Home » ISO 14001 Standard: What Is It?

ISO 14001 Standard: What Is It?

    a person reading from a binder of papers, representing the importance of the ISO 14001 standard

    No matter where you stand when it comes to climate change, businesses have a profound effect on the environment. Whether it’s the consumption of natural resources, the generation of hazardous waste, or air pollutants. Either way, companies and consumers continue to see and feel the effects of extreme weather. As a business owner, you don’t have to sacrifice the environment for economic growth. There is a win-win solution to help manage your organization and protect the environment. The solution starts by implementing ISO 14001 for environment management. The International Organization for Standardization, or ISO standards, refers to a set of uniform rules and guidelines businesses can adhere to so they can reduce environmental impact. Every industry has its ISO standard according to a specific number, such as ISO 9001 for quality management of goods and services, ISO 22000 for food safety management or ISO 27001 for Information security management, and more. For today’s post let’s explore what ISO 14001 environment management is and what documents are needed for this standard.

    Let’s begin!  

    What is ISO 14001?

    ISO 14001 is a standard that assists companies with how to identify and manage environmental risks. It’s structured around developing effective environmental management systems (EMS), which ensures a business has the best sustainability practices in place. An EMS requires businesses to establish a framework of documentation that details how they will plan, prepare, prevent, and respond to any environmental issues brought about by their business operations.

    What documents do you need for ISO 14001?

    Since the basis of the ISO 14001 standard is to document evidence of an EMS, organizations have the choice to determine and develop what methodology best suit the structure of their EMS. Organizations however must provide required documents. Here is some documentation required by 14001. Keep in mind standards are always evolving, so make sure to check what documents are required for your business.

    1. Environmental Management System Scope – defines how your EMS will function towards alleviating the environmental issues associated with your business operations. This document should provide a simple outline of every goal, process, constraint, and other relevant detail for all departments involved.
    2. Environmental Policy – explains the business obligations your organization promises to uphold to ensure the environment remains eco-friendly. This should describe the continuous effort your organization will make to avoid the use of pollutants. Further, how your organization will comply with legal obligations that apply. 
    3. Risks and Opportunities DocumentsOrganizations must identify and document potential environmental risks and opportunities that may or may not be beneficial due to business operation. Once you have outlined these critical elements, your organization must provide the solutions that detail how to handle both risks and opportunities. Depending on the type of business, the approach will vary and can be tailored to suit your needs. The solutions can include strategy plans, procedures, internal and external audiences, compliance laws, logistics, distribution, finances, and other resources. 
    4. Environmental Aspects Criteria – According to Oak Ridge National Laboratory, The ISO 14001 standard classifies environmental aspects as “elements of an organization’s activities, products, or services that can interact with the environment.” Organizations must create documentation showcasing the likelihood and the impact of an environmental aspect. For example, an organization that owns a nuclear plant will generate nuclear waste. This radioactive substance is considered an aspect. Therefore, it has the potential of having a significant impact on human health, water resources, and land quality. An organization must evaluate each environmental aspect it has and establish effective criteria structures, so it can document and respond accordingly.
    5. Compliance Obligation – Explains the legal requirements that pertain to your organization. All staff members must know and understand the legal obligations and legal ramifications when it comes to damaging or protecting the environment. Employees must know how the law applies to business operations, internal and external parties, legislation, and other regulations. When it comes to compliance laws make sure the documents in your EMS are monitored, stored, and updated frequently.
    6. Environmental Objectives and Plans – Describes specific business and environmental objectives and how to achieve them. This detailed document is an extension of your EMS scope and environmental policy. Organizations must discern how feasible it is to achieve certain objectives. Just like any other strategy or action plan. It should state your project goals, requirements, deliverables, progress management, performance measurement, timelines, project roles and responsibilities, and more.
    7. EMS Communication – Organizations must establish communication procedures on how the EMS will function throughout various departments. With a clear understanding of how the EMS works, employees can perform efficiently. For any organization, communication is key to reaching any target, completing business objectives, or expressing what is not working. 
    8. Document Control While EMS focuses on documenting the best sustainable practices., your organization will also need a document management system in place to manage both business and environmental documentation. An effective EMS will only work if it’s organized, and people have access to relevant information. As environmental issues arise or laws change, your organizations need to be able to store, track, retrieve, update, or remove important documents with ease. Assigning a team to tackle the maintenance and control of your documentation will improve the effectiveness of your EMS. 
    9. Emergency Preparedness and Response Plan –  Organizations have emergency response plans for data breaches, natural disasters, workplace violence incidents, and other emergencies. Organizations must implement a strategy that prepares and trains staff on how to respond to an environmental emergency. Like other response plans, they must be tested, reviewed, and revised on regular basis according to the environmental risks that threaten production.
    10. Monitoring performance information Documenting and monitoring the performance of your EMS will determine how effective it is in mitigating issues your organization may have on the environment. This means evaluating every policy, procedure, and business goal. So, afterward, your organization can assess and make the appropriate decision to change any procedures that helps the environment. Without proper documentation of your progress, you cannot determine what is working and what is not. 

    Conclusion

    With a better understanding of what ISO 14001 environmental management is and its documentation requirements, your organization can implement sustainable business practices that will ensure a healthy environment for the future.

    How can EDC help?

    Whether you need a team of consultants or a single technical writer to produce a complete line of documentation. At Essential Data Corporation we can help you organize and manage ISO standards documents in any industry. Contact us today to get started. (800) 221-0093 or sales@edc.us

    Written by Kimberly Jones

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