ISO 14001 Checklist

Streamline ISO 14001 audits and track environmental performance with mobile-ready EMS audit checklists

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Published December 4th, 2020

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.

This article briefly discusses:

The Purpose of ISO 14001

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.

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.

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.

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:

  • 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.
  • 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.

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 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.

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. iAuditor by SafetyCulture can help you perform better internal ISO audits, monitor EMS activities, and track your organization’s environmental performance. iAuditor lets you:

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.


Shine Colcol

SafetyCulture Staff Writer

Shine has been professionally writing about virtually anything since her internship for a digital publisher of niche blogazines. She is passionate about building a culture of continuous improvement in the environmental, health, safety, and quality space through well-researched, engaging, and impactful content.