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WHAT IS ISO 14001?

Read about ISO 14001 and environmental compliance register.

What is ISO 14001?

ISO 14001 is the international standard for Environmental Management Systems (EMS). It provides guidelines for environmental management in organisations and you can be certified by a third party if you meet all the requirements. This blog will give you an overview of what ISO 14001 is.

What is ISO 14001?

The international standard for Environmental Management Systems, ISO14001 was last updated in 2015. An Environmental Management System is a systematic approach to environmental management aiming to protect the environment, fulfil compliance obligations and enhance environmental performance among many other objectives. The international standard provides a framework for the management system to protect the environment and respond to changes in environmental conditions.

The Standard

ISO 14001 is split up into sections, based on the plan, do, check, act model and each section contains several clauses which describes what an organisation must do to meet the requirements of the standard. The first few sections of the standard are concerned with the scope of the standard, references and definitions to support organisations looking to implement an EMS. The next seven sections contain the standard clauses. They include: • Context of the organisation – involves assessing the needs of interested parties and determining the scope of your EMS; • Leadership – highlights the importance of commitment and involvement from top management and has clauses about the delegation of roles and responsibilities and the requirements for an environmental policy; • Planning –establishing environmental objectives and the processes necessary to deliver them in line with the environmental policy. Also includes clauses on determining environmental aspects and compliance obligations; • Support – includes clauses on the resources required to operate an EMS, competency and awareness, communication and requirements for documented information; • Operation –planning and controlling operations to minimise environmental impact and preparing for emergencies; • Performance evaluation – monitoring and measuring the processes established through evaluation of compliance, internal auditing and reviewing it at a management level; • Improvement – the last section contains clauses about responding to nonconformities and continually improving environmental performance.


Organisations can benefit from following the ISO 14001 standard, regardless of their intention to be certified as it provides solid guidelines for managing and improving your environmental performance. If you do decide to become certified, you will need to demonstrate to a third-party auditor that you meet all of the clauses of the standard. The auditor will raise opportunities for improvement and any major and minor non-conformities. If there are no major non-conformities, your EMS will be certified to ISO 14001 and you will need to maintain your EMS and address any opportunities or non-conformities. You will regularly be audited by your certification company to ensure your EMS complies with ISO 14001 and you are following the processes you have defined.

ISO 14001 is the international standard for Environmental Management Systems, providing guidelines for establishing and maintaining environmental management in your organisation while continually improving your environmental performance. The standard does not specify specific parameters for improvement, but provides a mechanism for managing an organisations specific products, activities and services.


I Have ISO 14001:2004, What Do I Need To Do?

ISO 14001 is the international standard for Environmental Management Systems (EMS). It provides a framework for organisations of any size to enhance their environmental performance and manage their environmental responsibilities. In 2015, the standard was revised to ensure its continual relevance and so, all companies with ISO 14001:2004 have three years to transition to the new requirements. With the deadline, September 2018 approaching, what do you need to do if your system has not yet been updated?

Find out what needs updating

There are many similarities between the 2004 and the 2015 standards so you will satisfy some of the requirements already. To identify areas that need attention, you can carry out a gap analysis to determine what you have already and what you are missing against the ISO 14001:2015 standards.

Create an action plan

After you have identified where the gaps are in your current environmental management system compared to the 2015 standard, you can determine what actions need to be taken to meet the required criteria. This may involve updating procedures, creating new ones or implementing new environmental controls. In your action plan, consider what exactly needs to be done to meet the requirements, who will carry out the identified action, what resources may be necessary, a target date for completion and how you will be able to assess the completed action meets the ISO 14001:2015 environmental management standard.

Update your policies and procedures

The next step is to carry out your action plan. You should update the identified policies and procedures to meet the requirements of the ISO 14001:2015 standard. Some will need minor amendments, whereas others may require major changes. You may also need to develop additional policies and procedures and some old ones may become redundant.


Once you have updated the necessary policies and procedures, you need to make sure they are implemented throughout your organisation. This will include communication to staff, displaying new policies and making sure redundant policies and procedures are no longer available or followed. It may also require the introduction of new controls and equipment to enhance environmental performance.

What should I do next?

Once you have taken action to update your Environmental Management Systems, you should carry out another gap analysis. This will identify any areas that you missed during your first audit or any actions that have not quite met the requirement of the standard. It may be useful to have someone else carry out this gap analysis to give it a fresh pair of eyes. Once you are happy that you meet ISO 14001:2015, you can contact your certification body to have your Environmental Management Systems recertified to the updated standard.

The deadline for transition to the 2015 version of ISO 14001 is September 2018. Although that may seem like a while away, companies may need to make significant changes to their management systems before then. You should not wait up until the deadline for recertification as certification bodies may have a backlog of companies trying to do the same. Have you taken action to become certified to ISO 14001:2015? If you still need to do so, Green Spark can help. For more information on environmental management systems, click here or call our expert team today on 0330 440 4800.


What is an Environmental Compliance Register?

As a business, being aware of your legal responsibilities is essential to ensure you are always compliant and minimise the possibilities of fines and prosecution. An environmental compliance register goes beyond legal responsibilities, including all compliance obligations. This blog will discuss why you should have one, what should be included and how often it should be reviewed.

Why Should I Have a Compliance Register?

Having a compliance register is a requirement of ISO 14001, in clause 6.1.3. If you want a certified Environmental Management System (EMS), it is essential that you have a comprehensive and well-maintained compliance register. Even if you don’t operate a formal EMS, a compliance register is useful to ensure you are fully aware of your obligations.

If you break environmental law, claiming you weren’t aware of the requirements is no defence. The first step to ensuring compliance is identifying all the requirements that apply to you and ensuring that systems are in place to meet those obligations. By being proactive about your legal (and any other applicable) compliance, you can lower your culpability and reduce the chances of fines and prosecution.

What Should be Included in my Compliance Register?

Your compliance register should contain all the information you need to support compliance and should not be limited to legal requirements, although there will be many of them. It should include other obligations that you need to comply with such as landlord agreements, voluntary agreements, codes of practice etc. Your register may include: • The name of the obligation e.g. the regulation or Act • A description of the obligation – broadly speaking, what is it about? • Who regulates the obligation • The obligations applicability i.e. how it specifically applies to you, for example, a regulation may not apply to your operations in its entirety • Controls in place for how you comply with the obligation If you are operating an EMS, you may want to link your compliance obligations to environmental aspects (for more information about aspects and impacts, read our how to guide here) and risks and opportunities too.

When Should I Review my Compliance Register?

Your compliance register should be reviewed regularly to ensure it remains continually relevant. How often it is reviewed should be documented in your procedure, usually every 6 or 12 months and any new or amended obligations added. In addition to this, the register must be reviewed if there are any changes to your activities, products, services or controls as that may affect how obligations apply to you or introduce new ones. The register may also require review after an accident, incident or near-miss or if there has been any legal action or an investigation.

A compliance register will include all of your legal and other obligations and how they apply to you and is an essential document in helping you to stay compliant and avoid fines and prosecution. Your register should be comprehensive and regularly reviewed to ensure you have the correct controls in place to meet your obligations.