Can Planned Revisions to ISO 14001 Influence its Business Benefits?

ISO has produced a “Future Challenges” report, making recommendations for the modernization of ISO 14001, and providing an important input to the revision process. Key themes are:

  • Elevating environmental decision-making to the strategic business level, encouraging organizations to consider high-level environmental issues before developing policy. As a result, senior management should understand the key risks and opportunities, and therefore be better placed to make decisions in relation to investment and business change, which subsequently are identified at the operational level. To support this, the revised standard will include new clauses on understanding the organization and its context, understanding the needs and expectations of interested parties, and leadership and commitment – all ahead of the existing clause on environmental policy, the current starting point.
  • Improving performance and compliance processes. Rather than expecting organizations to comply with environmental legislation, the proposed draft places the emphasis on organizations being able to understand their compliance status. This is far more constructive, as having an understanding provides the basis for identifying potential weaknesses and strengthening compliance processes. The draft is also shifting the emphasis from improvements of the management system to establishing environmental performance targets, backed up by KPIs to track improvement.
  • Greater focus on supply chain and life cycle impacts.  ‘Future Challenges’ identifies the need to address the impacts of products and services, and hence references ecodesign (Draft ISO 14006). It recommends that life cycle thinking and value chain considerations should be expressed more clearly when assessing the significance of aspects. It also recommends the strategic consideration of environmental issues in design, purchasing and marketing. Those recommendations have not yet been incorporated into the current draft, but will be before the revised standard is published.

There are many drafting stages to be completed before ISO 14001 is published, and it is far from certain how explicitly the ‘Future Challenges’ recommendations will adopted. None-the-less, it is clear that there is a real opportunity for ISO 14001 to encourage strategic consideration of environmental opportunities, as well as risks, to lead to significantly improved performance, with associated genuine business benefit.

This is the first in a series of short articles that will explore the successful development and implementation of environmental management systems, focusing on delivering real business benefits, and taking account of potential changes in the revised ISO 14001. The next will address leadership and commitment, and establishing the right team to develop, implement and manage an EMS.

Source: Nigel Leehane, CRA Europe, Oct. 2013

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