ISO 14000 – The Environmental Management Systems standard was published in 1996 and recently revised in 2004 is considered to be the most important standard in ISO’s environment management series.
The standard is a process standard- that is; it specifies a management process and not an end goal. It sets forth a framework for an environmental management system (EMS), which includes numerous substantive elements such as:
• An environmental policy defined by top management,
• Identification of significant environmental aspects,
• The setting of environmental objectives and targets,
• Clear identification and communication of roles and responsibilities within the EMS,
• The establishment of procedures to endure operational control of those activities which could impact the environment
• And a means of checking the organisation’s EMS with respect to the requirements of ISO 14000
The formulators of the ISO 14001 were careful to ensure that it is applicable to organizations of varying sizes and circumstances, including small, medium and large enterprises.
The intent of the standard is to drive environmental improvements worldwide through a systematic approach to environmental management. Now a few years later after ISO 14001 was finalized, organizations are finding that ISO 14001 is living to its lofty expectations.
Benefits from implementing the standards are numerous and include:
• An EMS aligned with ISO 14001 makes the task of managing environmental matters system dependent rather than person dependent.
• Employees (from top to bottom) as well as on-site contractors who did not traditionally see themselves as needing to be involved with the environmental management process, now become fully integrated into the EMS and understand their role in supporting it
• The setting of environmental objectives and targets is based on the significant environmental aspects and impacts. This goes beyond simply relying on legal/regulatory requirements and allows the flexibility to include additional areas for environmental improvements.
In addition to the above an organisation will reap substantial benefits from its EMS audit- a fundamental component of the ISO 14001 standard.
The audit not only verifies that the organisation is implementing its EMS according to planned arrangements that offers opportunities to identify areas for continual improvements.
Furthermore, EMS audits foster employee awareness and provide valuable input for top management to assess the suitability, adequacy and effectiveness of the EMS