ISO 14001 sets out the criteria for an Environmental Management System and can be certified. It maps out a framework that a company or organization can follow to set up an effective environmental management system. It is the international standard that specifies requirements for an effective environmental management system. It provides a framework that an organization can follow, rather than establishing environmental performance requirements. Designed for any type of organization, regardless of its activity or sector, it can assure company management and employees as well as external stakeholders that environmental impact is being measured and improved.
The most recent version of the environmental management system requirements was published in 2015, and is referred to as “ISO 14001:2015.” The standard was agreed upon by a majority of member countries before being released and updated, and as such it has become an internationally recognized standard accepted by a majority of countries around the world.
The ISO 14001 structure is split into ten sections. The first three are introductory, with the last seven containing the requirements for the environmental management system.
Here is what the seven main sections are about:
Section 4: Context of the organization – This section talks about requirements for understanding your organization to implement an EMS. It includes the requirements for identifying internal and external issues, identifying interested parties and their expectations, defining the scope of the EMS, and identifying the processes required for the EMS.
Section 5: Leadership – The leadership requirements cover the need for top management to be instrumental in the implementation of the EMS. Top management needs to demonstrate commitment to the EMS by ensuring environmental commitment, defining and communicating the environmental policy, and assigning roles and responsibilities throughout the organization.
Section 6: Planning – Top management must also plan for the ongoing function of the EMS. Risks and opportunities of the EMS in the organization need to be assessed, and environmental objectives for improvement need to be identified and plans made to accomplish these objectives. Additionally, the organization must assess how the organizational processes interact and affect the environment and the legal and other commitments required for the organization.
Section 7: Support – The support section deals with the management of all resources for the EMS, and also includes requirements around competence, awareness, communication, and controlling documented information (the documents and records required for your processes).
Section 8: Operation – The operation requirements deal with all aspects of the environmental controls needed by the organizational processes and the need to identify potential emergencies and plan responses so that you are prepared to respond should an emergency occur.
Section 9: Performance evaluation – This section includes the requirements needed to make sure that you can monitor whether your EMS is functioning well. It includes monitoring and measuring your processes, assessing environmental compliance, internal audits, and on going management review of the EMS.
Section 10: Improvement – This last section includes the requirements needed to make your EMS better over time. This includes the need to assess process nonconformity and taking corrective actions for processes.
These sections are based on a Plan-Do-Check-Act cycle, which uses these elements to implement change within the processes of the organization to drive and maintain improvements within the processes.
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