How to Create an Aspect and Impact Register
*Updated March 2021
International standard ISO 14001 sets forth the requirements for managing environmental impacts and aspects. The goal of the standard is to allow an organization to create, maintain or improve an environmental management program so it remains or becomes aligned with regulations and policies. Organizations that use ISO 14001 tend to reduce waste, lower their costs and improve efficiency. Adhering to the standard also helps organizations build trust with their clients and stakeholders and allows them to stay on the right side of legal obligations.
An aspect and impact register is a crucial part of any organization’s ISO 14001:2015 Environmental Management System. It identifies and gives significance to sustainability and environmental efficiencies, which are created as a result of the activities and services provided by the organization.
What Does Aspect Mean?
An environmental aspect is any part of an organization's activities that affects the environment. Some examples of aspects include:
- Emissions, such as carbon dioxide, into the air
- Spills or leaks on land or in water
- Use of fossil fuels
- Consumption of natural resources
What Does Impact Mean?
Environmental impact is the effect the aspect has on the environment. Examples of the impact from certain aspects include:
- Emissions to air: Emissions can cause air pollution or an increase in greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, which can contribute to climate change.
- Spills on land: If an oil tank leaks, causing oil to seep into the ground around it, it contaminates the soil.
- Use of fossil fuels: Vehicles that run on petroleum-based fuel use up limited resources and also contribute to air pollution.
- Use of natural resources: Activities such as washing vehicles use clean, fresh water, which is a limited natural resource.
What Is an Environmental Aspect and Impact Register?
An environmental aspect and impact register lists the most significant or relevant aspects for an organization and maps out a plan for effectively managing them. An environmental aspect and impact register lists the activities an organization engages in, such as transporting products from Point A to Point B or using an HVAC system to heat or cool a building. It then describes the aspect of those activities and the impact of them.
Creating an Aspect and Impact Register
The most popular way to assess aspect and impact also happens to be relatively easy: Create a register. With a register, you can show the aspect its impact and then devise a scoring system. The register can also include legislation requirements and the controls you have in place. See below for an example:
Here's what you can do to put together an environmental aspect and impact register.
1. List Activities, Aspects and Impacts
The first step when creating a register is to list all of the activities your organization participates in that are relevant to environmental management. Those activities can include:
- Water use, such as through plumbing
- Energy use, such as through the heating and cooling system
- Storage of fuels
Focus on the activities that will have the most significant effect on your environmental management program.
Next, make a list of the aspects connected to those activities. A heating system uses fossil fuels and can also release emissions into the air. Transportation produces CO2 and also uses fossil fuels. After listing the aspects, make a list of their associated environmental impacts. Fossil fuel emissions create air pollution, for example.
2. Calculate Severity, Likelihood and Significance
The next step when creating a register is to score the severity, or seriousness, of the impact, such as potential damage, legislation implications or poor publicity. You also want to determine the likelihood of the impact occurring. Once you've decided on the severity and likelihood, you can multiply the two to get the significance of the aspect and impact:
- Severity Score x Likelihood Score = Significance Score
How do you decide how severe something is? You can use a scale, such as from 1 to 5. A severity score of 1 can mean the impact isn't very severe at all, while a score of 5 can mean it's the most severe. The same is true of likelihood. A likelihood score of 1 means the impact isn't likely to happen, while a score of 5 can mean it most certainly will occur.
Once you have the significance, you can then work out your controls.
3. Describe Controls
Controls describe what you're doing to mitigate the aspect. Examples of controls may include:
- Reduction in paper use: Using double-sided printing and only printing when necessary.
- Reduction in vehicle fuel use: Allowing for and encouraging remote work and digital communication tools, such as Skype or Zoom. Using electric vehicles for transportation or deliveries.
- Reduction in water consumption: Installing water meters, dual-flush toilets and low-flow fixtures.
4. Note Legislation
In the legislation column, note any specific legislation or regulations that apply to the aspect. Noting rules and legislation allows you to understand why you are including the activity, aspect and impact in your environmental management program.
5. Use Your Aspect and Impact Register to Stay in Compliance
An up-to-date aspects and impacts register can be a valuable part of your compliance review. You can also use the register to help your organization set objectives and targets. Implementing and maintaining an impact and aspect register can help you to manage risks, give a positive impact on your organization and control environmental efficiency.
Contact NQA to Get Certified
If you are interested in becoming ISO 14001:2015 certified by a UKAS accredited certification body, NQA can help. Contact us for a quote, whether you are at the beginning of the process or are ready to get things underway. A quick quote will give you a rough estimate of the cost of certification. Then you can sign a formal quote and officially start certification.
Reviewed by: Judith Hargreaves, NQA Regional Assessor