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ISO 14001: Meaning, Standard and Requirements
Blog...ISO 14001: Meaning, Standard and Requirements

ISO 14001: Meaning, Standard and Requirements

Legislation & Standards
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An ISO 14001 is an international standard that lists the requirements for an effective and successful Environmental Management System.
a laptop

Have you ever heard about the ISO 14001 Standard?

👉 What is it? How does complying with this standard benefit your company? What are the ISO 14001 requirements?

ISO 14001 Environmental Management System

What is ISO 14001?

ISO 14001 is an internationally recognized standard that explains the requirements for effective Environmental Management Systems (EMS).  

ISO 14001 consists of five key elements: 

  1. Environmental Policy
  2. Planning
  3. Implementation
  4. Corrective Action
  5. Monitoring Under Management Review. 
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ISO 14001 Environmental Management certification

In order to obtain an ISO 14001 Environmental Management certification, it is necessary to provide documentation that proves that your company's Environmental Management System (EMS) meets the standard requirements. 

Even if all of your plans to operate sustainably have yet to be fully implemented, it is important that your documentation outlines future plans to employ these practices. 

It is crucial that the company as a whole is cognizant of the environmental strategies in place so that the whole supply chain can work towards the company's environmental responsibilities and obtain them more efficiently.
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The Environmental Management Systems (EMS)

What is an Environmental Management System?

👉 Environmental Management Systems provide general guidelines for organizations as well as practical tools that help them to meet their environmental goals.

This is achieved through the use of continual progress reporting of a company's environmental performance and corporate sustainability policies. 

However, it is important to note that Environmental Management Systems adopt a flexible approach towards improving environmental performance and don't actually require a specific environmental objective to be met. Environmental Management Systems should be adjusted by company management according to the company and their individual goals.

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Benefits of Environmental Management Systems

An Environmental Management System is an affordable, methodical system that allows an organization to implement the changes necessary in order to obtain an ISO 14001 certification. It helps to address the environmental aspects of a company's operations that are often not compulsory, and that would otherwise go unnoticed.

Environmental Management Systems allow companies to recognize, analyze, and assess their carbon footprint. It also encourages them to address environmental challenges and employ actions to accomplish new environmental objectives. 

Establishing an Environmental Management System serves as the ultimate pathway for an organization to receive an ISO 14001 certification.

As explained before, an ISO 14001 serves as a model to help a business or project establish effective environmental management practices. It also enables companies to cultivate a greater sense of trust when it comes to their internal and external stakeholders (i.e. consumers, investors, and employees) - something that ultimately helps elevate a brand's reputation.

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What is the ISO 14001 Standard?

Does it matter which version – ISO 14001 (2004) or ISO 14001 (2015) - your company decides to use?

The newest version of ISO 14001 (2015) sets a higher legal compliance standard for a company seeking to acquire an ISO certification. It uses concrete environmental definitions and also includes new sections not previously found in ISO 14001 (2004), which focused on proactive initiatives for environmental protection and life-cycle analysis

ISO 14001 Standard terms and definitions

As a part of an effort to structure all ISO standards in the same way, the ISO 14001 (2015) revisions adopted a high-level structure, use mandatory definitions, and incorporate common standard requirements and clauses.

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New requirements

However, the biggest change to ISO 14001 (2015) are the new requirements for leadership engagement, interactions with third parties, the necessity for risk-management, pollution prevention, increased 'essential documentation', and increased accountability when it comes to the company's environmental impact.

Reduce carbon emissions

ISO 14001 (2015) mandates that businesses displays a higher level of commitment and leadership with regards to their ISO 14001 Environmental Management Systems.

Rather than simply vowing to not cause further harm to the environment, the company must strive to actively reduce their carbon footprint and other aspects of their environmental impact.

Provide assurance to stakeholders

The new ISO 14001 also asks companies to consider the needs of other stakeholders involved in the business or project, and how a third party could be negatively impacted if the objectives of their EMS system are not met. 

Environmental Targets

In comparison to ISO 14001 (2004), ISO 14001 (2015) requires companies to consider how the environmental goals of the company impact both the organization and the society. This allows for a more thorough risk-management assessment, and the opportunity to improve upon environmental targets previously set in place. 


Lastly, the new ISO 14001 (2015) requests the organization to respect the new, stricter environmental regulations in place. For example, the life cycle of a product or service and its environmental impact on the environment is imperative in the new ISO 14001. Products and services must be designed and utilized in alignment with the environmental targets set by the organization. This ultimately allows the company to improve their sustainability, while also positively impacting the environment and building a more successful business. 

👉 As stated before, ISO 14001 (2015) employs more numerical data, evidence, and strong terminology to strengthen the efficiency of the Environmental Management System, and demands more from companies who would like to acquire an ISO 14001. 

Given the updates, higher expectations, and stricter requirements of ISO 14001 (2015) in comparison to ISO 14001(2004) – it is highly recommended that companies obtain the new ISO 14001.

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Why should your company seek to be certified by ISO 14001?

The easiest way to think about the benefit of acquiring an ISO 14001 is to compare it the benefits of a degree in higher education. 

Now imagine that you're in a job interview to be a junior environmental scientist! 

You've never held the position before, but you're passionate about the subject and know that you're up to the job. But how does the hiring manager know that you're qualified for the position? Can we really expect them to simply take our word for it?

Thankfully, in this imaginary scenario, they don't have to! That's what the degree is for. It proves that we've invested time and money to build up experience and knowledge. The likelihood of being taken seriously on a job interview is greater if you have enrolled in higher education, or any other post-education experience that allows you to obtain a proper certification. 

Well, the same is true for companies who hold an ISO 14001 certification – the proof of an ISO 14001 accreditation cultivates greater security for all of those involved in the project. 

The international standard will encourage investors, employees, and society to trust your company's mission. It proves to stakeholders that the company is taking steps that positively impact the environment.
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What benefits will the ISO 14001 standard bring to your organization?

There are many benefits to getting an ISO certification for your company - whether you're an organization that operates locally or an international organization.

Let's take a look at some of them below.

Improve performance

Similar to the ideal of corporate sustainability, receiving an ISO approval for your company can ensure your business runs more efficiently and successfully.

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Environmental benefits

Getting an ISO certification has a number of positive environmental impacts. It can help maximize waste reduction, improve resource efficiency, lower overall expenditures, and commits a company to monitoring their environmental impact and carbon footprint.

Reduce waste

The new ISO 14001 (2015) requires that companies significantly decrease the amount of waste they produce – for example, by cutting back on the use of superfluous machinery, or by avoiding unnecessary consumption and instead using renewable energy sources wherever possible. 

Reduce Costs

Not only does reducing waste benefit the environment and help a company to run more efficiently, but it is also cost effective. Obtaining an ISO 14001 (2015) certification motivates companies to reduce their waste, to improve their energy usage and raw materials sourcing, as well as to optimize their carbon footprint - and as a result they'll see continual improvement when it comes to operating costs too.

👍 Also, keep in mind – if less production and materials are required, simpler insurance plans can be purchased to protect the company. This also decreases the company's expenditures, while simultaneously benefiting the environment. 

Fiscal benefits and legal compliance

Besides the clear, positive environmental effects of obtaining an ISO 14001 (2015), it also has a wide array of fiscal benefits. For instance, obtaining an ISO 14001 guarantees that your company is acting in accordance with all current regulations and legal obligations.

This legal compliance provides investors, employees, and consumers with the assurance that the company can be trusted and is worth doing business with – ultimately giving the company a competitive advantage, as well. 

So, where can your company get its ISO 14001 certification?

ISO 14001 is an international standard that can be granted by the American Standards Institute (ANSI), the International Accreditation Forum (IAF), and the BSI Group.

The ISO 14001 accreditation is renewable for up to a period of three years, after which another ISO 14001 can be requested. 

What are the requirements necessary to obtain an ISO 14001?

In order to acquire an ISO 14001, it is necessary to provide documentation that a company's Environmental Management System is up to standard. While not all corporations will have the exact same Environmental Management System, it's important that the company is dedicated to working towards all of the targets they have established.

The company must have a clear, concise mission statement on how they plan to prevent pollution and protect the environment – and how their project will continue to employ their environmental goals. The company must also demonstrate the potential benefits and risks of their efforts to positively impact the environment. 

A clear assessment of environmental performance must be included in the documentation in order to obtain an ISO 14001. This testament should include numerical data on the use of water, electricity, and gas, how much waste is produced, air emissions, sewage disposal, and plans for future maintenance on activities that could produce a large carbon footprint.

This management review and data evaluation will allow the company to create and instill a sustainable plan with environmental goals that align with their company's mission, and begin their journey towards being more environmentally friendly.

All production and environmental practices must be assessed via internal audits to ensure that they comply with legal requirements. A good place to start is to make a list of all the machinery or environmental plans currently put in place, and assess each piece of equipment one at a time. 

It is imperative to show that your company is prepared to respond in the event of an emergency, with as little damage done to the environment as possible : such as electricity loss, fire, or a flood. 

Any third party associated with the company seeking to obtain an IOS 14001 must also comply with the Environmental Management System measures your company has put in place. Also, any new training regarding new Environmental Management System practices should be well documented amongst employees to ensure an efficient supply chain. This will reassure third parties and consumers that employees are competent and aware of the Environmental Management System practices in place.

💡Consistent communication, both within the company and to third party suppliers, ensuring that these new regulations are in progress – is also necessary to obtain an IOS 14001. 

It is important to track and document your company's progress towards achieving their environmental goals, as well as any obligations your company has to any third parties.

Companies seeking to acquire an IOS 14001 should consistently monitor the state of their current Environmental Management Systems, and document the progress. Any mishap should be reported, and a plan for corrective action should be illustrated in the event any non-complaint action occurs again.

All in all, there are many documents required in order to successfully obtain an ISO 14001 (2015) – but an organized business will likely already have many of these documents in order. 

How can you and your company get started with the process to obtain an ISO 14001 (2015)?

First, it is important to clearly define your company's goals and objectives and outline exactly how your company will achieve those goals.

Secondly, make sure that your team is committed and supports the accreditation process. They should receive proper training to ensure that the company's Environmental Management System can operate at maximum efficiency, and will also ensure that they're aware of what's required when it comes to well as documenting progress. 

Lastly, it's important to summarize the environmental aspects your company or project has on the environment, and to establish attainable goals to promote environmental sustainability.

👉 If your company is willing to monitor, adjust, and continuously implement new environmental regulations and record documentation of these actions – your company will be well on their way to obtaining an ISO 14001 (2015).

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Click here to learn more about Greenly and how we can help you reduce your carbon footprint.

Don't wait any longer, take the first step towards reducing your carbon footprint by requesting a free and non-binding demo with one of our experts today and finding the solution that best fits your business needs.

What About Greenly?

If reading this article about ISO 14001 has made you interested in reducing your carbon emissions to further fight against climate change – Greenly can help you!

The process to obtain an ISO 14001 can be confusing without the help of a third party, but don’t worry – we offer a free demo for you to better understand our platform and all that it has to offer – including assistance with boosting supplier engagement, personalized assistance, and new ways to involve your employees.

Learn more about Greenly’s carbon management platform here.

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