Are you ready for ISO 14001: 2015?

by Jul 21, 2016Articles, Natural Resources

Written by Selvan Subroyen

(Natural Resources Department)

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For 12 years ISO 14001: 2004 has been the world’s most popular environmental standard for companies. On 15 September 2015 the standard was revised under ISO 14001: 2015 and will be implemented in September 2018.

As September 2018 looms large on the horizon, companies are urged, in the intervening period to make a seamless transition to ISO 14001: 2015 by:

  • Being informed of and understanding the key changes set out in the revised standard;
  • Using the 3 year transition period to plan for the new requirements under the new standard; and
  • Communicating with senior management, employees and interested and affected parties on the requirements for conformance to the revised standard.

What are the major changes under ISO 14001: 2015?

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Understanding the Organisation’s Context 

The new ISO 14001: 2015 requires that the organisation understands its external and internal context before establishing an Environmental Management System (“EMS)

  • In practical terms the external context refers to an understanding of how environmental conditions like existing soil contamination, climate, air quality, water quality, use of natural resources can either affect the company’s purpose or be negatively affected by external environmental conditions.
  • Further external factors requires an understanding of prevailing political, social, cultural, legal/regulatory in developing a well-defined EMS
  • The internal context of a company requires an understanding of its activities, products and services, capabilities of employees, processes and systems and its impact on the environment.

Risk-based thinking

  • “Preventative Action” is no longer listed and has been replaced by the concept of “Risk Planning” whose object is to identify actions that decrease environmental impacts.
  • In practice this would require the organisation to determine all environmental risks associated with its operations and to devise ways to mitigate such risks.
  • The risk based approach contemplates potential emergency situations that could arise and would pose a risk to the environment and the confidence that the organisation’s processes and systems will be implemented to control environmental emergencies.
  • Are emergency tests carried out from time to time and are employees trained on emergency preparedness?

Needs and expectations of interested parties 

  • There is a new requirement that when developing the organisation’s EMS that interested parties like government, neighbours, customers, employees and shareholders needs and expectations are identified.
  • The organisations EMS Scope and Environmental Policy must be communicated to all interested parties to seek feedback and input on whether their needs and expectations are met.
  • The organisation must appraise all inputs, review the EMS Scope and Environmental Policy to ensure that all needs and expectations of interested parties are met.
  • Management must communicate to interested and affected parties how they envisage meeting their needs and expectations.

Life Cycle Thinking 

  • A life cycle is the environmental aspects at each stage of your service and not only the on-site activities.
  • For example has the organisation determined whether its raw materials were obtained in a sustainable and environmentally friendly manner?
  • Has the organisation determined the environmental aspects at each stage of the lifecycle (design, procurement, use, transport, end of life)?

Leadership 

  • There must be evidence that top management is involved and committed to the EMS.
  • Management must promote environmental management within the company.

Conclusion 

  • September 2018 – full conformance with ISO 14001:2015
  • ISO 14001:2004 will not be valid after the 3-year transition period
  • Companies intending certification for the first time should align to the principles under ISO 14001:2015
  • Existing ISO 14001:2004 users encouraged to transition early
  • Companies must maintain valid ISO 14001:2004 Certificate until successfully issued ISO 14001:2015 Certificate