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Latest News Guide to ISO 14001 and environmental management

Guide to ISO 14001 and environmental management

ISO 14001

It’s more important than ever for businesses to help to protect the environment and be seen to be doing so.

Obtaining ISO 14001 certification is one of the ways your business can demonstrate commitment to the environment, reduce waste management costs, and comply with increasingly stringent environmental laws and regulations.

In this guide we’ll explain why ISO 14001 is important and the standards required to meet its requirements.

What is ISO 14001?

ISO 14001 is the international standard for environmental management systems, with more than 360,000 organisations certified globally.

Designed by the International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO), it helps companies reduce their environmental impact by providing a set of requirements for the implementation of an environmental management system (EMS).

As well as ensuring legal compliance with environmental legislation, ISO 14001 helps businesses reduce waste, improve resource efficiency and reduce the cost of waste management.

Businesses of any size, in any sector, can benefit from achieving ISO 14001 certification to help them implement sustainable practices.

What is an environmental management system?

An EMS is a framework which helps businesses manage their resources efficiently and become more sustainable by reducing their impact on the environment.

It can be used by any organisation in either the private or public sector and helps businesses to reduce waste both internally and across the supply chain.

Obtaining ISO 14001 certification publicly demonstrates your commitment to protecting the environment and can help to improve the public’s perception of your company.

What are the key features of ISO 14001?

There are six key features of ISO 14001 which need to be adhered to to achieve certification, these include:

  • A clearly outlined environmental policy
  • Detailed planning for implementing the EMS
  • Implementation and operation of the plans
  • Regular checks and implementing any required changes
  • A process for management review
  • Continuous improvement

What are the benefits of being ISO 14001 certified?

Concerns over climate change and environmental issues have never been higher, leaping above Brexit, personal health, and the economy, according to pollsters Ipsos Mori.

And with increasingly stringent legislation expected in the coming years to reduce carbon emissions, businesses will face growing pressure from customers and regulators to minimise their impact on the environment.

Gaining ISO 14001 accreditation is becoming an increasingly popular way for businesses to show their commitment to a more environmentally friendly future.

The key benefits of an ISO 14001 environmental management system include:

  • reduced operating costs by improving efficiency in energy and water use, and waste management;
  • ensuring legal compliance with environmental legislation, reducing the possibility of prosecution;
  • enhanced reputation and corporate image, demonstrating your commitment to responsible sustainability;
  • some business and organisations that you want to do business with may require you to hold ISO 14001 certification, without it you’re unlikely to be able to work with them;
  • improved environmental management systems, allowing you to monitor your ongoing environmental impact and react to future changes in legislation;
  • helping to change the culture of your organisation.

What is the process for getting ISO 14001 accredited?

There are a few key steps to gaining ISO 14001 accreditation, from the initial learning stage, through designing an EMS, auditing and implementation.

Briefly, the steps are as follows:

  1. Learn as much as possible about the ISO standard to help you understand what your organisation needs to do to comply. You can buy a copy of the standard here.
  2. Consider whether you would like external assistance with developing and EMS. Alan Boswell Risk Management can help you with the process to achieving environmental compliance.
  3. Perform an initial environmental review to assess your current policies and management, identify any relevant legislation and any environmental issues in your organisation.
  4. Create a gap analysis to highlight any areas that do not comply with the standards and how this will be rectified.
  5. Choose a UKAS accredited certification body that will carry out your two-stage audit and assess whether you have achieved accreditation.
  6. Create a project plan to guide you through the certification process.
  7. Inform and educate all staff of the plan to obtain ISO 14001 accreditation, and what it means for them. In particular, it is key to make sure that all senior leadership are onboard with the process as part of certification requires you to be able to evidence their participation.
  8. Design and implement your EMS.
  9. Use your EMS, follow its procedures and collect records to refine and make improvements.
  10. Carry out an internal audit to see how your system is working and find ways to improve it.
  11. There are two stages to ISO auditing. The first of which assesses all of your documentation, and the auditor will present you with a report detailing any changes you need to make.
  12. The second stage of the audit is an on-site inspection. After both stages have been completed you will be advised if you have achieved certification.

What are the ISO 14001 requirements for certification?

When assessing your organisation’s certification for ISO 14001, auditors will focus on ten clauses. The first three describe the standards and its requirements to help you understand it better.

The other seven are:

  • Context of the organisation, which defines the areas of your operations the EMS will cover.
  • Leadership, which identifies the requirement for senior management to demonstrate commitment to the EMS.
  • Planning, emphasising the need to identify how management will achieve its objectives and identify future risks such as new legal requirements.
  • Support, focusing on what resources are required, how you control documented information for the EMS, and internal and external communication relevant to the EMS.
  • Operation, covering the daily processes and operations of the business, including how you will respond to emergency environmental situations.
  • Performance evaluation, which outlines how you will monitor, measure, analyse, and evaluate your EMS processes, including how you will evaluate compliance with legal requirements.
  • Improvement, which focuses on using the results of the performance evaluation to continually improve your business and its processes.

How long does it take to be ISO 14001 compliant?

The length of time it will take to obtain ISO 14001 certification will depend on the size and complexity of your business or organisation, and the amount of resources you dedicate to its implementation.

If you have multiple sites or a diverse range of business operations, the process is likely to take longer than a small business on one site.

On average, small companies with only 10 – 20 employees should be able to obtain accreditation within three to six months.

A company employing up to 50 staff could be looking at six months plus, while larger companies may take up to two years to complete the process.

Are there any ongoing requirements to stay ISO 14001 compliant?

Yes, once you have obtained an ISO 14001 certificate, an audit will be carried out by a registrar typically every three years.

Your registrar will also make checks annually to ensure the business is upholding the details set out in the EMS, and the ISO requirements.

How much does it cost to become ISO 14001 compliant?

The cost will depend on the size and complexity of your organisation, and how much of the work you carry out in-house.

You will need to allocate staff resources from within your business, but you may also want staff to undertake courses, which can cost from £300 for a short course on the requirements of ISO 14001, to £1500 for a three-day course on becoming an internal auditor.

The fastest way to become compliant is often to hire an external consultant who can speed up the process with their expertise and guidance.

What is the current ISO 14001 standard?

All ISO standards are regularly reviewed and periodically improved upon, and the latest version of ISO 14001 is ISO 14001:2015.

Changes made in 2015 largely focused on expanding the scope of the EMS requirements, including more documentation, greater leadership engagement, and a need for risk-based planning to be an integral part of environmental management.

If you’re looking for guidance on the process to becoming ISO 14001 certified, contact Alan Boswell Risk Management on 01603 967900.

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