'The last major revision to ISO 14001 was in 2004. With the environmental agenda evolving rapidly over the last 10 years, the proposed changes will reflect how organisations can limit their environmental impact in the modern world.'
Perhaps the most far-reaching change concerns the role of top management. The current version permits the appointment of a management representative to be responsible for the EMS – a situation that has allowed top management to become 'removed' from the process.
The revised standard will require them to be much more involved by understanding the organisation's risks, opportunities and stakeholder expectations, along with ensuring that its environmental policy and objectives are compatible with its overall strategic direction. They will also have to be involved with the integration of the EMS into the organisation's business processes by providing adequate resources.
In and out The proposed revisions stress the requirement for organisations to consider the internal and external issues that influence the effectiveness of their EMS. This forms part of a new series of what are termed compliance obligations, which extend to both the mandatory and voluntary requirements that an organisation has to, or chooses to, comply with.
Although the prevention of pollution is already a prerequisite of ISO 14001 compliance, the revised version will encourage the support of environmental protection that is specific to the activities of the organisation. The implications of external environmental conditions such as climate change, the availability of natural resources, political developments, regulations and other stakeholder issues will need to be considered. This is aimed at ensuring the organisation considers high-level, strategic drivers when establishing the scope of its EMS, making its core commitments, and developing its environmental policy.
Organisations will also be expected to look holistically at their activities by taking a lifecycle perspective in terms of the identification and evaluation of environmental aspects related to products and services. This includes addressing how to control, manage and influence processes in the supply chain.
Loud and clear The revised ISO 14001 will take a fastidious approach to the way that organisations communicate. As well as being required to develop a communications strategy, any information regarding environmental performance will have to be complete, accurate, transparent and reliable.
This will involve a more considered use of the metrics that are used to measure performance, and any available information should adhere to relevant legislation, corporate policies, codes of practice and permit conditions. This process of evaluation will be conducted on an ongoing basis as part of the aforementioned compliance obligations and the data made available to stakeholders.
It is expected that this will help achieve another objective of the proposed standard – that of continual improvement through the use of performance indicators. The Future Challenges for EMS Study Group states that, 'The organisation shall continually improve the suitability, adequacy and effectiveness of the EMS to enhance its environmental performance.'
Looking ahead The response to the proposed changes to ISO 14001 has been mixed. While some see it as a timely and necessary update to the existing standard, others feel that some of the more onerous elements might deter some organisations from certification. It is important to remember, however, that the revised ISO 14001 is not due to come into effect until 2015 and there could be a transitional period of up to three years to address the new requirements.
The key thing is for organisations that are already certified not to panic and to stay well informed. Martin Hockaday, NQA's energy and environment sector manager, states, 'While the revision process is taking place it can leave organisations feeling slightly uneasy about what will transpire. Becoming certified and staying so is deliberately challenging and we will help our clients to make the process is as seamless as possible.'
To that end, NQA has produced a video in which Martin Baxter, executive director of policy at the Institute of Environmental Management & Assessment (IEMA) discusses the proposed changes to ISO 14001. Martin has been appointed by BSI to lead the UK's input into the revision process and you can watch the full video here www.nqa.com/revisions-14001