ISO 14001:2015 New Environmental Certification | NQA

The latest version of the international standard for environmental management systems has been published.

ISO 14001:2015 is the replacement for ISO 14001:2004 was published in September 2015. 

Read on or download the ISO 14001:2015 Guide and Gap Analysis.


Thanks to a new common structure ISO 14001:2015 has a higher level of compatibility with other management system standards, such as ISO 9001:2015, ISO 27001:2013 and the forthcoming ISO 45001:2018 which will make integration easier.  

There have been changes to the structure, key concepts and terminology of the standard - these are explained below.


  • Three years to transition (deadline of 15 September 2018)
  • Existing certifications can be upgraded at any point in the three years
  • New certifications can be to either standard
  • ISO 14001:2004 certificates will have valid until dates of the transition deadline.


The new standard will follow the ten section structure defined in Annex SL:

  1. Scope
  2. Normative References
  3. Terms and Definitions
  4. Context of the Organization
  5. Leadership
  6. Planning
  7. Support
  8. Operation
  9. Performance Evaluation
  10. Improvement


Below is an overview of the key changes between the 2004 and 2015 version of ISO 14001 – there
are several new requirements in addition to changes to key definitions. You will need to prepare for change and adapt your environmental management system to meet the new requirements and transition timelines.

Context of the Organization

This is a new requirement to identify the internal and external factors and conditions that affect an organization. Examples of internal issues could include an organization’s culture and capabilities, whilst external issues could include the effects of climate change, flooding and the availability of natural resources to name but a few. The organization needs to identify the stakeholders of its EMS and any requirements they have.

Tip: The context will influence the type and complexity of management system needed.


There is an explicit and enhanced requirement for top management to demonstrate leadership and commitment relating to the system. 

Tip: Top management will need to take accountability for the effectiveness of the EMS and provide support and resources as necessary.

Strategic Environmental Management

Top management needs to ensure that the environmental policy and environmental objectives are consistent with the overall business strategy, and that management review outputs include any implications for the strategic direction of the organization.

Tip: This will be new territory for ISO 14001 audits and in conjunction with the above, more audit time may need to be devoted to discussions with the organization’s leaders.

Risk and Opportunities

This is a new concept introduced in the ‘planning’ section of the standard. It requires the organization to identify the risks and opportunities associated with aspects and impacts, compliance obligations (previously known as legal and other requirements), and other necessary issues or requirements, and take action to address them.

Tip:  “Risk and opportunities” can be thought of as potential adverse deviations from the expected (threats) or potential beneficial deviations from the expected (opportunities).

Life-cycle Perspective

The identification of aspects and impacts should now be done whilst considering a life cycle perspective, i.e. from raw material acquisition, or generation from natural resources to end-of-life treatment. A life cycle perspective should also be taken when establishing value chain controls (see below).

Tip: A life-cycle perspective does not require a detailed life cycle assessment; a simple consideration of the life cycle stages which can be controlled or influenced would be sufficient.

Value Chain Control and Influence

Environmental requirements need to be established and considered throughout the procurement and design activities of the organization’s products and services.

Tip: Design processes would include development, delivery, use and end-of-life treatment.

Performance Evaluation

There is a new emphasis on the need for evaluation in addition to the current requirements for monitoring measurement and analysis.

Tip: Evaluation is the interpretation of results and analysis. This is not new to managers but is made explicit in the standard for the first time. Processes may be well defined and effective, but do they yield optimum results? This may be a new challenge for internal audits.


The standard is written for the benefit of organizations, not auditors. Auditors will need to understand and recognise the extent and type of evidence that would be acceptable to confirm conformity to the 2015 requirements.
ISO 14001:2015 auditors will be engaging in dialogue with business leaders, seeking understanding and explanations from them about policy, strategy and environmental objectives, and ensuring these are compatible. The audit experience from the client perspective is likely to be different, but revisions to the audit process will deliver more added value to the organizations being audited.


ISO 14001:2015 incorporates more business management terminology and concepts and will ensure that systems will be integrated into the organization’s overall business processes rather than being separate entities. The changes will require effort from organizations to implement, however the overall result will be a more effective management system capable of achieving better results in environmental performance.


We have published is video briefing from Martin Baxter, Executive Director of Policy at IEMA, where he explains the likely changes and new concepts including:

  • Top management
  • Risk and opportunities
  • Compliance and obligations
  • Environmental performance and improvement

Watch the briefing here.


​You will need to prepare for change and adapt your environmental management system to meet the new requirements and transitional timelines of ISO 14001:2015, but don't worry this is a partnership and we will help you to understand the changes, interpret the new concepts and act on the implications:

  • UK Webinars Join Richard Walsh, Environmental Management Systems Assessor, for this overview of the changes to ISO 14001:2015. Register now to attend for free.

  • Guide and Gap Analysis Document - download here.

  • Technical helpline - call 02 8863795 or 02 6232824 to speak to our trained advisors about any aspect of ISO changes.

  • Updates - sign up to receive regular updates on the latest developments.

  • The Standard - you can purchase a copy of the ISO 14001:2015 from ISO here.


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