Infographic: ISO 14001:2015 vs. 2004 revision – What has changed?

The new 2015 revision of ISO 14001, the leading international standard for designing and implementing an Environmental Management System, is finally in front of us. Now we can stop the rumors and see what has really changed compared to the previous version of the standard that lasted for 11 years. (You can get the standard directly from the ISO website here.)

ISO 14001:2015 vs. 2004 revision changes

To get a better overview of the differences between the two revisions, see this free ISO 14001:2015 vs. ISO 14001:2004 matrix.

History of Environmental Management System standards

But first, let’s take a look at the story behind ISO 14001. In 1973, the European Community principles I was published, which was actually an action plan for the application of protective cautions of environment. In 1992, BSI Group published the world’s first Environmental Management Systems standard, BS 7750. The ISO /TC 207 environment management technique committee was established in 1993 to develop the ISO 14000 family of standards. In 1994, the TS 9719 standard (Environment management system – general features) and BS 7750 supplied the template for the development of the ISO 14000 series in 1996, by the International Organization for Standardization. In April 2005, ISO 14001 underwent its first revision and 11 years later, the second revision is published.


The new version of ISO 14001 is aligned with Annex SL, which makes it more compatible with other management systems standards like ISO 9001, ISO 22301, ISO 27001, and ISO 20000, and makes the integration even easier. See also How to integrate ISO 14001 and ISO 9001.

Transition period

Companies certified against the 2004 revision of ISO 14001 must transition to the new version by September 2018. But don’t be fooled by this loose deadline; lead certification bodies announced they will stop certification against the 2004 revision by September 2016, which means that you can be certified against the old version in 2016 and have your last surveillance audit against the old revision in 2018. Why wait so long? Companies can now become certified against the new version starting September 2015.


The new version has 10 clauses, instead of the four in the old version; and instead of 12 mandatory documents, there are now 16. This can seem, at first, like an increase in paperwork, but let’s face it – nobody managed to establish their EMS with only 12 documents, so every company will make as many documents as needed; it is only important not to overwhelm ourselves with documentation. See also: ISO 14001:2015 vs. ISO 14001:2004 matrix.


There are some new requirements, but the most significant are Context of the organization (Clause 4) and Actions to address risks and opportunities (Clause 6.1). The idea behind these new requirements is to make the EMS a part of everyday business activities, and vice versa. Of course, some old requirements are history now; environmental targets, management representative, and preventive actions are no longer part of ISO 14001. Only time will tell which of these will survive now that they are no longer a requirement. See also: Determining the context of the organization in ISO 14001 and Risk Management in ISO 14001:2015 – What, why and how?

Similarities and differences

As in any other revision, there are some parts with only minor changes and some others that saw significant changes. Environmental Policy, Leadership, Competence, Training and awareness, Management review, Internal audit, and Corrective action had only slight changes, and most of the existing system related to these requirements can remain as it was. The second group that has moderate changes includes Identification and evaluation of environmental aspects, Environmental objectives and plans for achieving them, Emergency preparedness and response, Performance evaluation, Document management, Communication, and EMS Scope, and these elements should be revised and updated to be compliant with the new version.

Last, but not least, is a group of new requirements that has to be established and incorporated into the existing EMS from scratch. Risks and opportunities, Context of the organization, and Interested parties are new requirements that need to be met, and they should be implemented with caution because they cast a completely new light on the Environmental Management System.

What does the 2015 revision bring to the EMS?

We have waited for this revision for so long, and it is now time to see what the changes really mean to the Environmental Management System. It is absolutely clear that ISO 14001, like any other management system standard, is a  double-edged sword, and it can’t work if it’s not implemented and maintained properly, but if everything is done as it should be, ISO 14001:2015 will bring to your EMS:

  • better integration with other business activities
  • enhancement of the process approach and PDCA cycle
  • decentralization of the system and spread of responsibilities for the EMS throughout the organization
  • greater involvement of the top management in the EMS
  • consideration of the whole lifecycle of the product or service during aspects evaluation
  • higher emphasis on environmental performance monitoring

The 2015 revision of ISO 14001 certainly brings excitement to the auditors, consultants, and companies, as it brings some new challenges to overcome. But, hopefully, the ultimate goal will be achieved: improvement of the Environmental Management Systems, and consequently, better protection of the environment itself.

Click here to watch a recording of the webinar  ISO 14001:2015 vs. ISO 14001:2004 – The main changes to learn more details about the differences in these two revisions.

Advisera Strahinja Stojanovic
Strahinja Stojanovic

Strahinja Stojanovic is certified as a lead auditor for the ISO 13485, ISO 9001, ISO 14001, and OHSAS 18001 standards by RABQSA. He participated in the implementation of these standards in more than 100 SMEs, through the creation of documentation and performing in-house training for maintaining management systems, internal audits, and management reviews.