Audit, Compliance and Risk Blog

Finalization of Revised ISO 14001 Standard for EMS

Posted by STP Editorial Team on Mon, Mar 30, 2015 revision of the ISO 14001 Environmental Management Systems Standard is now in its final stages. The Final Draft International Standard (FDIS) will be released soon for the membership to vote for approval or reconsideration—and voting will continue for two months, at which time, the FDIS will be approved as is, or sent back to the ISO Environmental Management Technical Committee 207 (ISO/TC207). Due to the lengthy and deliberate process built into reviewing and updating ISO standards, it is rare for an FDIS not to be approved.

Key anticipated changes in the new standard are noted below, but be aware that the revision of ISO 14001 is not complete—changes between last summer’s Draft International Standard (DIS) and the FDIS can be expected.

Revised Standard Organized Under 10 Clauses

Last summer’s publication of the DIS provided insight into the planned changes in content and organization of ISO 14001. The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) has established a new structure for all its future standards, and those expecting presentation of the Plan/Do/Check/Act-Adjust cycle for continual improvement in the familiar 4 clauses may be confused at first. The cycle for continual improvement has not been abandoned of course, but ISO 14001 will now be presented in the following 10 clauses, plus an Introduction:

  1. Scope  

  2. Nominative References  

  3. Terms and Definitions  

  4. Context of the Organization 

  5. Leadership 

  6. Planning

  7. Support

  8. Operation

  9. Performance Evaluation

  10. Improvement

Tweaking, and Incorporation of Sustainability Concepts

Many changes in the revised ISO 14001 will be considered “tweaking” or minor adjustments in the continual improvements to the standard itself to facilitate understanding of requirements and promote concurrence with other standards. The term “indicator” is being introduced for those activities, objectives, and targets that are measurable.

A number of changes and additions bear hallmarks of the more widespread acceptance of sustainability concepts, such as a broadened definition of interested parties and the expectation that overall life-cycles and value chain be considered during the ISO 14001 planning process.

Expectation of Enhanced Environmental Performance

One change in particular may be considered a more significant shift in the purpose and expectation of ISO 14001. An expectation for continual improvement of the Environmental Management System (EMS) remains, but the standard’s revision establishes that the improvement of the system will also result in enhanced environmental performance.

It will be important to assess exactly how this issue is managed in the FDIS and amended standard. Additional information will be provided in the revised ISO 14004 Guidelines, which are being revised on the same schedule as ISO 14001. Those organizations that have chosen to have their EMS certified will also want to determine how their registrar plans to deal with these changes.

Transition over 3 Years

Organizations will not need to make any rapid changes to their EMS to conform with the revised ISO 14001. There will be a 3-year transition period during which conformance to either the 2004 or the 2015 edition of ISO 14001 will be accepted by registrars. This will allow organizations adequate time to responsibly incorporate the changes into their EMS as part of their own continual improvement process.

STP has recently published an update to its publication ISO 14001 Environmental Management Systems: A Complete Implementation Guide and also publishes the following related guides:


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Tags: Corporate Governance, Business & Legal, Employer Best Practices, Environmental risks, Environmental, corporate social responsibility