ISO 14001:2015 – What are the main changes?

ISO 14001:2015 has undergone its second revision to ensure it remains relevant in the decades to come.

Structural Change

ISO 14001:2015 has been written using the new high level structure, Annex SL, which is shared by all new ISO management systems standards. This will simplify integration when implementing more than one management system.

Substantive Changes

The revision of ISO 14001:2015 aims to integrate the organisation’s EMS into the core organisational strategy. To this end the following changes have been made:

  • Increased accountability of leadership. Top management has been more closely defined, to make the EMS more strategic and integrated into the organisation’s decision-making. Environmental, sustainability and CSR managers will be expected to have more interaction with top management.
  • Life cycle approach. There is a requirement to consider environmental impacts throughout the value chain and consideration of life cycle issues (although no requirement for formal Life Cycle Analysis).
  • Rethinking impact. The revision introduces the term ‘environmental condition’, which it defines as ‘long-term environmental changes that can affect the organisation’s activities, products and services, requiring adaptation’. This aim is to getting organisations thinking about the environment’s impact on them, rather than the impact they have on the environment.
  • Risks and opportunities. There is a specific requirement to demonstrate how significant environmental risks and opportunities are managed within the supply chain. The organisation will need to show that it has made the link between environmentally driven issues and how they relate to the business, and how the interfaces with the business are managed.
  • Pro-active reporting. The revision requires the organisation to more pro-actively consider the need for external reporting on environmental issues and to demonstrate much greater control on how it uses and manages environmental data
  • Strengthened compliance. The clause on evaluation of compliance has been strengthened – previously there was a requirement to evaluate compliance, but in the proposed new standard, the requirement is to specify exactly how compliance is evaluated and recorded.
  • Continual improvement. There is a stronger emphasis on the requirement for continual improvement, with a specific clause in place, in line with the policy set by top management, so there should be less room for misinterpretation

All this is intended to make the EMS ( and ISO 14001:2015 ) more meaningful for the business.

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