ISO 14000: A Beginner’s Guide

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Published July 14th, 2020

What is ISO 14000?

ISO 14000 is a set of international standards designed to help organizations operate without negatively affecting the environment, adhere to environmental laws and regulations, and continuously improve processes. One vital component of the ISO 14000 series of standards is ISO 14001:2015 which specifies the requirements for an effective Environmental Management System (EMS).

This article provides an introduction of what an EMS is, how to develop one, and the benefits of having your EMS certified to the ISO 14001:2015 standard. Helpful resources are also made available to assist you to get ready for your ISO 14001 certification.

What is an EMS?

An Environmental Management System (EMS) is a framework and set of processes designed to help organizations achieve their environmental goals and regulatory standards in a cost-effective manner.

The basic elements of an EPS can include the following (as recommended by the US EPA):

  • Reviewing the organization’s environmental goals;
  • Analyzing its environmental impacts and legal requirements;
  • Setting environmental objectives and targets to reduce environmental impacts and comply with legal requirements;
  • Establishing programs to meet these objectives and targets;
  • Monitoring and measuring progress in achieving the objectives;
  • Ensuring employees’ environmental awareness and competence; and,
  • Reviewing progress of the EMS and making improvements.

Why Implement ISO 14001:2015

Certification of an EMS is entirely voluntary but can demonstrate credibility and reinforce an organization’s commitment to its environmental responsibilities. The most widely adopted EMS certification is ISO 14001:2015, which is a globally recognized standard and is commonly integrated with other quality management systems and standards such as ISO 9001.

Here are some of the main benefits of having a ISO 14001:2015 certified EMS:

  • Enhances Environmental Performance
    The initial benefit of being an ISO 14001 certified business means you have excellent environmental performance and corporate citizenship.
  • Reduction in waste production
    Controlling and managing waste, effluent, and emissions are good indicators that your business is positively affecting the environment by preventing any source of pollution and contamination. With this, natural resources, including air and water, land and precious minerals are conserved.
  • Compliance with legal and other requirements
    Taking a strategic approach helps demonstrate adherence with current and future regulatory and statutory requirements. This also help reduce risk of prosecution and fines.
  • Profitability
    Being ISO 14001:2015 certified helps provide financial benefits, establish better relationships with stakeholders, expand to different markets and improve company reputation. Many businesses with high risk of environmental impact may only engage with organizations that have certified EMS frameworks.

How to get ISO 14001:2015 certified?

Understanding the entire ISO 14001:2015 process can be overwhelming. Here are five key steps that organizations typically go through to achieve EMS certification:

STEP ONE: Plan Well

Any organization who wishes to be ISO certified needs serious planning and preparation to ensure that effort, money and time is not wasted. Take time to re-assess your business processes. Check and review all significant data and documents.

STEP TWO: Review the ISO 14001:2015 Standard

Be equipped by getting familiar with the entire ISO 14001:2015 certification process. Identify legal requirements. Define the EMS scope and procedures.

STEP THREE: Disseminate and Train

It is important that all employees know what goals you are trying to achieve and the process involved to improve the EMS. Next step is to provide training on understanding the ISO standards, developing management systems, dealing with non-conformances, and so on.

STEP FOUR: Perform Internal Audits

The best way to evaluate if the EMS is effective is to perform internal audits and self-assessments. Use digital ISO 14001 checklists to assist with documenting and tracking the improvement of your processes.

STEP FIVE: Get Certified

Choose a notable third-party certification body that will come in to assess the EMS process for adherence with the ISO 14001:2015 requirements.


Sare Hawes

SafetyCulture staff writer