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What are the 5 main highlights in the ISO 14001:2015 Draft International Standard (DIS)?

Author: Mark Hammar

So, what are the main changes that are outlined in the latest draft international standard of ISO 14001:2015 (also called “ISO/DIS 14001:2015” for short), and what might these mean for your environmental management system? In this article I will point out some of the changes when compared to the current standard, ISO 14001:2004. It is important to note that although these changes look finalized, there may be some slight updates in the final draft international standard (FDIS) and even the final released version of the standard.

Reformatting to Annex SL Standard. As with many other standards that are being updated, the ISO 14001 2015 Draft International Standard has been re-ordered and re-named to be compliant with Annex SL. This brings it in line with other standards, such as ISO 22301 & ISO 27001, which more closely follow the plan-do-check-act cycle. These changes should not affect the implementation of the specific environmental management system you have tailored for your company.

As part of this change to the organization of the standard, the standard now follows a format that is a closer match to the flow of implementation.

  • Section 4 starts with understanding the organization and expectations of interested parties, and then determining the scope of the environmental management system.
  • Next comes Section 5 on leadership commitment, defining the environmental policy and assigning the organization roles, responsibilities and authorities.
  • Section 6 on planning is the next thing to implement.
  • Assigning support (Section 7) is the next logical step.
  • Operational control (Section 8) follows as the next step in implementation.
  • Monitoring, measurement, analysis and evaluation of the management system (including internal audit and management review, Section 9) provides a check of your processes.
  • Last is the implementation of improvement, including corrective actions (Section 10).

The importance of risk. One of the big changes is the way that risk is highlighted throughout this new ISO 14001. While risk has always been the driving factor behind identifying and categorizing the environmental aspects, it is clearly spelled out in Section 6.1.4 that planning includes actions to address risk associated with threats and opportunities, and Section 6.1.5 addresses planning to take action for these risks. Risk is again brought into the setting of environmental objectives (Section 6.2.1). This is finally followed up in the internal audit process and management review process, where risk becomes more important than in previous revisions of ISO 14001.

What about environmental aspects? In the ISO/DIS 14001:2015, Section 6.1.2 is still dedicated to the significant environmental aspects as part of the planning for the environmental management system. It is also clearly stated in Section 6.1.5 that the organization needs to plan to take actions to address the risks associated with the significant environmental aspects and integrate and implement these actions into the environmental management system. While this has always been the intention of identifying which aspects were significant, the standard now clearly identifies that this is expected.

Leadership. Although it seems like a small change, the new draft international standard has added a requirement for top management to take accountability for the effectiveness of the environmental management system. This has been assigned to the internal audit teams in many companies, and only noted to top management as part of management review on some occasions. But, what is now expected is that top management can speak about how they measure and improve the EMS and how effective this has been. To get a jump on this new requirement, you could improve the involvement and knowledge of top management in the effectiveness of the EMS now, so that you are ready when the new revision of ISO 14001 comes out.

Documented information. The new term used for anything that needs to be documented is “documented information.” In the previous standard it discussed the differences in records and documents, but now this is all under Section 7.5, which discusses the general need for documented information, requirements when creating and updating, and the control of documented information. While the current and previous revisions of ISO 14001 have not had any identified required documents like the six that are identified by ISO 9001, there has always been a need for rules to deal with the documents that are required by an organization to maintain adequate control, and this has not changed.

For more information on the current documentation required by ISO 14001, take a look at this white paper: Checklist of Mandatory Documentation Required by ISO 14001:2004.

Starting now is not required, but it could help.

As always, you will have some time after the final version is released to take action to update your EMS, so it is not necessary to start to take action now. However, you might want to start thinking of some of the main updates mentioned here and how you can address them, since this might make later updates easier and quicker to implement. Keeping ahead of the curve on these updates might give you more time to think about how you would improve your current system, such as risk assessment and planning. Extra planning now on the few items identified in this article can help improve your effectiveness later.

Visit our special  ISO 14001:2015 repository page to find more useful articles, infographics, documents and whitepapers on the ISO 14001:2015 revision.

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