This article briefly discusses:
- what is the purpose of ISO 14001?;
- why use an ISO 14001 checklist?;
- compliance measures for ISO 14001 legal requirements;
- implementation steps for ISO 14001 using the PDCA cycle;
- best practices for ISO 14001 internal audits;
- EMS audit software to help streamline ISO 14001 documentation and reporting; and
- free ISO 14001 checklists you can download, customize, and use.
ISO 14001 is not merely a certificate of adherence to environmental management standards, but it is a long-term commitment to keep improving environmental performance. While consistent audit documentation and data gathering is reinforced by ISO 14001, the recently updated standard can also help companies focus on the active participation of all staff members in carrying out EMS activities and the full support of internal and external stakeholders in enforcing improvement actions.
A well-designed ISO 14001 checklist can help environmental, health, and safety (EHS) managers stay on top of compliance requirements and double down efforts on effective implementation. It is crucial for organizations to continue using, modifying, and updating their ISO 14001 template to demonstrate dedication in validating their environmental management system consistently.
ISO 14001 regulatory compliance is the bare minimum of an environmental management system that actually works. Being ISO 14001-certified entails specific compliance obligations as explained in Annex A of the ISO 14001:2015 standard—mandatory legal requirements related to an organization’s environmental aspects can include, if applicable:
- requirements from governmental entities or other relevant authorities;
- international, national and local laws and regulations;
- requirements specified in permits, licenses or other forms of authorization;
- orders, rules or guidance from regulatory agencies; and
- judgments of courts or administrative tribunals.
The guidance on the use of ISO 14001:2015 standard further states that compliance obligations also include other interested party requirements related to its environmental management system which the organization has to or chooses to adopt which can include, if applicable:
- agreements with community groups or non-governmental organizations;
- agreements with public authorities or customers;
- organizational requirements;
- voluntary principles or codes of practice;
- voluntary labeling or environmental commitments;
- obligations arising under contractual arrangements with the organization; and
- relevant organizational or industry standards such as the Business Social Compliance Initiative (BSCI) and Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP), among others.
During implementation of ISO 14001, adhering to the Plan-Do-Check-Act cycle (PDCA) can organize EMS processes and help organizations meet the standard in proper order. The PDCA cycle can be simplified into 3 easy-to-follow steps. Below are the different processes, together with the steps they entail:
- PLAN: planning environmental performance evaluation by selecting relevant indicators. The planning step entails the following:
- Read and understand the standard ISO 14001:2015 and prepare legal requirements.
- Conduct an ISO readiness test or self-assessment to identify gaps in your current system and processes.
- Develop an implementation plan using the Plan-Do-Check-Act cycle
- Define your organization’s competency and training requirements for ISO 14001:2018
- Ensure competence needs are met and that all parties involved are kept in the loop.
- DO: collecting and analyzing data, assessing information, and reporting results.
- Operate the planned EMS and operational controls.
- Operate the planned EMS and operational controls.
- CHECK & ACT: review and improve overall environmental performance.
After going through the PDCA cycle, you may modify your EMS based on new data gathered. This ensures continuous improvement of an organization’s EMS.
Internal auditing is a key part of implementing ISO 14001. Take note that you don’t need to have a separate internal audit for Environmental Management Systems; there is no reason why you can’t use one process for your internal audits that combines both QMS and EMS. To help you complete your internal audits, consider the following ISO 14001 best practices below:
Planning and Scheduling
The first thing to do when starting an ISO 14001 internal audit is to schedule it in. It sounds simple but making sure it’s scheduled in is half the battle. The frequency is often once a year but depending on your particular environment or your past audit performance, it may be appropriate to do them more frequently. The schedule should be available to employees and managers because at this stage you don’t want a surprise audit, as it may disrupt work unnecessarily.
Execution and Analysis
Once it’s scheduled in the next stage is to perform the audit. The key thing for an internal audit is that you are not using the audit to judge legal compliance. You are instead measuring if the process designed to manage the planned environmental conditions are appropriate. For example, Are corrective actions being addressed? Are environmental operational controls in place?
Reporting and Communication
Like all internal audits you the whole process is pointless unless you report it. If people who are part of the process and are doing well, they need to know that. If there are problems to be addressed they need to be addressed and corrected. Finally, all opportunities need to be identified and provided to all employees involved in the process.
Paper-based audits can be burdensome and time-consuming. Replace your paper audits with a digital auditing app to save more time and increase productivity. iAuditor by SafetyCulture can help you perform better internal ISO audits, monitor EMS activities, and track your organization’s environmental performance. iAuditor lets you:
- Create mobile-ready ISO checklists
- Empower teams to conduct efficient monitoring procedures and analysis using a smartphone or tablet
- Save hours in report-creation with a mobile app that generates comprehensive reports as you finish an audit
- Create & assign corrective actions for issues found on EMS activities during audit
- Save all reports online and automatically share it with members of your organization. Preview sample report of ISO 14001 PDF here.
- Use for free with small teams. Unlimited reports and storage for premium accounts.
Here is a collection of our carefully prepared workplace safety checklists you can browse and use as part of achieving ISO 14001 certification, ongoing compliance, and continuous improvement.
Featured ISO Checklists
ISO 14001 EMS Monitoring Plan Template
This EMS Monitoring Plan Template is used to identify key characteristics of operations and activities that can have significant environmental impact and/or compliance consequences. Use this checklist to develop measurement controls to prevent the likelihood of potential environmental hazards. This template is designed to capture the following information:
- Significant Aspect: operation equipment or activities that can have significant environmental impact
- Risk Level: the risk severity level an environmental aspect poses
- Monitoring & Measurement: type of monitoring activity/planned inspection process
- Corrective Measures: Controls or corrective actions to implement
- Supporting Photos: ability to attach supporting photos to template
ISO 14001 Internal Audit Checklist
This ISO 14001 internal audit checklist can be used to check significant environmental aspects which need monitoring and focus. It can help businesses gain self-awareness to further improve their environmental management system. This checklist covers the evaluation of air emissions, waste and water management systems, handling and storage, soil and groundwater protection, noise control, and other environmental impacts. Capture photo evidence of any issues identified during the inspection and generate reports on the spot using iAuditor.
EMS Audit Checklist
An EMS audit checklist is an evaluation tool to help determine the performance of an organization’s Environmental Management System (EMS) and follow through on areas of improvement. This EMS audit checklist is used by a U.S.-based manufacturing group of companies to comply with all legal, regulatory, and other requirements, prevent pollution, and establish and review their targets and objectives for the improvement and maintenance of their environmental system.
ISO 14001 Requirements Checklist
An ISO 14001 requirements checklist is used by environmental, health, and safety (EHS) compliance managers to ensure that their company’s EMS fulfills legal requirements. This ISO 14001 requirements checklist is used to verify the legal compliance of Kraft Heinz, the 5th largest food and beverage company in the world. Use this checklist to audit if waste carriers licenses are updated, if the effluent consent agreement is available, and more.
ISO 14001:2015 Readiness Checklist
This readiness checklist covers ISO 14001 clauses 4 to 10 and is used as a preparatory inspection for ISO 14001:2015 certification. The checklist includes evaluation of the context of the organization, planning procedures and targets, leadership effectiveness, and so on. Use iAuditor to prepare your business for the ISO 14001 certification through iAuditor’s Analytics feature. Analytics is a powerful tool to track your processes by getting the most out of your collected data. Determine which outstanding items and areas you need to focus on and the necessary actions to address these concerns.