It’s perhaps strange to think of this is as falling into the ISOwrong series – but I had to get your attention, somehow! In a way, it’s not entirely untrue because come next year’s changes to the ISO 14001 framework and even those currently certified will likely need to do a bit more than the usual ‘maintenance work’ to keep their certification and risk falling into non-compliance.
The uptake for ISO14001, the internationally recognised specification standard for the implementation of an environmental management system, has been significant across a range of businesses. However, how ISO14001 is perceived and implemented has also varied immensely from organisation to organisation. Since it was first developed in 1996, the standard has been periodically reviewed to adjust to the evolving market and this time has now come again.
At a PPA Conference last year, speaker Clare Taylor said ISO14001 is more than just an “expensive piece of eco-bling”. It was always intended as more than a tick box tool or a performance standard, but practice has shown that changes are needed in order to reinforce the importance of continuous improvement and strategic integration.
The latest draft has not been finalised and there is still a consultation period due to take place at some point this year. In many ways the new ISO14001 seems like it will be closing the gap with ISO20121, a much more comprehensive standard limited however to all companies involved in the events sector. However, it will still continue to focus on the environmental aspects of an organisation. It will also follow the same plan, do, check, act format and many of the previous requirements have been moved around and are now included in different sections of the text.
Rather than look at the changes clause by clause, I am going to highlight the gist of the changes –they exact enumeration is bound to change before the finalised version is released in 2015. They changes are intended to:
• raise the profile of the environmental management system amongst the leadership of the organisation
• improve strategic integration and lead to better understanding of the how an organisation’s environmental issues (eg: climate; resource availability; regulation)should feed into decision making across functions
• give more prominence to the value chain and highlight the importance of having an awareness of your organisation’s supply chain and monitoring outsourced processes
Some existing requirements from the Do and Act parts of the standard are being shifted to the Plan section and many of those requirements which are currently there are likely to become more structured and prescriptive. Such is the case with the support section, where companies will need to do more in terms of ensuring that their communications are transparent, appropriate, credible and, as well as in the section on non-conformities and corrective action. This means more emphasis on organisations being able to demonstrate their compliance with relevant legal obligations and how this ongoing process is managed.
Lastly, the new version of ISO14001 will adhere to the Annex SL framework. This is a common framework to which all new ISO standards adhere and old ones will be updated to adhere. The purpose of this is to allow for better integration between various standards and systems.
I welcome the proposed changes to ISO14001 – I think the incremental approach makes sense and will offer certified organisations some concrete direction on how to mature their current systems and ensure that all-important continuous improvement. Whatever changes are made there is usually a two year transition period.