EEF insight: A new look for ISO14001

Posted on 11 Jul 2012 by The Manufacturer

Greg Roberts, senior environmental advisor at EEF explains the revisions being planned for the international standard for environmental management and how UK manufacturers can play a role in shaping the revision outcomes.

ISO14001:2004, the international standard for Environmental Management Systems (EMS), is to be revised.

Nearly a quarter of a million organisations worldwide are certified to BS EN ISO14001, the international standard for Environmental Management Systems (EMS), and many UK manufacturers use the standard to manage legal compliance, drive down costs and meet customer requirements. Consequently, any changes to the standard could have a significant impact on British industry, possibly requiring additional skills and resources to manage implementation of the revised standard.

In 2011 ISO agreed that ISO14001, which was last revised in 2004, is ready to be reviewed once again. The process is not likely to be completed until at least 2014 but we already know that the standard will change.

Why revise the standard?
This is because the ISO Technical Committee overseeing the process has decided to adopt ISO’s recently launched highlevel structure for management system standards.

This decision was taken in order to develop a harmonised framework for all management system standards, which include for example, ISO 9001 on quality management systems and ISO 27001 for IT security. This will mean that as each standard is revised, it will be brought under this new high level structure, making it easier for companies to integrate systems and for individuals to orientate themselves around unfamiliar system standards.

EEF believes that the adoption of this high level structure will improve ISO14001 and additional substantial change will not be required. One important improvement under the new structure is that organisations will need their systems to be more strategic, overcoming the problem that ISO14001 is often marginalised. This will be achieved by requiring top management to show leadership and making sure the EMS is “compatible with the strategic direction of the organisation”.

Another shortfall of the current standard is that it does not help organisations to look outwards, often resulting in an insular view that does little to consider the views of its stakeholders, including customers and suppliers.

In this time of increasing corporate responsibility, companies need to consider greater transparency and external reporting. The new structure goes some way to addressing this in that a company must consider the “context of the organisation” by determining “interested parties’ requirements” and the “internal and external issues” facing the organisation.

“One important improvement under the new structure is that organisations will need their systems to be more strategic, overcoming the problem that ISO14001 is often marginalised.” Greg Roberts, Senior Environmental Advisor at EEF

Furthermore, the communication clause requires the organisation to determine who, what and when it should communicate externally and not just to set up a procedure in how to deal with inbound communications, as is the case under the 2004 standard.

Have your say
EEF has been helping manufacturing companies implement and maintain ISO14001 since its creation. This experience leads us to conclude that the standard does not need to be changed much beyond the high level structure.

However, the ISO Technical Committee, which is made up of member bodies from across the world, including the British Standards Institute, is now considering 24 recommendations which could lead to major changes. It is therefore important that UK manufacturers express their opinions of the current standard and the changes they would like to see to ensure that it is fit for use until the mid 2020s.

Greg Roberts is representing EEF members on the BSI mirror committee which feeds into the ISO Technical Committee. If you would like to comment on the revision of ISO14001, or understand how your company can prepare for any changes to the standard, please contact [email protected].