ISO 14001 defines criteria for an Environmental Management System (EMS). It does not state requirements for environmental performance, but maps out a framework that a company or organization can follow to set up an effective EMS. It can be used by any organization that wants to improve resource efficiency, reduce waste, and reduce costs. Using ISO 14001 can provide assurance to company management and employees as well as external stakeholders that environmental impact is being measured and improved. ISO 14001 can also be integrated with other management functions and assists companies in meeting their environmental and economic goals.
ISO 14001, like other ISO 14000 standards, is voluntary, with its main aim to assist companies in continually improving their environmental performance and complying with any applicable legislation. The organization sets own targets and performance measures, and the standard highlights what an organization needs to do to meet these goals, and to monitor and measure the situation. The standard does not focus on measures and goals of environmental performance, but of the organization. The standard can be applied to a variety of levels in the business, from organizational level, right down to the product and service level (RMIT university).
ISO 14001 is known as a generic management system standard, meaning that it is relevant to any organization seeking to improve and manage resources more effectively. This includes:
- single-site to large multi-national companies
- high-risk companies to low-risk service organizations
- manufacturing, process, and the service industries, including local governments
- all industry sectors including public and private sectors
- original equipment manufacturers and their suppliers.
All standards are periodically reviewed by ISO to ensure they still meet market requirements. The current version is ISO 14001:2015. After the revision has been published, certified organizations get a three-year transition period to adapt their environmental management system to the new edition of the standard. The new version of ISO 14001 is focusing on the improvement of environmental performance rather than to improve the management system itself.
The new ISO 14001:2015 standard has been published and includes several new updates all aimed at making environmental management more comprehensive and relevant to the supply chain. One of the main updates is to consider environmental impacts during the life cycle — although there is no requirement to actually complete a life cycle analysis. In addition the commitments of top management and the methods of evaluating compliance have also been strengthened.
Another significant change has been the linking of ISO 14001 to the general management system structure, introduced in 2015, called the High Level Structure. Both ISO 9001 and 14001 use this same structure making implementation and auditing more uniform. The new standard also requires the holder of the certificate to specify risks and opportunities and how to address them.