ISO 14001 is changing. Work is underway to substantially revise the structure, content and requirements of the environmental standard, with a view to launching the revised version in 2017. But Environmental Managers need to be thinking about these changes now. Bidwell Management Systems have been actively engaged with our clients and IEMA on the proposed revision to ISO 14001. We attended a key workshop session organised by IEMA in January, and provided input into the general debate, and since then have been liaising with IEMA providing recommendations based on BMS’ practitioner involvement in establishing and implementing ISO 14001 based Environmental Management Systems.

A senior manager of a major UK business recently asked during a BMS workshop

why don’t 14001 auditors spend more time asking the directors questions about the really significant environmental topics for the business such as flood risk and asset planning?

The frustration behind this question sums up both the weakness of 14001 and opportunities for revision. Our response was that the company’s Environmental Management System is every vision, policy, plan, strategy and procedure from board level to industrial staff that has a bearing on how the business may impact the environment or vice-versa, whether or not it is traditionally seen as part of the EMS. This company is looking to the future and asking what it will need to be like to operate in a changed world in 20 years time. This is essential business thinking and ISO 14001 needs to catch up.

Therefore BMS embrace the possibilities that a large scale revision to the standard offers, in particular offering the chance to catch up with current business thinking on matters such as strategic environmental decision making, closed loop recycling, dematerialisation and greening the supply chain.  In particular, the working concept that the standard would include a “maturity matrix” has generated some lively debate!  BMS have long advocated the concept of “EMS Plus” – seeking ways to widen and enhance the basic provisions of ISO 14001, and see maturity matrices as a positive inclusion to the revisions if they are designed in the correct manner.

During the recent feedback comments raised included:

  • Policy:  Environmental Policy should more readily interface with top level business strategy, and reflect the “nature and scale of the impacts” whilst laying out the director’s environmental vision clearly
  • Aspects:  In advanced systems, aspects should be considered against design / planning criteria such as: eliminate, redesign, reimagine as well as recycle and reuse.  Aspects should feed into top level business risk analysis (including climate change mitigation) as well as place greater emphasis on positive aspects to further include environmental opportunities for a business
  • Legal and other requirements:  Advanced systems should also look ahead to future changes in requirements rather than simply complying as is.  This approach would encompass analysis of future change impacts, and planning to implement the changes with full senior management involvement
  • Objectives:  The EMS should be brought into the heart of strategic planning, to ensure that wider business plans reflect inter-connected objectives, and reduce the EMS “silo” effect present in many management systems
  • Evaluation of compliance:  Following the increased emphasis of this in the 2004 revision, tighter definition of this requirement is necessary to assist with fulfilling the clause effectively, whilst the possibility of a more formal structure for the evaluation process should be considered
  • Internal Audit:  Maturity within an EMS should be represented by more diverse audit practices, with the audit cycle including self-assessment, trend spotting, and proactive management of issue resolution as part of general business planning and management
  • Audit competency:  Contents of internal audit training / competency should be more clearly defined within the standard, possibly to include requirements for CPD programmes for auditors

The structure of ISO14001 will also be changing to a generic structure called Guide 83 that is more readily integratable with other ISO standards such as ISO 9001, but we feel this is less important than the content.

BMS are pro-active in considering both improvements to the current standard, and contributing to the debate on the future of ISO 14001, and build this knowledge and awareness into all client work.  Being at the forefront of technical debate and developments means that BMS are able to offer clients “future proofed” advice and ensure that such considerations underpin EMS design and implementation. At the same time BMS understand that it is vital our work with organisations is primarily business led, and not standard led.