ISO 14001:2015 Preparing for the September 2018 deadline

It is more than two years since ISO 14001:2015 was published, and to date only 40% or so of organisations holding certificates for the 2004 version of the standard have made the transition to the 2015 edition. This means that the remaining 60% have less 8 months to certify to ISO 14001:2015 before their current certificates expire. Some of these companies will find it difficult to engage a certifier with availability in the next eight months, and it is interesting to consider why so many have put off transitioning until almost the last minute.  

Timing will have been an issue for some; those nearing the end of their three-year re-certification cycle in 2015 may not have had enough time to prepare for transition before their certificates expired, and so re-certified to the old version. Others may have decided to delay, in order to gain a better understanding of what is needed for successful transition. However, it seems that some have been reluctant to make a commitment to the new standard, potentially as a result of apprehension regarding the scale of change required and not appreciating the benefits that the new standard can deliver.

ISO’s Environment Committee had a number of aspirations in revising the standard, not least of which was making it more relevant to businesses. It wanted to encourage organisations to align their environmental sustainability and overall business strategies, making environmental performance improvement more relevant and contributing value. It also wanted to make EMS processes simpler, by reducing the requirements for procedures and encouraging integration into business processes, making environmental management more effective and efficient. It also sought to focus organisations on broader sustainability rather than end-of-pipe solutions, addressing life cycle issues and resource efficiency, both extremely relevant to the circular economy.  ISO 14001:2015 delivers many of these, and evidence so far is that organisations making the transition are appreciating the benefits.

Context. This new clause requires organisations to determine their key drivers for environmental management, considering the natural environment and how the organisation can affect, and be affected by, it; external socio-economic, political and financial circumstances; and its own internal characteristics that may present constraints or opportunities for improving environmental management. The intent is that taking this high level, strategic view help organisations identify not just risks, but also opportunities, for example through innovation. Organisations have been using this to scope their systems, focussing on key strategic issues so that their systems tackle the priorities.

Leadership. The new requirements for leadership are proving effective in engaging senior management, especially where the determination of context has identified key risks and opportunities. Senior management are appreciating that they are accountable for the effectiveness of the EMS and are providing genuine support, encouragement and resources needed for EMSs to add value to businesses.

Integration.  The revised standard has been designed to encourage the integration of discipline-specific systems (e.g. environment, H&S, quality and energy). SLR is increasingly working with organisations to develop integrated management systems, which are an efficient means of tackling more than one discipline. In addition, there is clear evidence that companies are devolving responsibility for environmental issues to a wider range of functions, for example deign and procurement, so that the management of environmental issues becomes integrated with other business processes, making environmental management more effective.

ISO 14001:2015 includes a range of other new or modified requirements, including:

  • Addressing a broader range of environmental sustainability  issues
  • Identifying business risks and opportunities, associated with environmental aspects
  • Focusing more on life cycle issues
  • Placing more emphasis on maintaining compliance

SLR has published a booklet providing guidance on these and other key elements of ISO 14001:2015, which you can view by following this link. SLR also provides a free ISO 14001:2015 helpdesk to answer questions regarding the transition. For details of the free helpdesk please contact Sue Swain at the contact details below.