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Understanding the requirement “6.1.2 Environmental Aspects” from ISO 14001:2015

In this article, we’ll explain what the requirement “6.1.2 Environmental Aspects” from ISO 14001:2015, expects from your organization.

Currently, a lot is spoken about sustainability, an important cause that makes the difference in organizations. However, for a company to have a more ecologically correct performance, the ideal would be for it to carry out its environmental management in a strategic way, thinking about sustainable development.

Considering this, the implementation of the ISO 14001 norm may be an important step towards a more sustainable and ecological development. That norm may be applied to any kind of organization that has as an objective a more assertive environmental development.

In its most recent version, ISO 14001:2015 includes a lot of issues regarding strategic directing and aspects that attempt to reduce costs, without stopping to think about the product’s life cycle and the benefits for the environment.

In order to do that, ISO 14001 establishes some requirements and measures that are fundamental for the implementation and efficiency of a EMS (Environmental Management System) and they say a lot about the environmental aspects of an organization.

One of the main stages for implementing an effective EMS, according to the standard, is to identify the environmental aspects of your activities and develop them within the company. This is largely present in the requirement “6.1.2 environmental aspects”.

6.1.2 brings some guidelines that determine some points that must be evaluated both in relation to the service or product offered by the organization, and to aspects of its operation. And this will be our topic of discussion in today’s article, shall we?

 

“6.1.2 Environmental aspects” – What does it say about it?

According to the scope of the standard, the organization needs to determine which environmental aspects are present in its activities, products, and services offered.

The organization must assess these environmental aspects and impacts, taking into account material inputs and outputs and what can cause significant changes in the environment. All this in order to control and evaluate everything that can influence and bring about environmental impacts, both positive and negative, considering the life cycle perspective of the product or service.

As said, these environmental aspects can result in positive impacts (which would be the opportunities). That is, aspects that can result in environmentally beneficial environmental impacts, such as planting, producing eco-friendly products, no deforestation etc.

However, some aspects can also lead to negative impacts (the threats). As examples, we can cite the pollution of rivers with waste disposal, air pollution, deforestation of the regions, etc.

And it is worth noting: for the survey of these aspects (and impacts), the environmental standard ISO 14001:2015 requires that the entire life cycle of products or services be taken into account.

 

What is life cycle and how does it impact ISO 14001?

According to ISO 14001, we understand that life cycle is the complete history of the products or services being offered. So it would be the cycle from its origin in manufacturing, its development, its sale until the moment of its stabilization, withdrawal from the market, and disposal.

The standard recommends concern with this perspective because it is from this that companies can evaluate and adopt more responsible environmental postures in their operations and production.

Through the life cycle, you can assess what impacts and risks your product or service may have from before production until long after its use. This makes it possible to visualize options and to look for “cleaner” means of production.

 

What should the organization consider in its EMS?

After understanding the demands that are raised in the scope of this requirement, we realize that 6.1.2 determines some drivers of environmental aspects that organizations must take into consideration.

This is because improved environmental performance in organizations is a result of managing the environmental aspects and impacts that have been mapped. So let’s take a look at the proposed requirement items and interpret what their general purpose is.

 

Consider the changes in the organization

In item a), ISO 14001 states that “changes, including planned or new developments, and new or modified activities, products and servicesshould be taken into consideration when raising environmental aspects.

Here, the standard says that companies should consider and evaluate any changes in their production system. Some quite important since changes tend to cause unmapped impacts.

In addition, one must analyze and develop better ways to implement new products and services, and that these duly planned can lead to the lowest possible environmental impact.

In addition, it is worth remembering that these aspects should be documented in order to ensure their effectiveness of analysis and traceability. To improve your organization’s environmental performance, you need to control environmental aspects that arise or are changing. And documentation is an important step in this process.

 

Consider aspects that can have significant impacts

In the second item, 14001 states that “abnormal conditions and reasonably foreseeable emergency situations.” In this topic, the standard suggests that organizations should be concerned with determining which aspects can have a significant impact on the environment. As she puts it, preventing “reasonably” likely risks of incidence.

As a whole, it is also important to remember that when we talk about “environmental aspects”, ALL services or products of the company that have some kind of interaction with the environment are considered. The impacts, on the other hand, are the results of actions that cause modifications in the environment, that is, the environmental aspect would be the cause, while the impact is the effect!

Also on this topic, it is important that the organization documents its entire process, aspects, severity, frequency, etc. In other words, everything that, in the smallest detail, could cause some impact, harming fauna, flora or people.

 

Understand and act on the impacts that your company can cause to the environment!

By surveying environmental aspects, the company can control its costs, enabling a reduction in spending on materials and on waste disposal costs.

Thus, it is possible to decrease operational costs, waste, and increase its efficiency. All this by creating measures to avoid negative impacts on the environment.

The goal of ISO 14001, then, is to provide strategic environmental management that seeks sustainable development for organizations, to get them to think in an environmentally friendly and sustainable way for the environment and for themselves.

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