Many of the changes in ISO 14001:2015 were due to the changes that occurred with the introduction of Annex SL. The addition of Annex SL created a conventional structure for management system standards that now aligns ISO 14001 closer with ISO 9001 (and others). In practice ISO14001 was always aligned with ISO 9001, but the 2015 changes cement it even more. That said, ISO 9001 changed Annex SL more significantly than ISO 14001, and that creates some requirements challenges although probably only technically (for anyone enjoying both standards, of course). In practice, it is likely auditors will not quibble about the specifics.
Theoretically, you have now connected your environmental team with your business development, strategy development, and top management. That is what ISO is implying and pushing for, but it may not reach it in every case. The purpose of the organization and strategic imperatives are now driving the EMS and should lead to meaningful valuable and actionable objectives. These are the most significant changes.
Some ISO14001 EMS solutions are driven more by a passion for the environment than they are by a tangible impact on the environment. Office based organizations are an example of this. In the same way these organizations have struggled over the years with programs, they will struggle with objectives now.
While the complete standard changed and there are definitely a few special changes that make a difference, the main process that ISO14001 requires aspects, impacts, controls, programs [objectives], communication, legal/compliance, emergency/contingency….all of the “important” content to an environmental team is fundamentally the same. It has been an opportunity to review, update and improve – but fundamentally the same.
Those transitioning should not be distracted by the “no procedures” camp or the verbal evidence “naysayers” and will hopefully continue a strongly demonstrable EMS. The background of environmental professionals acknowledges the importance of demonstrating everything.
The focus post-transition should be on getting top management involved. 5.5.1 Responsibilities requires that the solution is “integrated” and that management is genuinely engaged so now is the time to ensure the EMS is acknowledged and included in all levels of the organization. If EMS and environmental performence now get a real voice with top management that alone will be significant.
QCS has been working with ISO standards for manyyears (yes, before ISO published 14001 there were other standards). We are passionate about the value EMS brings, the careful interpretation and application of ISO 14001 requirements and in particular where they interact with different standards and business objectives. If you have any questions about 14001 certifications or transition or the ISO 14001:2015 standard, in general, please contact us and we will help.
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