ISO 14001 is a international standard for Environmental Management Systems (EMS) that provides a framework for organizations to manage their environmental responsibilities effectively. Although implementing ISO 14001 may seem like a daunting task, breaking the overall implementation into the following bite-size pieces makes the process much more manageable.
ISO 14001 Implementation Steps
The below steps may be followed to implement an effective ISO 14001 Environmental Management Program:
- Obtain Management Support: The support of top management is an important first step. Without management support you will have a difficult time setting clear environmental objectives, accessing necessary resources, and integrating environmental considerations into your organization's overall strategic planning. If you need help convincing management, check out our article on the benefits of ISO 14001.
- Purchase and Read a Copy of ISO 14001 Standard: Now that you have management support, you need to purchase of copy of the current ISO 14001 Standard from the ISO Store (or another online resource) and read it.
- Define the Scope and Context of Your EMS: To effectively manage environmental performance, you must understand the external and internal issues that can have an impact on your EMS (e.g. its context). You must also define which parts of your organization will be covered under your EMS (e.g. its scope).
- Define Your Organization's Interested Parties: In this step, you need to define the people and organizations that can affect (or be affected by) your decisions and activities. Their needs and expectations will likely become compliance obligations (see below).
- Develop Your Organization's Environmental Policy: Now that you understand the scope of you EMS, its a good time to sit down with management and define your environmental policy. Your policy should include a commitment to protecting the environment and a framework for setting environmental objectives. It is important that your environmental policy is right-sized and appropriate for your organization, but there is no harm in searching the web for some great examples, such as Tetra Tech's Environmental Policy.
- Define Roles, Responsibilities and Authorities: Now that leadership has formally committed to implementing an EMS, you need to define who is going to be responsible for maintaining it and updating management on how the implementation and maintenance is going (see Management Review below).
- Define Your Organization's Environmental Aspects: Here you need to make a list of your activities, products and services that have the potential to interact with the environment.
- Evaluate Your Environmental Impacts: In this step, you must determine the likelihood and magnitude of each aspect's impact on the environment (keep in mind that impacts can be both positive and negative). This information must then be used to determine which of your aspects have a significant impact on the environment. It is these aspects that then need to be the focus of your EMS.
- Identify Applicable Compliance Obligations: Using your list of interested parties and list of environmental aspects, you now need to develop a list of the compliance obligations that apply to your organization. These compliance obligations must also be taken into account when implementing and maintaining your EMS.
- Document Your Environmental Procedures and Processes: There is now way around it, ISO 14001 requires lots of lists and procedures. This is to ensure that your organization's processes and data are document and not just tribal knowledge that is lost when someone retires. Your focus needs to be on how you will implement your EMS and the processes and procedures associated with your significant environmental aspects.
- Train Employees and Contractors on Your EMS and Environmental Procedures: Now that you have defined how your EMS is going to work and the processes behind each of your environmental aspects, its critical that everyone on the ship is rowing in the same direction. To accomplish this, you need to ensure every one has received training on and understands how their acitivites impact the environment as well as the policies and procedures you have implemented to mininimze these impacts.
- Develop Environmental Objectives: One key element of ISO 14001 is continuous improvement. To accomplish (and demonstrate) this, you need to set and track environmental objectives. These goals need to be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound (e.g. SMART).
- Hold a Management Review Meeting: Now that you have your EMS in place, you need to regularly communicate with management through management review meetings.
- Audit Implementation of Your Environmental Procedures and Processes: To ensure you policies and procedures remain effective and appropriate you need to audit them.
ISO 14001 Certification Steps
The below steps may be followed to get your new ISO 14001 EMS certified:
- Select a Registrar: Select a registrar (e.g. ISO certification body) that: (a) Is properly accredited; (b) Has expertise in your industry; (c) Has an excellent reputation; and (d) Is experienced in performing ISO 14001 audits. If you are attempting to get certified for multiple standards, you should evaluate each of these factors for each ISO Standard.
- Complete a Stage 1 Audit: During this audit, the auditors will perform a thorough review of your documentation to verify that it meets the requirements of the ISO 14001 standard. Any deficiencies identified during the audit will be included the auditors final report as non-conformances. These non-conformances will need to be addressed prior to your Stage 2 audit.
- Complete a Stage 2 Audit: During a Stage 2 audit, the auditors evaluate the implementation and effectiveness of your ISO 14001 Environmental Management System. Deficiencies found during this audit will be documented as non-conformances and will need to be corrected prior to a certification being issued.
How ISO 14001 Software Can Help?
ISO 14001 Software can help with each of the above implementation steps.
- Benefits of ISO 14001
- What to Look for in ISO 14001 Software
- How Software Can Improve ISO 14001 Compliance
- Environmental Objectives
- Best Practices for Training Employees on ISO 14001
- ISO 14001 Management Review