ISO14000 Environmental Management System - Explained in Detail

What is ISO14000 ?

Many companies are now familiar with the Quality systems standards (ISO9000) series of international standards . The ISO-14000 series of international standards have been developed for integrating environmental aspects (those elements of a organization's activities that can interact with the environment) into operations and product standards. The international committee finalized the ISO 14001 standards for environmental management systems in September of 1996. In a manner very similar to the Quality Management System (QMS) of ISO 9001, ISO14001 requires implementation of an Environmental Management System (EMS) that complies with the defined internationally recognized standards (as set forth in the ISO14001 specification). This standard does not set detailed prescriptive requirements for the management system; rather structual requirements; which is largely common sense, as we shall see.  The ISO14001 standard specifies requirements for establishing

What does ISO14001 require?

Environmental Policy : As mentioned above, the most important requirement is a committment by the company and it's senior management to achieving a working environmental management system, and to maintaining that system. This must be documented in a published, communicated environmental policy.

Documentation: Certain environmental program elements, including the policy, plans, objectives, etc., must be documented (written down). As with ISO9001, one of the the keys to a successful (achieving environmental and financial goals) ISO14001 EMS is having documented procedures that are implemented and maintained in such a way that achievement of environmental goals appropriate to the type and scale of our activities is promoted inherently, and without a bureaucracy or additional expense.

Planning: This planning, or setting of environmental objectives and targets is critical to the success.  The goals must be reasonable and achievable, and based on practical considerations, not aribtrarily chosen. The procedures must be established for ongoing review of the environmental aspects & impacts of products, activities, & services.  Based on these environmental aspects & impacts, environmental goals and objectives must be established that are consistent with the environmental policy  Programs must then be set in place to implement these activities.

Checking: The EMS must include appropriate monitoring and review to ensure effective functioning of the EMS and to identify and implement corrective measures in a timely manner.   Internal audits of the EMS must be conducted routinely to ensure that non-conformances to the system are identified and addressed.

Management Review : Designated management must conduct an ongoing review process that ensures top management involvement in the assessment of the EMS, and as necessary, addressing need for changes.

The Environmental Management System (EMS) document is the central document that describes the interaction of the core elements of the system, and provides a third-party auditor with the key information necessary to understand the environmental management systems in-place at the company. Consistent with the principles of ISO14001, the Environmental Policy and Environmental Aspects/impacts analysis, including legal & other requirements, shape the program by influencing the selection of specific measurable environmental goals, objectives, & targets. Specific programs and/or projects must then be developed to achieve these environmental goals, objectives, & targets (in ISO14001 terms, this would be referred to as "Implementation & Operation"). The checking & corrective action elements of the system help ensure continuous improvement by addressing root causes on non-conformances. The ongoing management review of the EMS and its elements helps to ensure continuing suitability, adequacy, & effectiveness of the program.

Why the concern about ISO-14001?

For many companies, conformance to ISO14001 may become a contractual requirement of customers in both the U.S. and the European Community (EC). Also, because ISO-14000 is a continuation of the ISO-9000 Product Quality standards, it is expected that ISO-14001 will eventually become a requirement for attaining ISO-9001 re-certification. Thus, many companies are setting goals to establish environmental management systems that conform to ISO14001 guidelines in order to remain competitive in the global marketplace. For those companies who have already obtained ISO9001 registration and/or follow Total Quality Management (TQM) system principles, the ISO-14001 registration is a logical next step because it is very similar to ISO-9001 and the principles of TQM. In addition to the product marketing benefits of obtaining ISO14001 registration, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is currently considering regulatory incentives under its Common Sense Initiative (CSI) program to benefit companies certified to ISO-14001.   See our ISO14000 news page for information about companies who are already certified to the ISO14000 standard

What is the benefit of being registered to ISO14001 What is the benefit of being registered to ISO14001 ?

ISO 14001 is an internationally recognized standard for environmental management systems. Conformance to the standard can help your company remain competitive in the marketplace. For many companies, both their competitors are seeking registration and their customers are beginning to demand conformance to ISO14001 guidelines (as with the ISO9001 standard, the continuous improvement requirements of the standards lead to registered companies eventually needing to require that their suppliers also comply with the ISO14001 standards). By integrating environmental issues, concerns and needs into the overall management of an organization in a sound, nonbureaucratic manner virtually always resulting in a lower total cost and higher overall quality of products and services.  In addition, by establishing and maintaining an Environmental Management System that meets the standards established by ISO-14001, companies will be implementing a strong and effective environmental management program which reduces violations, fines, and negative publicity.

Some of the benefits of implementing an Environmental Management System (EMS) in accordance with the ISO14000 standards, include:

Standards & Specifications List


Standard Title / Description
14001 The basic requirements for developing and implementing an EMS that can be "certified" or registered by an external third party are listed here. It is applies to organizations of all sizes, types and locations. ISO 14001 is the "specification" document to which organizations will be audited.


The ISO 14000 environmental management system standards also includes a series of guidance documents. Unlike the 14001 standard, which is auditable, these documents provide the firm with some guidance on how to implement an environmental management system:

Standard Title / Description
14004 Environmental Management Systems/ Guidelines on Principles, Systems and Supporting Techniques Provides assistance to organizations initiating, implementing, or improving an EMS. This document outlines the elements of an EMS and provides practical advice on implementing or enhancing such a system. The EMS principles include identification of applicable regulatory requirements, commitment to continual improvement and evaluating environmental performance on a regular basis.
14010 Guidelines for Environmental Auditing / General Principles . Provides guidance to organizations, auditors and clients on the general principles necessary to conduct audits.
14011 Guidelines for Environmental Auditing / Auditing Procedures . Provides guidance to organizations on how to establish and continue to meet their environmental policies, objectives, standards and requirements. Audit procedures are established for planning and performing an audit of an EMS to determine whether or not conformance is being achieved using the EMS audit criteria.
14012 Guidelines for Environmental Auditing / Qualification Criteria for Environmental Auditors . Qualification requirements for auditors and lead auditors, which is also applicable to both internal and external auditors.
14013 Management of Environmental Audit Programs.
14014 Initial Reviews.
14015 Environmental Site Assessments.
14020 Goals and Principles of All Environmental Labeling..
14021 Terms and Definitions for Self Declaration of Environmental Claims.
14022 Symbols.
14023 Testing and Verification Methodologies.
14024 Environmental Labeling - Practitioner Programs - Guiding Principles, Practices and Certification Procedures of Multiple Criteria Programs
14030 Environmental Performance Evaluation (EPE) Standards - under development
14031/32 Evaluation of the Environmental Performance of the Management System and Its Relationship to the Environment.
14040/43 Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) General Principles and Practices - Inventory Analysis / Impact Assessment / Interpretation.
14050 Glossary
14060 Guide for the Inclusion of Environmental Aspects in Product Standards

How can EHSO help you?

EHSO specializes in designing and developing ISO14000 systems, and preparing your company for the certification audit.  For more information on how EHSO can assist you with achieving ISO14001 registration at your facility, contact EHSO. Having several organizations certified, we can also provide you with information on what to expect during the audit process and how to successfully plan & strategize to become ISO14001 certified. In addition, the environmental program management services that we provide incorporate ISO14001 and TQM principles.

This page was updated on 30-Mar-2016