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ISO14001:2015 Launched

The ISO 14001 standard for environmental management has been undergoing revision since early 2012. The newly revised version, which came into effect in September 2015, will eventually replace the 2004 version as well as the 2009 amendments.

While ISO 14001:2015 covers essentially the same topics as the 2004 version, there are some important differences.


Structure of the Standard

The revised standard now follows the common structure (Annex SL) which has the same definitions and terms used in other management standards such as ISO 9001. ISO intends for all management standards to eventually follow this structure as it is thought that it is more user friendly, especially for companies that use multiple standards.


Context of the Organisation

The new standard requires companies to evaluate all external environmental factors and stakeholders which could potentially have an effect on, or be affected by, your company. The Environmental Management System (EMS) should give consideration to all “interested parties” that may impact on its performance.



An important change in the new standards, management representatives must now take on more responsibility for the effectiveness of the EMS and integrate environmental management into business processes. The company’s environmental policy is also now required to include a commitment from management to protect the environment beyond the corporate boundaries. A management representative is no longer explicitly required, but adequate responsibilities and authorities must be assigned within the organisation.


Life-cycle Planning

The existing requirement for companies to consider the environmental impacts of activities, products and services has been restructured.  The revised standards now require companies to manage environmental impacts “from a life cycle perspective”.  Although it should be noted that there is no explicit requirement for companies to perform a life-cycle analysis of activities, products and services, instead companies are simply asked to adopt a life cycle perspective to identify environmental aspects and associated environmental impacts. There is also an increased emphasis on environmental management within the organisation's strategic planning processes.

There is a new concept introduced in the planning section of the new standard. This will require an organisation to ascertain the effect of uncertainty (“risk”) associated with its environmental context and take action to prevent or reduce undesired effects.


Documented information”

The new standard has disregarded the traditional distinction between records and documents in favour of a common term “documented information”. Where the standard uses the phrase ‘retain documented information as evidence of', it is referring to what were previously known as records, and where the phrase 'maintain documented information' is used it is referring to what were previously called documents.

The term “Compliance obligations” also replaces the more cumbersome phrase ‘legal requirements and other requirements to which the organization subscribes”.


Preventative Action

The new standard has removed the clause containing specific requirements for preventative action in favour of new, more detailed, corrective action requirements.   The thinking behind this is that ‘preventative action’ is the role of the EMS in its entirety, as opposed to a specific subsection of it.



There are now more detailed requirements for both internal and external communications. The new standard requires companies to adopt a communication strategy which places equal emphasis on both external and internal communications. This will involve communicating consistent and reliable information, which takes into account the requirements of regulatory agencies and other interested parties. Companies must also establish a mechanism by which people within the company can communicate their recommendations for improving the environmental management system.


We are certified to ISO 14001:2004. What does this mean for our organisation?

Organisations are given a three-year period to transition to the new standard, which will expire in September 2018. The transition can be made at any point over this period but it may be worth conducting a gap-analysis to help make the changeover more straightforward down the line.

February 2016