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ISO 14004: Meaning, Standard and Requirements
Blog...ISO 14004: Meaning, Standard and Requirements

ISO 14004: Meaning, Standard and Requirements

Legislation & Standards
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In this article, we’ll explain what ISO 14004 is, why it is important, how it could benefit your company, the cons of ISO 14004, and how to go about securing an ISO 14004.
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Companies today are becoming more aware than ever before of the benefits of getting audited or applying for various standards or environmental certifications, such as certifications in the ISO series like ISO 14004.

ISO 14004 is a standard that can help companies to manage their EMS, or their Environmental Management System – which in turn, can help curate a company with overall greater sustainability.

Is ISO 14004 the right certification for your company?

In this article, we’ll explain what ISO 14004 is, why it is important, how it could benefit your company, the cons of ISO 14004, and how to go about securing an ISO 14004.

What is ISO 14004?

ISO 14004 is a standard which provides a guideline for companies to improve their EMS, or their Environmental Management System – which is essential to ensure that an organization is adhering to regulatory requirements and to properly manage operational costs. 

ISO 14004 works best when used with other ISO certifications, such as ISO 9001 or ISO 45001, as this can help to establish better maintenance on a company’s Environmental Management System.
ISO 14004:20176 using it to implement your EMS

ISO 14004 can work to help achieve a more efficient Environmental Management System by:

  • Creating greater awareness on how current company activities may contribute to a negative environmental impact, which can allow for new ideas to reduce their current carbon and curate stronger sustainable practices;
  • Improving your company’s overall environmental performance as a result of seeking to fully comprehend the current environmental impact your company creates;
  • Develop and implement new mechanisms to help your company achieve its climate goals as a result of following the advice provided by ISO 14004.

Ultimately, ISO 14004 is a standard which can help companies to reduce their environmental impact, adhere to regulatory requirements, and serve as a baseline to implementing future environmental or emission reduction goals. 

👉 ISO 14004 can serve as an indispensable, supplementary guideline for companies looking to improve their Environmental Management System – as ISO 14004 can guide companies on how to make EMS an integral part of their everyday business operations.

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Why is ISO 14004 important?

ISO 14004 is important because it can help companies to develop their Environmental Management System, which is a paramount component for any company looking to reduce their carbon footprint and implement long-term sustainability.

Improved management of an Environmental Management System, or an EMS, is imperative seeing as it helps companies to directly address their regulatory requirements in both a methodical and cost-effective approach.

An EMS ultimately helps companies to be proactive with regulatory requirements, ensure the health and safety of employees, and avoid legal fines as a result of non-compliance. Companies looking to curate a robust Environmental Management System can turn to ISO 14004 for additional guidance. 

ISO 14004 is often the answer for companies looking to improve their EMS who have already made an effort to establish an EMS before. As ISO 14004 was last updated in 2016, it provides companies with greater insight on how to maintain a robust EMS.

Additional reasons why ISO 14004 is important in the midst of climate change and the newfound need for increased regulatory compliance includes:

  • Helping companies to ensure continuous improvement within their EMS;
  • Acquiring this supplementary ISO certification can demonstrate exceptional commitment to maintaining your company’s current EMS.
Essentially, many companies may make the effort to implement an Environmental Management System – but it can prove more difficult to maintain an EMS. An ISO 14004 can guide companies to ensure their EMS remains up-to-date and effective, which in turn can help the rest of their business to be successful.

💡 Ultimately,  ISO 14004 can help your company to maintain an effective Environmental Management System – which can aid in avoiding the potential risks of falling subject to non-compliance in regards to current environmental regulations and other potential repercussions.

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What are the benefits of following ISO 14004?

There are several benefits to acquiring an ISO 14004, such as receiving guidelines on how to maintain an EMS, boosting brand reputation, ensuring compliance with environmental regulation, and protecting the health and safety of your organization’s employees.

Although ISO 14004 cannot be used as proof to demonstrate compliance, employees, investors, customers, and stakeholders will understand that seeking to follow the guidelines depicted by ISO 14004 is worthy of a figurative gold star.

The benefits of ISO 14004 include:

  • Boosts Brand Reputation – Since ISO 14004 can prove as a supporting document for other ISO certifications, it can help to further demonstrate a company’s commitment to environmental reform. This can help to attract new customers, investors, and stakeholders to your business and can create a competitive advantage. 
  • Demonstrate Compliance – By implementing effective EMS practices under the guidance of ISO 14004 – companies can ensure they avoid the risk of non-compliance with current environmental regulations. 
  • Improved Resource Efficiency – ISO 14004 can help companies to optimize their resources, which in turn can help to reduce waste, water usage, and air pollution – meaning that ISO 14004 can help companies to not only implement a better EMS, but implement other sustainable initiatives and reduce their carbon footprint.
  • Better Risk Management – ISO 14004 helps companies to utilize a proactive approach when seeking to monitor and manage the environmental risks which could arise as a result of their products and business practices. Ultimately, ISO 14004 can help companies to reduce the chances of an incident occurring that could harm both the environment or their business operations.  

👉 Overall, ISO 14004 is a guideline that can act as an insurance policy for companies looking to address their environmental challenges, reduce their environmental impact, and illustrate their commitment in the fight against climate change.

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How is ISO 14001 different from ISO 14004?

ISO 14001 is different from ISO 14004 because ISO 14001 is a more generalized guideline to approach improved Environmental Management Systems, whereas ISO 14004 allows companies to address specific problems not provided by an ISO 14001.

While it’s true that ISO 14001 and ISO 14004 are sibling-like certifications, they aren’t exactly the same – as ISO 14004 can guide businesses on how to develop an improved EMS under ISO 14001, whereas ISO 14001 is predominantly focused on helping organizations to implement an effective EMS in the first place.

Additional differences between ISO 14001 and ISO 14004 include:

  • ISO 14001 can be used as a certification whereas ISO 14004 cannot;
  • ISO 14001 can be used to demonstrate a company’s compliance with regulatory requirements whereas ISO 14004 cannot;
  • ISO 14001 can undergo contractual use whereas ISO 14004 cannot.

Therefore, it is important to note that ISO 14004 may not be the most beneficial for your organization if your company has yet to acquire other ISO certifications such as an ISO 9001 or an ISO 14001. This is because ISO 14004 is better used as a complimentary guideline to other certifications in the ISO series, and is bound to be most effective when used with other ISO certifications.

👉 Think of taking a college course on biology. If you’re an English major, it’s going to prove useless for the rest of your course material – but a class on biology could prove helpful as a reference point for anyone studying in the field of science, even if it is unrelated. The same goes for ISO 14004 – it is a standard best used as a supplement to other ISO certifications rather than to be used alone.

pen and paper on table

What requirements are suggested under ISO 14004 and how can your company implement them?

ISO 14004 makes several suggestions on how to effectively monitor, manage, and even improve your company’s Environmental Management System – and has been amended in 2016 in order to better adhere to the updated version of ISO 14001 released in 2015.

Changes in ISO 14004:2016 include a greater focus on protecting the surrounding environment, working to improve efficiency within the organization to ameliorate environmental performance, cultivating stronger leadership and strategic environmental management, and a new focus on life-cycle assessment and analysis.

ISO 14004 can prove beneficial to any company regardless of the sector or size – as ISO 14004 can help organizations to better understand the environmental impact of their business activities, products and services, and more.

Here are some of the new and pre-existing requirements under ISO 14004:

  • Regulatory Compliance –  ISO 14004 is determined to ensure all companies that follow the requirements under ISO 14004 aim to remain up-to-date considering all environmental laws, regulations, and other requirements. Your company can do this by tracking new legislation and conducting regular audits to ensure compliance can be proven.
  • Setting Environmental Goals – ISO 14004 encourages companies to set environmental objectives and targets, with hard deadlines to ensure progress, in line your company's current environmental policy. This can be done by engaging your stakeholders and making sure that all of your company’s environmental goals are both measurable and achievable.
  • Cultivating Environmental Awareness Amongst Your Employees – ISO 14004 incentivizes companies to provide training programs for their employees so that they can better understand how their role could impact the company’s environmental management. This can be done by developing approachable training programs for your emplyoee’s onboarding sessions, so they know just how important sustainability is to your company from the start.
  • LCA – ISO 14004 puts a greater emphasis on life cycle assessment and life cycle analysis than ever before, and this is because companies that seek to better understand the environmental impact created by their products can make more impact direct changes to reduce their carbon footprint. Greenly can help your company with LCA today! 
  • Greater Transparency & Documentation – ISO 14004 encourages companies to carefully document any and all information related to your company’s EMS. This can help you to better illustrate your efforts in reports, boost transparency, and impress stakeholders, investors, and even customers. This can be done by establishing an effective documentation system: such as by setting documents to be reviewed, approved, and then filed away for later use, perhaps for future meetings with investors, stakeholders, newsletters, or even internal communications.

Ultimately, the main goal of ISO 14004 is to help companies improve their EMS and overall environmental management – and if you’re struggling to implement some of the ideals under ISO 14004, Greenly can help your company to go above and beyond.

What About Greenly?

If reading this article about ISO 14004 has made you interested in reducing your carbon emissions to further fight against climate change – Greenly can help you!

At Greenly we can help you to assess your company’s carbon footprint, and then give you the tools you need to cut down on emissions. 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.

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

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