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ISO Certification for Environmental Management System

Narendra Kumar

| Updated: Sep 04, 2018 | Category: ISO Registration

ISO 14001 Certification

ISO 14001 Certification

The ISO 14001 is not a mandatory standard that organization needs to certify to on a compulsory basis – they can do so voluntarily integrating this system of standards with other management standard systems to better the performance of the organization. The ISO 140001 lays down the framework for establishing an effectual environmental management system (EMS) within the organization. The ISO 14001 certification is part of the ISO 14000 family of standards on environmental management that offer practical methods and tools that companies and organizations are required to practice for managing their environmental responsibilities.

A sustainable environment can be developed only if the three pillars of sustainability – environment, society, and economy –work together in a balanced manner. The standard was first launched in 1996 and then revised in 2004. The third edition which is ISO 14001:2015 cancels and replaces the earlier version ISO 14001:2004. It also incorporates the Technical Corrigendum ISO 14001:2004/Cor 1:2009).

The Objective of ISO 14001

An effective environmental management system will help the organization and the environment in the following ways-

  1. It would help mitigate adverse environmental impacts and minimize its environmental footprints
  2. It would also help mitigate the potential adverse effects of environmental conditions on the organization
  3. It would help the organization in being compliant for sustainability
  4. It would help improve environmental conditions and performance
  5. Control the entire lifecycle of the product and services in such a manner that no process within the lifecycle will adversely affect the environment
  6. Gaining financial and operational benefits by implementing environmentally sound alternatives
  7. Finally, the organization can communicate the information and data related to the environment to interested parties.

Designing and implementing a sound environmental management system, an organization intends to achieve the following outcomes:-

  • Enhance the environmental performance parameter of the organization and minimize operations that negatively affect the environment.
  • Fulfill compliance-related obligations with applicable laws, regulations and other requirements
  • Achieve environmental objectives and keep on working on the same on a continuous basis to improve processes.

Since this system is not a mandatory requirement for organizations to follow, organizations have the flexibility of complying with either the complete system or follow it partially to improve their environmental management. However, the certification is done only when the said organization follows and conforms to all the mentioned requirements of the Standard.

The standards of the entire family of ISO 14000 have been developed by the ISO Technical Committee ISO/TC 2017 along with its different subcommittees.  More than 300000 certifications have been awarded in 171 countries around the world.

Benefits of ISO 14001

  1. Using this standard helps reduce wastes
  2. It helps in cutting down costs and expenses as resource management and energy management are important areas of focus
  3. Protects the company, its assets, its shareholders and directors
  4. It helps the organization meet legal compliances
  5. Helps improve the trust of customers and other stakeholders
  6. It helps the organization measure, monitor, and controls the impact of its operations on environment in the present and in the future
  7. Helps develop credibility of the organization as it is able to manage environmental related obligations with consistency

The EMS (Environmental Management System) follows the Plan-Do-Check-Act concept. The concept is described as:-

  1. In the planning phase organizations are required to outline their environmental objectives and the major processes and steps that need to be undertaken to ensure that these objectives are being achieved.
  2. In the Do phase, organizations need to implement the new environmental policy and procedures.
  3. In the Check phase, the organization needs to monitor and measure the progress with reference to the laid down environment policy and prepare the results.
  4. The last phase is the Act phase where corrective actions are decided and enforced so that the processes can be continually improved.

An organization that intends to conform to this International Standard needs to do the following:-

  • By self-declaration or self-determination, or
  • Ask for confirmation of its conformance from external parties that are stakeholders of the company for e.g. customers, or
  • Seek confirmation of the self-declaration by an external party that has no interest in the organization, or
  • Get its environmental management system certified by an external agency

ISO 14001 is Applicable to which Industries?

These international standards are applicable to all types of industries – big, medium or small -industrial, manufacturing, services or trade-related – all organizations whose operations impact the environment are the ones that will benefit from the certification.

Certification Process

In order to be certified as an ISO 14001:2015 compliant, an organization would need to be certified by a third party.

Difference between ISO 14001:2004 & ISO 14001:2015

The earlier version had 6 top-level elements namely general, policy, planning, implementation & operation, checking and management review. The third revision has 7 top-level elements which are – the context of the Organization, Leadership, and Planning, Support, operation, performance evaluation and improvement.

The impact of the revision has been classified into ten different areas. They are:-

  1. The wider scope of the environmental management system – earlier it was limited to defining and documenting the scope only. In the latest revision, the scope needs to be defied and recorded keeping in mind external and internal factors, compliance obligations; the products and services of the organization; its activities; etc. It has also been mentioned that all the products, activities and services that have environmental impact need to be included in the scope.
  2. Required interactions with external parties
  3. New requirement for leadership engagement
  4. Expanded legal compliance requirements
  5. Risk-based planning and controls – the earlier version had no mention of this. The latest edition mentions that risks need to be determined so that the EMS can achieve the goals and can be continually improved upon. The organization also needs to address the risks identified and take actions to mitigate them.
  6. New documentation required
  7. Expanded operational control requirements
  8. Changes in competence & awareness requirements
  9. Impacts on Internal Audit Program
  10. Increase in certification costs

Organizations planning to get the certification need to do the following:-

  1. The first step is to review the existing quality management system of the organization.
  2. Purchase ISO 14001:2015
  3. Get the training done for the transition to the updated standard.
  4. Get on board a third party registrar/auditor
  5. Certify to ISO 14001

The process of certification involves:-

  1. Stage 1: assessing if the mandatory requirements of the standards are being met or not
  2. Stage 2: assessing whether the existing system is effective enough and also ensuring that an effectual environment management system is implemented.
  3. Stage 3: Reviewing corrective action taken to address the issues rose in the first two stages.
  4. Stage 4: all documentation of the organization is reviewed and audited by a third party certifying agency post which the decision to provide the certification is taken.
  5. Stage 5: certification issued to the organization.

All organizations that are certified with the 2004 version were given time till September 2018 to update to the latest version of the certification. The EMS certification has a validity period of three years. Mandatory audits are required to be held during this tenure to ensure that the organization is compliant with the mentioned standards.

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Narendra Kumar

Experienced Finance and Legal Professional with 12+ Years of Experience in Legal, Finance, Fintech, Blockchain, and Revenue Management.

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