires that management review includes an appraisal of any communications from external interested parties. If you are going to identify the needs and expectations of interested parties, you will want to let them know what you are doing at the top levels of your EMS and you will want to review any comments they may have about your EMS performance.

For more on compliance, see this article on Compliance requirements according to ISO 14001:2015 – What has changed?

Who are your interested parties, and why do they care?

Different people are interested in your EMS for various different reasons, and thinking about this when you are identifying the interested parties and determining their needs and expectations can be helpful. While this is not necessarily a complete list for every industry, here are a few common interested parties and some reasons why they might be interested in the performance of your Environmental Management System:

  • Government: No matter where you have your business, there will be government regulations that need to be met at some level. This is particularly true of environmental regulations. Federal governments often have overall environmental regulations that govern many industries, and local regulations might concern things like what you can recycle, and / or what can be flushed down the drain or into storm sewers. Not meeting the requirements of this interested party can mean fines or other penalties.
  • Shareholders: Shareholders of your company want you to make money and not waste it, which is why they agreed to implement an EMS in the first place. They will be interested in your EMS for the ability you have to meet requirements and avoid fines, or even to find cost savings from your EMS improvements.
  • Customers: Like your shareholders, your customers do not want you to impact the delivery of your product due to a legally mandated shutdown. They may also have environmental targets of their own that can be more easily met with your involvement, such as a target to reduce waste to the landfill that can be improved if you use a recyclable or reusable shipping container.
  • Neighbors: If your business has the potential to have environmental impacts in the immediate areas, such as chemical spills or noise pollution, then your immediate neighbors will be very interested parties in how you control your EMS. Further, if your processes emit air pollutants that can blow farther afield, your neighbors farther from your location could be affected and have an interest in what you are doing to improve.
  • Employees: You employees want to live in a world that is not polluted, and they want to work at a company where they can be proud of their contribution to a better environment. They are not only interested parties, but they are intimately involved in how well your EMS performs.

One of the ways to identify your legal and other requirements

Part of the reason to have an EMS is to ensure that you are identifying your legal and other requirements, working toward meeting those requirements, and keeping up to date on any changes in requirements. Without using a process to identify the interested parties and their needs and expectations, it is difficult to ensure that you have identified all the requirements you should address. Use this activity to make sure you are on top of those requirements you need to deal with.

To get familiar with the requirements visit  ISO 14001:2015 Internal Auditor online course.

Advisera Mark Hammar
Mark Hammar
Mark Hammar is a Certified Manager of Quality / Organizational Excellence through the American Society for Quality and has been a Quality Professional since 1994. Mark has experience in auditing, improving processes, and writing procedures for Quality, Environmental, and Occupational Health & Safety Management Systems, and is certified as a Lead Auditor for ISO 9001, AS9100, and ISO 14001.