What are the latest changes to ISO 14001?

What are the latest changes to ISO 14001?
In September 2015 the new ISO 14001—environmental management system standard, was published. ISO standards are reviewed every five years, and as the previous update to ISO 14001 was in 2009, the 2015 revisions were necessary to ensure the standard remains current in the market place. 

The amendments include high level structural changes, the introduction of new concepts (while older terminology is phased out), as well as the addition of some important new specific requirements, which either appear as new clauses or as tweaks to existing clauses.

Some of the key changes involve a focus on environmental management within the organisation’s strategic planning processes and with a greater emphasis on leadership. This requirement means that businesses will have to make environmental performance a bigger part of the strategic decisions being made by top level management, becoming a core part of an organisation’s strategy.

Additions also include pro-active initiatives to protect the environment from harm and degradation, such as sustainable resource use and climate change mitigation, as well as moving towards life cycle thinking, when considering environmental aspects. This addition asks companies to look beyond their boundaries when thinking about their responsibilities, where environmental aspects in their influence sphere are taken into account— when looking at supply chain, value chain and product life cycle.

The new ISO 14001 standard now also requires companies to show their performance more specifically in terms of qualitative data, and so working with other management systems (such as ISO 50001—energy management system) could be beneficial to support this requirement.

The fact that the structural changes now mean that ISO 14001 is structurally compatible with all new and revised ISO standards, will make working across a number of ISO management system easier.

There is a three year transition period, before existing ISO 14001: 2004 certification will lapse. Those businesses that do opt for third party certification will therefore need to ensure they seek new certification before the end of this three year period. Of course plenty of businesses use ISO 14001 as a guide, rather than seeking full certification, and so they will need to ensure they are now using the 2015 version of ISO 14001.

While many of these changes were implicitly present in the previous version of ISO 14001, they have now been set out more formally and clearly.

Working with environmental management systems can be a really useful tool for businesses to manage their environmental performance within a structured approach that also provides evidence of compliance. This can translate to benefits ranging from financial to streamlined processes, green credentials for marketing teams to promote and ultimately staying on the right side of regulators.

For more information, see the following Practice Notes (available to PSL subscribers or with a free one week trial of LexisPSL Environment):

Environmental management systems

ISO 14001

Related Articles:
Latest Articles:
About the author:

Simone is an environmental law specialist and is head of LexisPSL Environment.

Simone moved to LexisNexis from Clyde & Co where she trained. Whilst at Clyde & Co Simone gained experience in contentious work, including large scale arbitrations, private claims and regulatory breaches, and a variety of non-contentious issues. Some of her experience includes the EU Emissions Trading System, the domestic Carbon Reduction Commitment Energy Efficiency Scheme, environmental due diligence, Energy Performance Certificates, permitting requirements and contaminated land.

Simone has written a number of articles, which have been published in various journals and is a trustee of the United Kingdom Environmental Law Association (UKELA).