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ISO 14001 Frequently Asked Questions

ISO 14001:2015 is the most used environmental management system in the world. Here are answers to some ISO 14001 common questions to help you in your certification journey.

What Is ISO 14001:2015?

ISO 14001:2015 is the international standard for environmental management systems (EMS). An environmental management system allows a business to make policy and process changes to manage resources responsibly, prevent pollution, achieve legal compliance and otherwise improve environmental performance. The standard provides guidelines for implementing, maintaining and improving an EMS.

Although ISO 14001 focuses on reducing environmental impact, ISO 14001 certification provides financial benefits as well, which is why over 250,000 organizations worldwide have worked to receive this certification.

What Are The Benefits of ISO 14001 Certification?

The main goal of ISO 14001 is to give businesses the tools they need to minimize their environmental impacts. In a world facing increasingly serious environmental challenges, ISO 14001 encourages organizations to look outward, protecting the environment and recognizing the impacts the environment has on business. Specific environmental benefits that come with an environmental management system include reduced waste, sustainable supply chain management and reduced carbon emissions.

In addition to benefiting the environment, achieving ISO 14001 certification can benefit your business by:

  • Helping you save money through efficient water and energy use
  • Earning you more business from environmentally conscious clients
  • Improving your reputation with existing clients, customers and other stakeholders
  • Helping you achieve legal compliance with environmental regulations

Who Should Get ISO 14001 Certification?

ISO 14001 certification can benefit businesses and organizations of all sizes. Whether you want to demonstrate your commitment to sustainability or reduce costs by using resources more efficiently, you should consider starting the ISO 14001 certification process. Examples of industries that could benefit from ISO 14001 environmental management systems include construction, automotive, electronic and telecommunication and engineering.

At NQA, we provide ISO 14001 certification and auditing for businesses in a wide range of sectors.

How Can You Get ISO 14001 Certified?

The ISO 14001 certification process requires you to implement the standard in your organization and complete a successful two-part audit. After the initial certification audit, you will also need to complete yearly surveillance audits and a recertification audit every three years to maintain your certification. The amount of time it will take to obtain certification will depend on a number of factors, including the size of your organization, your current level of compliance, your level of risk and more.

Trying to understand the requirements for ISO 14001 certification on your own can be challenging. If you think you may need a consultant to assist with the process, NQA can help you find one.

How Much Does ISO 14001 Certification Cost?

The cost of ISO certification varies based on a variety of factors, including audit duration, the scope of your business and the third-party certification body you choose. Typically, a certification body will charge a certain amount for every day the audit takes to complete, so the faster you can achieve compliance the better. In addition to paying a certification body, you'll also need to pay for copies of the standard and any actions needed to implement the standard's requirements.

The best way to find out how much ISO 14001 certification will cost is to contact NQA to request a quote. We offer competitive rates and never use hidden fees.

What Are The New And Revised Areas of ISO 14001:2015?

The standard has been updated to respond to latest trends in environmental management and includes additional requirements for identifying and understanding the context of the organization, leadership, strategic environmental management, risk associated with threats and opportunities, life-cycle thinking, value chain controls and performance evaluation. 

The standard has also adopted a new structure, often referred to as Annex SL, which ensures that the standard is compatible with other ISO management system standards. Our Guide and Gap Analysis Document provides more details on all of the expected changes as well as Annex SL.

What Does "Leadership" Mean In ISO 14001?

In ISO 14001, there is an explicit and enhanced requirement for top management to demonstrate leadership and commitment relating to the system. There must be a clear and demonstrable link between the organization’s business strategy and its environmental policy and objectives. This is an enhanced requirement relating to top management. 

Here's a tip: top management will need to take accountability for the effectiveness of the EMS in its entirety, giving consideration to environmental issues when planning strategy, and providing support and resources as necessary to ensure that the EMS achieves its intended outcome.

Why Does The New ISO 14001 Standard Focus More On Risk?

This is a new concept introduced in the planning section of the standard. It requires an 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.

You can understand risk and opportunities as either adverse or beneficial deviations from what is expected. ISO 14001 does not require an organization to conduct a formal risk assessment — rather, the intention is to apply risk-based thinking.

What Happens Now That ISO 14001 Doesn't Require A Management Representative?

NQA will still need a nominated contact for all matters related to certification and the organization of certification visits. NQA does not expect this to have any impact on our relationship with our clients. If you have questions about our procedures, fill out our online contact form.

How Does The General Communication Section of ISO 14001 Work?

The "general" section relates to the planning and preparation needed to establish an effective communication process. This should take into account information drawn from the needs and expectations of interested parties (4.2) to ensure that relevant information is made available/received as appropriate and in the form required. Once communication requirements are established, differing strategies can then be utilized to cover internal and external requirements.

Do You Need Someone Inside Your Organization To Conduct An Internal 14001 Audit?

ISO 14001:2015 simply requires that the audits should be carried out objectively and impartially. There is no requirement, despite the name of the clause that they be carried out by an internal member of staff. Many consultants offer this service on a fee basis and some clients of ours have built relationships with other nearby certified companies and use their staff for audits either in a reciprocal manner or for a fee/exchange of service.

Can You Capture Emergency Response Within A Risk Register And Remove Your Previous Emergency Response Register Under ISO 14001?

Yes, this is acceptable. Clause 6.1.2 which covers environmental aspects requires abnormal conditions and reasonably foreseeable emergency situations to be covered. As emergencies should be considered a high environmental risk, then it is perfectly acceptable and indeed it is the best way to include them in the risk register.

Clause 8.2 still requires that process amendments or additional controls required to prepare for and mitigate potential emergency situations are identified, implemented, maintained and tested as appropriate.

What Are The Key Differences Between The Updated ISO 9001 And The Updated ISO 14001?

Other than the obvious answer that one covers quality and one environment, ISO 9001 and ISO 14001 are identical in their format. All newly issued management standard (including the new ISO 45001 - Health and Safety) are based on the Annex SL model. Annex SL is a high-level structure created by ISO to provide a universal high-level structure, identical core text, and common terms and definitions for all management system standards. It was designed to make it easier for organizations that have to comply with more than one management system standard.

How Can I Cover The ISO 14001 Requirement For Making Scope Publicly Available?

One of the ISO 14001 requirements contained in Clause 4.3 of the standard requires that the scope is made available to interested parties. One of the easiest ways is to make a copy of your ISO 14001 certificate available online, as this contains the wording of the scope. You could as an alternative consider adding the words of the scope as an introductory sentence at the start of you policy as this document too has to be made available in a similar way. Clause 4.2 asks that you consider the needs of interested parties and communication of the scope and policy is one area that should be considered.

When Do ISO 9001/14001 Standards Expire?

If you have not been formally assessed by your certification body against the 2015 standards by 14th September 2018, then on the 15th September 2018 you will be left with no certification. Certificates to the previous versions automatically expire at midnight on the 14th. This is the end-point of the three-year transition and is a firm cut-off point that cannot be extended.

What Is Classed As Senior Management Commitment Under ISO 14001?

Senior management commitment is a phrase more associated with the 2004 version of the standard. The 2015 version of the standard uses the phrase Leadership and Commitment. Top management are now required to have greater involvement in the EMS and must ensure that the requirements are integrated into the organisation’s processes and that the policy and objectives are aligned with the strategic direction of the organisation. There is also a greater focus on top management to commit to continual improvement of the EMS to enhance environmental performance.

How Long Will It Take To Transition To ISO 14001:2015?

Assuming that you already have the 2004 standard in place, changes to the documentation should be relatively straightforward. There is much more freedom in this new standard to set out the EMS in a way that suits your business. The structure and level of documentation required is down to you, so long as you can demonstrate that you are in control of the process. There is no requirement for an environmental manual or documenting the procedures for control of documents or for internal audit, for example.

Organizations need to ensure they have the documents and records to demonstrate that the requirements of the standard have been met and that the system is implemented, effective and maintained. You do need to cover the new requirements of the standard — there is guidance elsewhere on the NQA website including gap analysis documentation

Timewise, it depends upon how many changes you wish to make to your existing system. NQA recommends that this is a good time to review the entire system and the existing controls in place. Personally, I would allow six months minimum, as you also need to have held a management review and audited the new system prior to transition certification.

What Makes An ISO 14001 EMS Successful?

The standard itself has three expected outcomes: 

  • Enhancement of environmental performance
  • Fulfillment of compliance obligations
  • Achievement of environmental objectives. 

Ultimately, the success of the EMS will be judged against those three elements. One of the areas that we here at NQA believe sets us apart from many other certification bodies is that, as part of our assessment programme and through the use of ‘Opportunities for Improvement’ (OFIs), we aim to ensure that any organization’s EMS is achieving that. 

Success also depends on what you want out of your EMS. The above are non-negotiable but others may want a risk management process, a legislative compliance management tool, a badge to wave in front of customers or a toll that will help them play their part in mitigating climate change. Whatever you want from your system, our assessors will ensure you have a system that is ‘fit for purpose’.

What's The Difference Between Clause 1 Scope And Clause 4.3 Scope?

Clause 1 Scope relates to the scope of the standard itself and details that it specifies the requirements for an environmental management system. It also details the three expected outcomes of ISO 14001. Clause 4.3 Scope is the scope of your management system and details the boundaries and applicability of the system. It is this form of words that appear on your ISO 14001 certificate.

How Do Tourism Websites and Visitor Travel Relate To ISO 14001?

Clause 6.1.2 - Environmental Aspects details that an organization shall determine the environmental aspects that it can control or influence along with their associated aspects. As you have no control or influence over how people arrive at a location, I would consider it appropriate to be left out. There is no need to formally exclude it from your scope. Of course you could always try and influence travel such as arrangements with bus/train companies for discounts to visitors if showing a valid travel ticket. This would allow an opportunity to be detailed under 6.1.1

Do Planning And Aspects Apply To A Business As A Whole Or By Department In ISO 14001?

This will depend entirely on the size and complexity of the business. The standard does not instruct how this is to be achieved, and therefore, so long as the significant aspects relevant to all activities have been assessed, it is within the realm of the business as to how this is done. Many larger businesses find it more manageable to break the organization down into separate units, enabling a better more structured method looking at the issues to be covered.

If You Have An Integrated System Certified To ISO 9001 And OHSAS 18001, How Will It Affect Your Transition To ISO 14001?

The introduction of Annex SL will aid the integration process for ISO 9001, ISO 14001 and ISO 45001, the new international standard for occupational health and safety management systems. You will need to think about transition dates and transition plans carefully though, due to the different publication dates.