The ISO 14000 environmental management standards exist to help organizations (a) minimize how their operations(processes etc.) negatively affect the environment (i.e. cause adverse changes to air, water, or land); (b) comply with applicable laws, regulations, and other environmentally oriented requirements, and (c) continually improve in the above.
ISO 14000 is similar to ISO 9000 quality management in that both pertain to the process of how a product is produced,rather than to the product itself. As with ISO 9000, 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.
A brief history of environmental management systems
The concept of an environmental management system evolved in the early nineties and its origin can be tracedback to 1972, when the United Nations organised a Conference on the Human Environment in Stockholm and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) was launched (Corbett & Kirsch, 2001). 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 (Jiang & Bansal, 2001), which served to generate aglobal commitment to the environment (RMIT University). In the same year, BSI Group published the world's first environmental management systems standard, BS 7750. This supplied the template for the development of the ISO 14000 series in 1996, by the International Organization for Standardization, which has representation from committees all over the world (ISO) (Clements 1996, Brorson & Larsson, 1999). As of 2010, ISO 14001 is now used 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 represents the core set of standardsused by organizations for designing and implementing an effective environmental management system. Other standards included in this series are ISO 14004, which gives additional guidelines for a good environmental management system, and more specialized standards dealing with specific aspects of environmental management. The major objective of the ISO 14000 series of norms 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 environmental regulations, which began with command and control approaches, later replacedwith ones based on market mechanisms, ISO 14000 was based on a voluntary approach to environmental regulation (Szymanski & Tiwari 2004). The series includes the ISO 14001 standard, which provides guidelines for the establishment or improvement of an EMS. The standard shares many common traits with its predecessor ISO 9000, the international standard of quality management (Jackson 1997), which served as a model for its internal structure (National Academy Press 1999) and both can be implemented side by side. As with ISO 9000, ISO 14000 acts both as an internal management tool and as a way of demonstrating a company’s environmental commitment to its customers and clients (Boiral 2007).
Prior to the development of the ISO 14000 series, organizations voluntarily constructed their own EMS systems, but this made comparisons of environmental effects between companies difficult and therefore the universal 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’ (ISO 1996 cited in Federal Facilities Council Report 1999).
Basic principles and methodology
The fundamental principle and overall goal of the ISO 14001 standard, is the concept of continual improvement(Federal Facilities Council Report 1999). ISO 14001 is based on the Plan-Do-Check-Act methodology (Standards Australia/Standards New Zealand 2004) which has been expanded to include 17 elements, grouped into five phases that relate to Plan-Do-Check-Act; Environmental Policy, Planning, Implementation & Operation, Checking & Corrective Action and lastly Management Review (Martin 1998)
Plan ? establish objectives and processes required
Prior to implementing ISO 14001, an initial review or gap analysis of the organisation’s processes and products isrecommended, to assist in identifying all elements of the current operation and if possible future operations, that may interact with the environment, termed environmental aspects (Martin 1998). Environmental aspects can include both direct, such as those used during manufacturing and indirect, such as raw materials (Martin 1998). This review assists the organisation in establishing their environmental objectives, goals and targets, which should ideally be measurable; helps with the development of control and management procedures and processes and serves to highlight any relevant legal requirements, which can then be built into the policy (Standards Australia/Standards New Zealand 2004)
Do ? implement the processes
During this stage the organization identifies the resources required and works out those members of theorganisation responsible for the EMS’ implementation and control (Martin 1998). This includes documentation of all procedures and processes; including operational and documentation control, the establishment of emergency procedures and responses, and the education of employees, to ensure they can competently implement the necessary processes and record results (Standards Australia/Standards New Zealand 2004). Communication and participation across all levels of the organisation, especially top management is a vital part of the implementation phase, with the effectiveness of the EMS being dependant on active involvement from all employees (Federal Facilities Council Report 1999).
Check ? measure and monitor the processes and report results
During the check stage, performance is monitored and periodically measured to ensure that the organisation’senvironmental targets and objectives are being met (Martin 1998). In addition, internal audits are regularly conducted to ascertain whether the EMS itself is being implemented properly and whether the processes and procedures are being adequately maintained and monitored (Standards Australia/Standards New Zealand 2004).
Act ? take action to improve performance of EMS based on results
After the checking stage, a regular planned management review is conducted to ensure that the objectives of theEMS are being met, the extent to which they are being met, that communications are being appropriately managed and to evaluate changing circumstances, such as legal requirements, in order to make recommendations for further improvement of the system (Standards Australia/Standards New Zealand 2004). These recommendations are then fed back into the planning stage to be implemented into the EMS moving forward.
Continual Improvement Process
The core requirement of a continual improvement process (CIP) is different from the one known from qualitymanagement systems. CIP in ISO 14001 has three dimensions (Gastl, 2009):
● Expansion: More and more business areas get covered by the implemented EMS.
● Enrichment: More and more activities, products, processes, emissions, resources etc. get managed by
the implemented EMS.
● Upgrading: An improvement of the structural and organizational framework of the EMS, as well as
an accumulation of know-how in dealing with business related environmental issues.
Overall, the CIP-concept expects the organization to gradually move away from merely operationall environmentalmeasures towards a strategic approach on how to deal with environmental challenges.
ISO 14001 was developed primarily to assist companies’ in reducing their environmental impact, but in addition toan improvement in environmental standards and performance, organisations can reap a number of economic benefits including higher conformance with legislative and regulatory requirements (Sheldon 1997) by utilising the ISO standard. Firstly by minimising the risk of regulatory and environmental liability fines and improving an organization’s efficiency (Delmas 2001), leading to a reduction in waste and consumption of resources, operating costs can be reduced (ISO14001.com.au 2010). Secondly, as an internationally recognised standard, businesses’ operating in multiple locations across the globe can register as ISO 14001 compliant, eliminating the need for multiple registrations or certifications (Hutchens 2010). Thirdly there has been a push in the last decade by consumers, for companies to adopt stricter environmental regulations, making the incorporation of ISO 14001 a greater necessity for the long term viability of businesses (Delmas & Montiel 2009) and providing them with a competitive advantage against companies that do not adopt the standard (Potoki & Prakash, 2005). This in turn can have a positive impact on a company’s asset value (Van der Deldt, 1997) and can lead to improved public perceptions of the business, placing them in a better position to operate in the international marketplace (Potoki & Prakash 1997; Sheldon 1997). Finally it can serve to reduce trade barriers between registered businesses (Van der Deldt, 1997).
Organizations can significantly benefit from EMS implementation through the identification of largee cleanerproduction projects (e.g. which can drastically cut electricity costs in manufacturing industries). ISO 14001 can be a very effective tool to identify these cost savings opportunities for some organisations. Some other organisations can falter in its planning, lack of senior management commitment and poor understanding of how it should be implemented and find themselves managing an ineffective EMS. Improvements that organisations can take include adequately planning its structure and allocating adequate resources, providing training, creating forums for discussion, setting measurable targets and work according to the philosophy of continuous improvement (Burden, 2010).