▷ Development of the ISO 14000 series
The ISO 14000 family includes most notably the ISO 14001 standard, which represents the core set of standards used 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 replaced with 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).
▷ ISO14001 Environmental Management Systems Background
Achieving a balance between the environment, society and the economy is considered essential to meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs.
Sustainable development as a goal is achieved by balancing the three pillars of sustainability. Societal expectations for sustainable development, transparency and accountability have evolved with increasingly stringent legislation, growing pressures on the environment from pollution, inefficient
use of resources, improper waste management, climate change, degradation of ecosystems and loss of biodiversity.
This has led organizations to adopt a systematic approach to environmental management by implementing environmental management systems with the aim of contributing to the environmental pillar of sustainability.
▷ Aim of an environmental management system
The purpose of this International Standard is to provide organizations with a framework to protect the environment and respond to changing environmental conditions in balance with socio-economic needs. It specifies requirements that enable an organization to achieve the intended outcomes it sets
for its environmental management system.
A systematic approach to environmental management can provide top management with information to build success over the long term and create options for contributing to sustainable development by:
- protecting the environment by preventing or mitigating adverse environmental impacts;
- mitigating the potential adverse effect of environmental conditions on the organization;
- assisting the organization in the fulfilment of compliance obligations;
- enhancing environmental performance;
- controlling or influencing the way the organization’s products and services are designed, manufactured, distributed, consumed and disposed by using a life cycle perspective that can prevent environmental impacts from being unintentionally shifted elsewhere within the life cycle;
- achieving financial and operational benefits that can result from implementing environmentally sound alternatives that strengthen the organization’s market position;
- communicating environmental information to relevant interested parties.
This International Standard, like other International Standards, is not intended to increase or change an organization’s legal requirements.
▷ Success factors
The success of an environmental management system depends on commitment from all levels and functions of the organization, led by top management. Organizations can leverage opportunities to prevent or mitigate adverse environmental impacts and enhance beneficial environmental impacts, particularly those with strategic and competitive implications. Top management can effectively address its risks and opportunities by integrating environmental management into the organization’s business processes, strategic direction and decision making, aligning them with other business priorities, and incorporating environmental governance into its overall management system. Demonstration of successful implementation of this International Standard can be used to assure interested parties that an effective environmental management system is in place.
Adoption of this International Standard, however, will not in itself guarantee optimal environmental outcomes. Application of this International Standard can differ from one organization to another have different compliance obligations, commitments in their environmental policy, environmental technologies and environmental performance goals, yet both can conform to the requirements of this International Standard.
The level of detail and complexity of the environmental management system will vary depending on the context of the organization, the scope of its environmental management system, its compliance obligations, and the nature of its activities, products and services, including its environmental aspects and associated environmental impacts.
▷ Plan-Do-Check-Act model
The basis for the approach underlying an environmental management system is founded on the concept of Plan-Do-Check-Act (PDCA). The PDCA model provides an iterative process used by organizations to achieve continual improvement. It can be applied to an environmental management system and to each of its individual elements. It can be briefly described as follows.
- Plan: establish environmental objectives and processes necessary to deliver results in accordance with the organization’s environmental policy.
- Do: implement the processes as planned.
- Check: monitor and measure processes against the environmental policy, including its commitments, environmental objectives and operating criteria, and report the results.
- Act: take actions to continually improve.
Figure 1 shows how the framework introduced in this International Standard could be integrated into a PDCA model, which can help new and existing users to understand the importance of a systems approach.