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ISO 14000: Things You Should Know

By Suzan L.

By Suzan L. Jackson

Q. What is ISO 14000?

A. It's a series of voluntary international standards covering environmental management tools and systems developed by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). ISO's intent is to provide all industries with a structure for an environmental management system that will ensure all operational processes are consistent and effective and will achieve the stated environmental objectives of a given organization. The series will ultimately include some 20 separate standards covering everything from environmental auditing to labeling to assessing life-cycles of products.

Q.What is ISO 14001?

A.Its official name is "Environmental Management Systems—Specifications with Guidance for Use." It's the first standard in the series. It is to be used by a company to establish its own environmental management system. It provides an overall framework for environmental management and it integrates that framework with overall business management activity. ISO 14001 tells an organization how to establish a disciplined system for achieving stated environmental objectives that adhere to relevant legislative and regulatory requirements, to perform according to its own policies and procedures, and to audit to assure full conformance and continual improvement.

Q.What is an ISO 14001-based Environmental Management System (EMS)?

A.According to the standard: "The part of an overall management system that includes organizational structure, planning activities, responsibilities, practices, procedures, processes, and resources for developing, implementing, achieving, reviewing, and maintaining environmental policy."

Q.What do they mean by "environment"?

A.It is defined as: "Surroundings in which an organization operates, including air, water, land, natural resources, flora, fauna, humans, and their interrelation. The environment in this context extends from within an organization to the global system."

Q.Does ISO 14001 establish environmental performance requirements?

A.No. It seeks to balance socio-economic and business needs with support of environmental protection and prevention of pollution. It is within the reach of a powerful multinational firm that can afford the "best available technology," as well as the reach of a smaller business in a less-developed country.

It does contain requirements that should result in a higher and steadily improving level of performance. Here are requirements that promote improved performance:

•An organization must meet the requirements of the policy and the EMS created from that policy, including a commitment to prevention of pollution.

•An organization must have a commitment to meet all applicable legislation and regulations.

•An organization must set its own environmental objectives and targets and establish specific programs for each goal.

•An organization must commit itself to continual improvement of its EMS, which should result in environmental performance improvement.

Q.What is the EMS model?

A.It is similar to the traditional "plan-do-check-act" sequence, but it moves from: development of policy, through planning, implementation and operation, checking and corrective action, management review, to continual improvement. The five principles and elements on which the model is based are found in ISO 14004, the guidance standard:

•Principle 1—Commitment/Policy: A company should define environmental policy and ensure commitment to its EMS.

•Principle 2—Planning: An organization should formulate a plan to fulfill its environmental policy.

•Principle 3—Implementation: For effective implementation, an organization should develop the capabilities and support mechanisms necessary to achieve its environmental policy, objectives and targets.

•Principle 4—Measurement and evaluation: An organization should measure, monitor and evaluate its environmental performance.

•Principle 5—An organization should review and continually improve its environmental management system, with the objective of improving its overall environmental performance.

Q.Does ISO 14001 require third-party registration?

A.No. But it is written to accommodate the process. The standard's requirements can be met through self-declaration or assessed and registered by an accredited third-party registrar. In either case, a company must be able to objectively demonstrate that it has met the requirements (e.g., it must maintain records that demonstrate conformance; maintain procedures for critical elements of its EMS; maintain a program of periodic audits).

Want to contact the author?

Suzan Jackson can be contacted at:

Excel Partnership, Inc.
75 Glen Road
Sandy Hook, CT 06482
Telephone: (800) 374-3818

**Editor's note: Now that you understand ISO 9000 (you do, don't you?), there is ISO 14000 to contend with. The 9000 series is all about quality management; the 14000 series is about the environment. The following Q&A is by the author of a book recently published by John Wiley & Sons, The ISO 14001 Implementation Guide: Creating An Integrated Management System. Suzan Jackson heads up Environmental Management Services at Excel Partnership, a consulting and training firm.