28 Aug 14

What you need to know about the ISO 14001 revision

16457734_d2623752d4_zIn 2015, a revised version of ISO 14001 will be published; the standard designed to help organisations create the systems and processes that they need to manage their environmental impact and risk. For many organisations, the aim of implementing ISO 14001 is to ensure a robust environmental management system is in place to manage and report information more effectively.

Why is ISO 14001 being updated?

All ISO standards are periodically reviewed to make sure they are still appropriate for the market. As technology advances and business operations evolve, the revision process is important to make sure standards remain relevant for organisations that implement them.

There is now a need for standards to have a common format, to make implementation and management processes more straightforward. The 2015 ISO 14001 revision will bring this standard in line with this common format.

What are the proposed changes? 

The full revision won’t be published until 2015 so we’ll have to wait for a breakdown of all the changes. However, what we do know from the draft release is that the revised standard is going to be written in line with Annex SL – a new high-level structure that is being introduced across all standards. The aim for Annex SL is to improve the harmonisation and consistency between the structures, text, terms and definitions used across standards, while enabling standard developers to incorporate the specific requirements for their technical areas.

As part of the revision process, it is intended that ISO 14001 will better equip organisations to integrate an environmental management system into their business processes.  Senior Managers should pay attention as this could mean a greater role for them in the environmental management system.  However, the standard will still be based on Plan Do Check Act (PDCA) approach, with most of the previous requirements included, just in slightly different areas.

A closer look at the key envisaged changes in ISO 14001 for 2015 

Although the full details of the clause changes are not yet confirmed, the following updates have been published:

  • Clause 4 (The Context of the Organisation): The aim of this new clause is for organisations to provide a strategic overview of the issues that can affect (positively or negatively) the way the organisation manages its environmental responsibilities.

  • Clause 5 (Leadership): This is an enhanced requirement and an encouraging amendment as the support and commitment from senior management is vital to the success of environmental management systems. This clause should help to move it up the agenda, to make sure the issues are considered from both a strategic and tactical level.

  • Clause 6 (Planning): A proposed significant enhancement. This revision brings together several aspects of current clauses, including the concept of preventative action.

  • Clause 7 (Support): This clause has not changed, but the requirements have been made more prescriptive. The aim here is to make this part of the standard more consistent.

  • Clause 8 (Operations): This clause is being enhanced, to emphasise the considerations organisations need to give to their value chain and the effects the organisation has on this value chain. It also places more emphasis on the way organisations manage their outsourced processes which is a welcome revision.

  • Clause 9 (Performance Evaluation): The role of this clause is to enable organisations to collect and review all the necessary documentation to prove their environmental management system meets the expected outcomes. A new requirement, collated from several different clauses, this is a positive step towards more robust and transparent reporting.

  • Clause 10 (Improvement): A more structured approach has been recommended for this clause.  The current non-conformity and corrective action clause has been included in this area of the standard and is likely to be more structured by being more prescriptive.

What will the changes mean?

Until the revised version of the standard has been published, there isn’t any need for you to take immediate action but it’s worth keeping a close eye on any announcements. After the publication has been made, organisations will have to start to transition to the new standard. This will include updating their processes and documentation, so they are in accordance with the new requirements. Typically, organisations have up to two years to complete this transition process however, details around the timescale have not yet been finalised. 

Reporting on value chain is likely to be the biggest change for organisations and may be a reporting dimension you may not have considered before.  Outsourced services in particular are frequently excluded from environmental reporting on grounds of complexity or materiality so this could present a fresh challenge (and opportunity) for organisations.  ISO revisions aside, managing the practices and policies of your value chain more closely can have demonstrable benefits for organisations looking to operate sustainably.  

At Greenstone, we’ve seen that having a robust set of data from suppliers in your value chain means you can more easily identify gaps or risks and compare suppliers in line with their own environmental performance and industry benchmarks.  We’ve been supporting clients with the implementation and roll-out of SupplierPortal across their value chain to achieve a better quality of information from suppliers that will provide greater transparency, reduce value chain risks and support the new requirements of ISO14001.

Find out more about how SupplierPortal. Talk to us today:

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[image credit: Jennie]

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