What does ISO 14001 actually look like?
The ISO 14001 structure is split into four sections. The first three are introductory, with the last section, split into six sub-sections, containing the requirements for the environmental management system. Here is what the six sub-sections are about:
Section 4.1: General Requirements – This section provides an overall statement that the environmental management system needs to be established, documented, implemented, maintained, and continually improved according to the requirements of the ISO 14001 standard. This highlights that the EMS is not a one-time activity to be done and then forgotten, but instead is intended to be maintained to promote improvement.
Section 4.2: Environmental Policy – The environmental policy helps to set the overall goals to meet the scope of the environmental management system. The policy includes the company’s commitment to comply with legal requirements, prevent pollution, and continually improve. It also provides the overall framework to set the objectives and targets for the EMS.
Section 4.3: Planning – There are three parts to the planning process for the ISO 14001 EMS. First, the company needs to identify the environmental aspects associated with the activities of the company. Next, the company needs to identify the legal and other requirements that pertain to the aspects and operational processes and ensure that they are understood and implemented. Lastly, objectives, targets, and programs for improvement of the environmental management system need to be put in place with appropriate resources to accomplish the goals.
Section 4.4: Implementation and Operation – This section has many elements to consider, starting with the assignment of resources, roles, responsibilities, and authorities. Once this is in place you must ensure that competence, training, awareness, and communication (both internal and external to the company) are established for the functioning of the EMS. Documentation and control of documents is required to ensure consistency, as is putting in place operational controls and processes for emergency preparedness and response to ensure that there is uniformity where required.
Section 4.5: Checking – The monitoring and measurement, including evaluation of compliance to legal and other requirements, are necessary to ensure that decisions can be made. Part of this is dealing with nonconformity, corrective action, preventive action, and auditing the processes in place. Without these elements, and the records associated with them, it is almost impossible to tell if things are going according to plan.
Section 4.6: Management Review – Hand in hand with the records from the checking requirement is this requirement for management to review the recorded outputs in order to ensure that actions are progressing according to plan, and to guarantee that adequate resources are applied to meet the requirements.
These sections are based on a Plan-Do-Check-Act cycle, which uses these elements to implement change within the processes of the organization in order to drive and maintain improvements within the processes.