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The importance of management review in the ISO 14001:2015 process

Author: John Nolan

The year 2015 will see the approval of the Draft International Standard (DIS) of the ISO 14001:2015 environmental standard. You can examine the changes in this previous 14001Academy blog post: What are the 5 main highlights in the ISO 14001:2015 Draft International Standard (DIS)?, but one of the key changes speaks of leadership commitment, and also of defining the organization’s environmental policy itself, as well as assigning roles, responsibilities, and authority for the organization. In effect, the role of “top management” and its commitment to the EMS should be evident throughout the process of scoping out the objectives and targets. However, the actual management review may be one of the first and most important places that this leadership can be demonstrated and formally recorded in a manner that leaves all stakeholders assured of the team’s commitment to environmental improvement. So, how is this done and why is this deemed important enough to be part of the new ISO 14001:2015 standard?

Management Review – more important now than ever?

Section 4.6 of the ISO 14001:2004 standard sets out what is required from an organization in terms of management review, and what input and output criteria need to be satisfied to demonstrate the organization’s commitment to continual improvement. As you would expect, defining targets and objectives is also a staple of this initial management review process, and an organization’s top management team should play a key role in this, but the increased emphasis on leadership in the 2015 standard means that top management will be expected to understand and be able to talk about how the EMS is measured and improved, and how effective this has been. Therefore, an increased focus on having accurate, meaningful, and sustainable targets and objectives will arise. An increased expectation of demonstrable and measureable leadership will be expected from the ISO 14001:2015 auditor.

So, how does this change the management review?

An organization’s top management team must now take extra care in setting out its environmental targets, objectives, and authorities within the business. Can the team demonstrate leadership throughout the process, from target setting, through communication to delivery and review of performance, finally ensuring that continual improvement is possible and indeed delivered? Are all employees and stakeholders aware of the objectives and what must be done to achieve them? In part of an earlier blog we looked at how to involve employees in goal setting: How to write ISO 14001 targets for your organization, but can this level of leadership and involving employees really be demonstrated by your top management team? Formalizing these processes by recording them at your management review will help you. Sharing your management review minutes with your team and stakeholders will also help you. Everyone can then be aware that the top management team is clear on its objectives, clear on its responsibility toward achieving them, clear in providing the support and resources for the organization to achieve them, and clear in providing an EMS and support system where continual improvement can be achieved via an established review and feedback channel.

Management Review – ongoing effect through the year

So, your top management team has set out its objectives, hopefully after a degree of employee consultation. The communication channel has been established; your stakeholders understand where the responsibilities lie, and know that the support is in place to work toward achieving these goals. Many organizations have one management review per year. Is this sufficient to ensure targets are achieved and continual improvement is seen? As long as you have a defined vehicle to ensure all the vital aspects are reviewed, actioned, and improved, the answer is “yes.” This may be a weekly or monthly EMS meeting, and you can formally record what you discuss and decide to action there. This will keep you true to the targets and objectives you set up at that management review meeting. But, we are all human and sometimes forget things. Many companies choose to show their environmental performance results in their foyer or reception areas, whether on noticeboards or electronically. These KPIs are usually formulated at your management review meeting – why not summarize the management review minutes accordingly, and display them too? Sometimes everyone needs reminding of what they are actually trying to achieve, and having a summary of these minutes is a very effective way of doing so – and maintaining everyone’s focus on them.

So, what does this change achieve?

Your top management team has now set out the objectives and responsibilities, and the employees and stakeholders have an accurate picture of this, too. You have a shared vision and clear definition of who is responsible for what, and what processes are used to support this. Together, you can work toward achieving your goals. Achievement usually means a happy management team, fulfilled employees, and when you have to face your ISO 14001:2015 audit, a happy auditor. And the environment will be happy, too!

Use this free  ISO 14001 Gap Analysis Tool to assess what gaps exist in your ISO 14001 system.

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