LRQA’s Sarah Jones helps organisations understand ISO 14001, the global environmental management system (EMS) standard. Sarah, a Commercial Management Systems Trainer, delivers training courses to individuals and companies on a range of topics relating to Management Systems. We recently spoke to Sarah about the current revision taking place to ISO 14001 and opened the interview by asking why ISO 14001 is being revised.
Sarah Jones: As with all management system standards ISO 14001 periodically goes through a comprehensive review process. The review process ensures that the standard continues to meet the needs and demands of interested parties relative to Environmental Management Systems.
Interviewer: At first glance, what do you notice about the proposed changes and are they significant?
Sarah Jones: When comparing the current standard to information that is available now, the changes are greater than those made at the last review in 2004. As expected, the new ISO 14001 will be modelled around Annex SL (common text and structure which has been adopted by ISO to support all management system standards) in order to enhance compatibility and alignment with other ISO Management System Standards.
Interviewer: What are the most noticeable changes being proposed?
Sarah Jones: The most noticeable proposed changes are:
1) Context of the organisation, this includes an understanding of the organisation and its context, the need and expectations of its interested parties in addition to the determination of the system scope,
2) Leadership and commitment emphasises the role of top management and what is expected of them,
3) Competence and awareness has been emphasised,
4) Communication has been separated into internal and external communication with greater detail on the external reporting and
5) Operation includes an addition of value change planning. Control and improvement provides detail on nonconformity and corrective action.
Interviewer: What elements might be changing?
Sarah Jones: EMS-specific elements that might be changing are:
1) The environmental policy is to support environmental protection, specific to the context of the organisation. This broadens the current commitment to and prevention of pollution and allows, if not encourages (if in organisational context) commitments with regards to sustainable development, climate change, sustainable resource use and the protection of biodiversity and ecosystems and any other relevant environmental issues.
2) Environmental aspect identification and the evaluation process takes a lifecycle perspective. This is not lifecycle assessment, but a means of getting organisations to think beyond areas where they have direct control.
3) Environmental objectives shall be developed considering internal and external issues and must be supported with programmes that have one or more performance indicators and are to be fully integrated into the organisations processes.
4) Value change planning and control introduces requirements to control or influence upstream and downstream processes. This includes those activities which are outsourced. For example, transport, packaging, end of use and disposal and the processes governing procurement of goods and services.
5) Outsource processes and the process related to the purchase of goods and services are to be controlled by evaluation criteria taking a lifecycle perspective and by specifying environmental requirements as appropriate.
6) The results of the evaluation shall be considered as an input to design, development or change of its products and services.
7) Also, the organisation may need to provide information about the environmental impact during the use and end of life treatment of the product or during delivery of the service.
8) The status of compliance with applicable legal requirements and other voluntary obligations must also be known.
Interviewer: What definitions or terms have been introduced or changed?
Sarah Jones: Some terms and definitions have been introduced or changed, including requirement, effectiveness, risk, documented information replacing document and record definitions previously, outsource monitoring and measurement.
Interviewer: From an organisational training perspective, what do you think companies should be doing to get ready for the changes to ISO 14001?
Sarah Jones: In order for companies to be ready for the upcoming changes to ISO 14001 the first thing that companies need to do is to be informed. They should turn or can turn to the organisations or trade bodies that are directly involved in the revision process, such as the Institute of Environmental Management and Assessment or their certification body for regular status updates including release dates of the various drafts and final publication.
Companies should also take the opportunity to review their existing system to ensure it is robust enough to address any new challenges or changes.
It is also important that companies are in contact with their assessor who should be keeping them posted on any training, seminars or webinars that LRQA are offering.
Lastly, companies could contact their account manager or training business development manager to arrange a visit or technical call to discuss what options are available.
Interviewer: Within larger organisations, who should be looking at training on the revised standard?
Sarah Jones: With regards as to who should be looking at training on the revised standard then I would suggest everyone in the organisation. Every level of management, environmental management system managers, management system managers, consultants who assist organisations and not forgetting procurement as it looks more likely that the whole supply chain could be involved.
Interviewer: Is there a difference regarding training between large organisations and small to medium enterprises?
Sarah Jones: Even for small to medium enterprises at some point every environmental management system auditor or environmental practitioner of any kind shall require calibrating in the revised standard and its interpretation.
Interviewer: What advice do you have for organisations as they begin to plan for the implications that a revised ISO 14001 might have on their environmental management system and subsequently their company?
Sarah Jones: Without doubt there are some big changes ahead and they will have an impact on the way we interpret and meet the requirements of ISO 14001. However, we must also recognise that the majority of the standard appears to be remaining the same.
Organisations may experience various challenges when making the changes, but do remember that migration from the old to the new will normally be expected to be accomplished over a transitional period the timeframe of which is yet to be determined. So, as for the next steps ensure that your organisation keeps aware of the changes and start making plans to adapt in a systematic and proactive manner.
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Further information about the ISO Standard Revisions - to include blogs and round table discussions - will appear on www.lrqa.com/isostandardsupdate. Alternatively, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.