What is ISO 14001?

What is ISO 14001?

ISO 14001 is the definitive international standard that provides the framework, and specifies requirements, for companies to create an environmental management system (EMS).

Historically, organisations have taken very different approaches towards environmental management, which made collaborations and comparisons difficult. The ISO 14000 series, out of which ISO 14001 is the most popular standard, was launched to satisfy an industry wide need for standardisation.

Why Would You Need It?

The landscape that deals with environmental compliance changes over time.  The ISO 14001:2015 standard was designed to be flexible, taking into account the three main prongs of compliance – regulatory needs, stakeholder requirements and legal compliance.

While each of the above may be changing or evolving, an ISO 14001:2015 review and subsequent monitoring will advise your internal leadership, key stakeholders, customers and business partners that you are seriously committed to doing the right thing in terms of environmental compliance and that they can rely on you.

Who is ISO 14001 Meant for?

The ISO 14001 standard is part of the ISO 14000 series of standards, that were developed to provide affordable tools that operate in a framework that uses best practices to organise and apply information related to environment management.

ISO 14001 can and should be used by any organisation that is setting up or wishes to maintain and/or improve its EMS.

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) defines an EMS as a framework that helps companies improve their environmental management function through regular and consistent reviews that help evaluate existing protocols for the organisation’s environmental performance and lays out means to improve the same.

The ISO 14001:2015 standard has some in-built flexibility in that its requirements can be tailored to fit an organisation’s core characteristics – be it the product and service offerings, location, industry or environmental policy.

As such, the ISO 14001:2015 standard can be used by organisations of all sizes, sectors, industries and locations.

ISO 14001:2015 is the most frequently used EMS standard, the other notable one being Eco-Management and Audit Scheme (EMAS) which was developed by the European Union in 1993 and is used in Europe and elsewhere.

Benefits of ISO 14001

As mentioned above, environmental management is a key factor for all companies, especially those operating in Europe and North America. ISO 14001 is the gold standard among EMS.

About 250,000 companies globally are ISO 14001 certified, and many “green” companies have declared that they will only do business with ISO 14001 certified companies. Similar trends have evolved in certain consumer product segments – for example, coffee.

When an organisation gets certified in ISO 14001, it leads to a number of specific benefits, including but not limited to:

  • Improve resource efficiency and reduce waste
  • Help to reduce costs
  • Reduce employee turnover
  • Help companies design of supply chains that lets them gain a competitive advantage
  • Help implement process change initiatives on a more efficient basis
  • Help to procure new business and enhance customer trust
  • Help drive higher ROI from internal change initiatives
  • Assure that the environmental impact is being accurately measured; helping to improve the overall impact and managing environmental obligations consistently
  • Increase stakeholder trust
  • Help to form business relationships with green companies
  • Help to meet legal obligations

Overall, companies that use the ISO 14001 standard have a far better chance of connecting to clients and business partners in a global economy that values environmental responsibility. Moreover, they know that their overall compliance with environmental and other legal authorities will never get violated if they adhere to the standard. It’s become an essential tool for most companies in this day and age.

Learn more about the benefits of ISO 14001.

ISO 14001 and ISO 9001

There are many common requirements between ISO 9001 and ISO 14001 standards. Companies may combine implementations of these two standards.

ISO 9001 is a Quality Management Standard (QMS) which helps companies deliver consistent quality while meeting customer objectives.

The two standards share a PDCA (Plan, Do, Check, Act) structure that often finds them being evaluated and deployed simultaneously.

How Can Companies Get Certified?

Companies seeking certification in ISO 14001:2015 need to work with an accredited auditor and usually, but not required to, with a consultant. The process of an audit can take anywhere from three months to two years, with a step-by-step review of methodologies, context (of the organisation), current steps taken and existing documentation.

It is likely that knowledgeable third-party auditors will both suggest improvements and continuous monitoring guidelines.

One thing to be cautious of is non-accredited certification bodies claiming to be accredited. Check out this article to learn the difference between accredited and non-accredited certification and how costly it can be to get it wrong.

Origins/History of the ISO 14001 Standard

The first-generation environmental management system, BS 7750, was developed in 1992 by the BSI Group. In 1996, the International Standards Organisation developed the ISO 14000 family of standards.

ISO 14001 went through two revisions, first in 2004 and then again in September 2015. The current generation of the ISO 14001:2015. As described above, the standard is applied when companies set up their environmental management systems (EMS).

Basis of Evaluation

ISO 14001:2015 covers all the standard topics required under an EMS, taking account of the mission, vision and industry/sector of an organisation, it’s leadership and support, operations and planning. The goal is to evaluate performance and suggest improvements.

The basis of an ISO 14001:2015 evaluation is covered under Clause 9 (Performance Evaluation) of the standard. This clause sets the guidelines to help measure and evaluate performance. It also sets up the compliance requirements, which include ongoing monitoring of the EMS post implementation, with internal audit and archived documentary evidence.

In particular, the ISO 14001:2015 performance evaluation standards help companies evaluate their EMS through:

  • Evaluating effectiveness, esp. with regard to the minimal requirements per the standard.
  • Evaluating how organisational, stakeholder and legal requirements are being met.
  • Demonstrate effective implementation of planning and conduct a process-level performance review.

Identifying gaps in, or opportunities for, improvements in the installed EMS.

The Final Word …

The ISO 14001 standard, along with the rest of ISO 14000 family of standards, have been around for a while. The ISO 14001:2015 has been designed to accommodate industry, sector, size, objectives and other considerations that a typical organisation may be subjected to.

In the modern world, most companies that depend on business partnerships with green companies or depend on their products being certified “environmentally sound” should look into getting an ISO 14001:2015 certification. The process could be a bit tedious, but the results are going to benefit your business tremendously.

Do you want us to take care of your ISO 14001 journey?

At RKMS we have over 25 years worth of experience in assisting companies achieve ISO 14001 with a 100% success rate. All our consultants are IRCA lead auditors so we know exactly what the auditors want to see.


Do you want us to take care of your fire compliance? H&S compliance? ISO certification? training? human resources?

At RKMS we are determined to make a business run as efficiently as possible. Will that next business be yours?

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Do you want us to take care of your fire compliance? H&S compliance? ISO certification? training? human resources?

At RKMS we are determined to make a business run as efficiently as possible. Will that next business be yours?

John Keen
Apart from work John enjoys sports (football, karate & walking) as well as travel & spending time with friends & grandchildren.

Do you want us to take care of your fire compliance? H&S compliance? ISO certification? training? human resources?

At RKMS we are determined to make a business run as efficiently as possible. Will that next business be yours?