Published 15 Aug 2023
What is ISO 14001?
ISO 14001 is an international standard in designing and implementing environmental management systems (EMS) that organizations can voluntarily certify for. ISO 14001 certification enhances green credentials, which subsequently boosts business image, improves cost control, and reduces accidents or incidents caused by environmental factors.
In this article
- The Importance of ISO 14001 Checklists
- Choosing the Right ISO 14001 Checklist for Your Business
- Complying with the ISO 14001 Legal Requirements
- How to Implement ISO 14001
- ISO 14001 Internal Audit Best Practices
- FAQs about ISO 14001
- ISO Auditing Tool for Environmental Management Systems
- Featured ISO 14001 Checklists
The Importance of ISO 14001 Checklists
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.
Choosing the Right ISO 14001 Checklist for Your Business
When it comes to selecting the right ISO 14001 checklist for your business, there are a few key factors to consider. First, you should assess your current environmental management system (EMS) to determine which parts of the ISO 14001 standard are most relevant to your organization. Once you have a good understanding of the areas of the standard that are most important to you, you can begin to narrow down your options.
There are a variety of ISO 14001 checklists available, so it’s important to take the time to find one that will fit well with your EMS. It’s also necessary to consider the size and scope of your organization when choosing a checklist. If you have a small business, you may not need a very comprehensive checklist. However, if you have a large organization with multiple facilities, you’ll need a checklist that is much more thorough and can cover all the essential environmental aspects that your need to comply with.
Once you’ve selected the right ISO 14001 checklist for your business, you can begin working on employing it. Remember, the goal is to use the checklist as a tool to help you improve your EMS. Don’t try to use the checklist as a replacement for your EMS. If you do, you’ll likely find it difficult to maintain compliance with the standard.
Complying with the ISO 14001 Legal Requirements
ISO 14001 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.
How to Implement ISO 14001
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:
Step 1: PLAN
Plan environmental performance evaluation by selecting relevant indicators. The planning step entails the following:
- Read and understand the standard ISO 14001:2015 (along with the supplementary ISO 14004 standard) 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.
Step 2: DO
Collect and analyze data, assess information, and report results. This step involves implementing the planned EMS and operational controls.
Step 3: CHECK & ACT
Review and improve overall environmental performance. The check & act step involves the following:
- Conduct performance evaluation and management review
- Perform an ISO 14001:2015 internal audit
- Ensure that corrective actions are completed
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.
ISO 14001 Internal Audit Best Practices
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, 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.
FAQs about ISO 14001
For organizations to set up and manage their EMS, they should adhere to ISO 14001 requirements which are clauses 4-10:
- Clause 4: Context of the company/organization
- Clause 5: Leadership
- Clause 6: Planning
- Clause 7: Support
- Clause 8: Operations
- Clause 9: Performance evaluations
- Clause 10: Improvement
Like other ISO standards, ISO 14001 is voluntary. While it is not mandatory, getting certified helps organizations gain a competitive advantage by improving their environmental performance through efficient use of resources and reduction of waste.
The ISO 14001 standard for EMS should be able to provide organizations with the necessary guidelines to make their compliance more aligned. These include the 5 elements of an EMS:
- Environmental policy
- Implementation and operation
- Checking and corrective actions
- Management review
ISO Auditing Tool for Environmental Management Systems
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. SafetyCulture can help you perform better internal ISO audits, monitor EMS activities, and track your organization’s environmental performance. SafetyCulture 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 14001 Checklists
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
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 SafetyCulture.
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.
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.
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 SafetyCulture to prepare your business for the ISO 14001 certification through SafetyCulture’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.