ISO 14001 is the international standard that specifies requirements for an effective environmental management system. 

An environmental management system consists of policies, processes, plans, practices, and records that govern how an organization interacts with the environment. That system should be tailored to each organization because the legal requirements and environmental interactions matching specific business processes are different for every company. 

ISO 14001 offers companies a framework to help them develop an environmental management system that meets their needs. It maps out the elements necessary to ensure that your environmental management system meets compliance and business objectives. 

The ISO 14001 standard is published by the International Organization for Standardization, an international body that establishes and distributes standards that are accepted worldwide. The most recent version of the environmental management system standard was published in 2015, and therefore is known as ISO 14001:2015. 

ISO 14001 is a voluntary standard, to which companies can certify if they choose. It’s part of the ISO 14000 family of standards, which address environmental management; and companies can integrate this standard with other ISO standards for management systems, such as ISO 9001, the standard for quality management systems.

Who should get ISO 14001 certified?

ISO 14001 should be used by any company that wants to set up, improve, or maintain an environmental management system to conform to the organization’s established environmental policies and requirements. 

Any organization can incorporate the requirements of ISO 14001 into its pre-existing environmental management system (if the organization has one). ISO 14001 can be used by every company, regardless of size, location, or industry.

Benefits of ISO 14001

One significant benefit of implementing an environmental management system is that the company can be recognized as a business that cares about reducing its environmental footprint. That can help your organization improve its relationships with customers and the public as good environmental stewardship becomes increasingly important to those groups. 

Implementing an environmental management system can also help an organization control costs. For example, a business might reduce its energy or water consumption, or obtain insurance at more reasonable rates. 

Some other ways that implementing ISO 14001 can help companies:

  • Manage environmental compliance obligations with consistency 
  • Improve overall environmental impact
  • Increase customer, employee, and other stakeholder trusts
  • Meet legal obligations
  • Increase business opportunities
  • Reduce waste

What Is ISO 14001 Certification?

ISO 14001 certification helps organizations demonstrate their commitment to reducing their environmental impact and to meeting stakeholders’ expectations of sustainability. 

The first step in ISO 14001 certification is to implement an environmental management system based on the ISO 14001 requirements. The second step is to hire a recognized certification body to audit and certify that the environmental management system you’ve built meets those requirements of ISO 14001.

To obtain an ISO 14001 certification, a company first has to identify the legal requirements for the environmental management system. That involves defining the company’s environmental policy, environmental aspects, and environmental objectives and targets. These elements define the overall scope and implementation of the environmental management system. 

In addition, the organization has to establish the processes and procedures necessary for the company’s operations according to ISO 14001. 

ISO 14001 Certification Requirements

After implementing and documenting ISO 14001, an organization must complete these steps to ensure successful certification:

Internal audit

The internal audit reviews the processes of the environmental management system. This is necessary to assure that environmental processes comply with the ISO 14001 standard and to identify problems and weaknesses that might not be discovered otherwise.

Management review

A formal review by management evaluates the environmental management system to make appropriate decisions and assign resources.

Corrective actions

After the internal audit and management review, the company must correct the root cause of any problems that were identified, and document how it resolved those problems. 

The Certification Process Itself

ISO 14001 certification is divided into two stages:

Stage one: documentation review. The certification body’s auditors will check to ensure the company’s documentation meets the requirements of ISO 14001.

Stage two: main audit. The certification body’s auditors will review documents, records, and company practices to determine whether the organization’s actual activities comply with ISO 14001 and the company’s own documentation.