Understanding ISO 14001 and its benefits for your organization

Environmental protection and eco-management have become essential topics of concern for many countries in the middle-east and globally. As investments in various industries grow, Water conservation, Curbs on the use of plastic, Waste management, or the effect of carbon emissions on the environment have become topics of frequent discussion at industry conventions and in government. We are seeing many initiatives being taken to address these concerns, especially in the United Arab Emirates where various government regulatory bodies have been formed to monitor and encourage awareness about these issues.

But it is up to the companies working in various sectors to lead the way, and they can begin by deploying an Environmental Management System (EMS) and opting for ISO 14001 certification. As companies in the manufacturing and service sectors trade with other international organisations, ISO 14001 compliance has become imperative and also a part of government regulations.

An organisation can implement its environmental policy and address government regulations by implementing an EMS in compliance with the ISO 14001 standard. There are many benefits for corporates that are ISO 14001 compliant. In this post, we shall explain both EMS and ISO 14001, and also highlight the benefits of the same.

Why implement an Environmental Management System (EMS)?

It is essential for an organization to implement an Environmental Management System to reduce its impact on the environment and to promote environmental sustainability. The EMS has a set of procedures, processes and best practices to ensure that.

According the ISO (International Standards Organisation) an EMS is really a part of an organisation’s overall management system. And it includes organisational structure, planning activities, responsibilities, practices, procedures, processes, and resources for developing, implementing, achieving, and maintaining the environmental policy.

The three primary processes of an EMS are:

  1. The Core processes and their outputs. These processes take into consideration the significant environmental aspects and impacts.
  2. The Key supporting processes. This includes the processes for legal requirements and legal awareness, those that ensure competency of employees. Also the processes for providing infrastructure, communicating EMS information, and monitoring and evaluating environmental performance.
  3. Management system supporting processes: Document control, record control, and internal auditing.

The advantages of implementing and using an EMS include:

  • Takes a holistic approach to environmental impacts
  • Focuses on the most critical aspects and processes
  • Employs a time-tested, mature approaches that are globally recognised and followed
  • Establishes positive relationships with regulators

In his book, Environmental Management: Quick and Easy, author Joe Kausek identifies four economic benefits of an EMS:

  • Corporate reputation and image
  • Lower environmentally-related costs and fees
  • Increased access to new customers
  • Direct savings through environmental source reduction

An organisation must implement an EMS in compliance with the ISO 14001 standard. The latest revision is ISO 14001:2015. Before the ISO 14000 series was defined, organisations had their own EMS and there was no clear standardization specified. The universal ISO 14000 series was developed to fulfill this need.

Before we go into the explanation of this standard, it is essential to understand its similarities with the ISO 9001 standard.

ISO 9001 and ISO 14001

ISO 9001 is a Quality Management System (QMS) which provides organisations with a systematic approach to meet customer objectives and achieve consistent quality.

On the other hand, ISO 14001 and EMS helps organisations minimize how their operations and processes negatively impact the environment. By this, we mean causing adverse changes to air, water, or land. Secondly, it also helps organisations comply with laws, regulations, and other environmental requirements defined by local regulators for an industry. This is a continual process that does not stop at certification.

However, the ISO 14001 standard has some common characteristics with ISO 9001, where-in both can be implemented side by side. Like ISO 9001, the ISO 14001 standard serves a dual purpose: it is an internal management tool and it also demonstrates a company’s environmental commitment to its customers and clients.

Both ISO 14001 and ISO 9001 pertain to the process of how a product is produced, rather than to the product itself.

The ISO 14001:2015 revision

The ISO 14000 series is based on a voluntary approach to environmental regulation. Part of the ISO 14000 family of standards, the ISO 14001 standard is used by organisations for designing and implementing an effective EMS.

Also included in this series is ISO 14004, which provides additional guidelines for a good EMS, and offers more specialized standards dealing with specific aspects of environmental management.

The primary objective of the ISO 14000 series is to provide practical tools for companies and organisations who aspire to manage their environmental responsibilities.

ISO 14001:2015 is the most updated version and one of the major changes in this update is its structure. ISO 14001:2015 now has the high-level structure that is now common to all ISO management system standards. This structure brings a more strategic focus to the standard and facilitates integration with other ISO management system standards.

ISO 14001:2015 focuses on improvement of environmental performance rather than improvement of the management system itself. It also includes several new updates all aimed at making environmental management more comprehensive and relevant to the supply chain. One of the main updates asks organisations to consider environmental impact during the entire life cycle, although there is no requirement to complete a life cycle analysis.

Additionally, the commitments of top management and the methods of evaluating compliance have also been strengthened. Another significant change links ISO 14001 to the general management system structure, called the High-Level Structure. Both ISO 9001 and 14001 use this same structure, making implementation and auditing more uniform. The new standard also requires the holder of the certificate to specify risks and opportunities and how to address them.

ISO 14001 is based on the Plan-Do-Check-Act (PDCA) cycle which is also known as Plan-Do-Check-Adjust. PDCA is an iterative four-step management method used in business for the control and continuous improvement of processes and products.

Benefits of ISO 14001:2015

Some of the benefits to organisations implementing the ISO 14001:2015 standard include:

  • Helping diminish adverse effects on nature
  • Sparing costs on charges and fines
  • Helping agree-ability with lawful pre-requisites identified with the earth
  • Augmenting your market position
  • Expanding your clients’ trust in you as a responsible and protected supplier of items and administrations

Conclusion

When your organisation is ISO 14001 certified, it demonstrates its commitment to preventing pollution, and complying with other local requirements with the continual improvement of primary environmental issues, through awareness, assessment of legal parameters, emergency response capabilities, and other reviews.

Certification and commitment to environmental protection projects your organisation as a responsible company, and it increases trust and confidence in your clients. This also increases the customer base and augments market position, leading to increased revenue and profitability.

It is also important to note that when you decide to certify for ISO 14001, you must work with a trusted and experienced partner who can guide you through the journey that can lead to successful ISO 14001 certification. And remember that this journey does not end with certification because your environmental policy has to evolve.

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