ISO 14000 is a family of International Standards related to environmental management systems that assist organizations in –
- minimize how their operations (processes etc.) negatively affect the environment (i.e. cause adverse changes to air, water, or land);
- comply with applicable laws, regulations, and other environmentally oriented requirements, and
- continually improve in the above
ISO 14000 is similar to ISO 9000 quality management in that both describe the process of how a product is produced, rather than the product itself. As with ISO 9000, the certification is performed by third-party organizations rather than being awarded by ISO directly. The ISO 19011 audit standard applies when auditing for both 9000 and 14000 compliance at once.
Requirements of ISO 14001 are an integral part of the European Union‘s Eco-Management and Audit Scheme (EMAS). EMAS‘s structure and material requirements are more demanding, foremost concerning performance improvement, legal compliance and reporting duties.
The concept of an environmental management system evolved in the early nineties and its origin can be traced back to 1972, when the United Nations organized a Conference on the Human Environment in Stockholm and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) was launched. These early initiatives led to the establishment of the World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED) and the adoption of the Montreal Protocol and Basel Convention.
In 1992, the first Earth Summit was held in Rio-de-Janeiro, and served to generate a global commitment to the environment. In the same year, BSI Group published the world’s first environmental management systems standard, BS 7750. This created the model for the development of the ISO 14000 series in 1996 by the International Organization for Standardization.
As of 2010, ISO 14001 was in use by at least 223 149 organizations in 159 countries and economies.
Development of the ISO 14000 series
The ISO 14000 family includes most notably the ISO 14001 standard, which forms the foundation for organizations for the design and implementation of an effective environmental management system. Other standards included in this series are ISO 14004, which provides additional guidelines for good environmental management system practices. The critical objective of the ISO 14000 series of is “to promote more effective and efficient environmental management in organizations and to provide useful and usable tools – ones that are cost effective, system-based, flexible, and reflect the best organizations and the best organizational practices available for gathering, interpreting and communicating environmentally relevant information”.
Unlike previous “command and control” type environmental regulations, ISO 14000 was based on a voluntary approach to environmental regulation. The series includes the ISO 14001 standard, which provides guidelines for the establishment or improvement of an EMS. ISO 14001 shares many commonalities with its predecessor, ISO 9000, the international standard of quality management, which served as a model for its internal structure. Both standards can be implemented side by side, or as part of an integrated system. As with ISO 9000, ISO 14000 acts both as an internal management tool as well as a mechanism for demonstrating a company’s environmental commitment to its customers and clients.
Prior to the development of the ISO 14000 series, organizations opted to voluntarily design and develop their own EMS systems. However, this made comparisons of environmental effects between companies challenging, and therefore the ISO 14000 series was developed.
An EMS is defined by ISO as: “part of the overall management system that includes organizational structure, planning activities, responsibilities, practices, procedures, processes and resources for developing, implementing, achieving and maintaining the environmental policy”.