What is ISO 14001?
ISO 14001 is an international standard that establishes requirements for the practice of an Environmental Management System, that is, minimum rules to be applied in organizations to establish the organization’s dedication to environmental management.
The first version of the standard came in 1996, today we are in the 2015 version and it should be updated between 2024 and 2025. The emergence of the standard came in response to a growing awareness of environmental issues in the world around the 90s, such as the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development which resulted in Agenda 21. However, it is important to clarify that historical facts did not directly motivate the creation of the standard, as ISO always creates ISO standards according to trends, but there was no direct request for its creation.
Is ISO 14001 synonymous with sustainability?
No, ISO 14001 is not synonymous with sustainability, but it can be used as a resource for presenting good practices, as it is an internationally recognized and certifiable standard. The standard establishes requirements that help manage environmental impacts and improve performance.
The concept of sustainability encompasses more factors, widely popularized by the Brundtland Report (1987):
“Sustainable development is the development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”
For sustainability, three pillars must be considered:
- Environmental – maintenance and preservation of natural resources;
- Social – equality and quality of life;
- Economic – Maintaining economic growth without affecting natural resources or impacting society in pursuit of a common goal and well-being.
Therefore, we can say that ISO 14001 is embedded in sustainability as a tool, but it does not fully meet it.
Does ISO 14001 Belong to ESG?
Just like sustainability, ESG is a concept that covers a broader range of aspects. ISO 14001 can be considered a tool to assist in meeting some of the items related to the E (Environmental) aspect of ESG. Following the same logic, we can say that ISO 45001 can assist in the S (Social) and the standards of the ISO 37000 Family in G (Governance).
What’s the Difference Between ISO 14001 and ISO 50001?
Both are international standards, but they focus on different areas of the organization. ISO 14001 focuses on the environmental aspects of the company, while ISO 50001 concentrates on energy management, let’s expand this scope for better understanding:
- ISO 14001 – Helps to work with natural resources more efficiently, reduces waste production, and seeks to improve environmental performance.
- ISO 50001 – Helps to manage energy use in search of greater efficiency regarding use, consumption, and performance.
In summary, ISO 14001 is more comprehensive regarding environmental aspects, while ISO 50001 is focused only on energy issues. However, one standard does not exclude the other, they can be implemented together in organizations.
What are the Benefits of ISO 14001?
The ISO 14001 standard brings several benefits to the organization that has implemented it, among them the most common are:
Improvement of Environmental Performance
Indeed, this is the aim of the standard: to allow you to identify, manage, monitor, and control the environmental aspects related to the activities in which your organization is involved.
Compliance with Laws and Regulations
In addition to the controls required by the standard for implementation, one of the requirements is the monitoring of laws and regulations that affect the organization with environmental issues, which reduces the risk of fines and legal sanctions.
As mentioned earlier, with the reduction of the risk of fines and sanctions, your organization is already reducing costs. Furthermore, ISO 14001 can improve the efficiency of resource and energy use, impacting operational expenses.
Reputation and Credibility
Another important issue is the image that your company conveys, both to society and other interested parties and the market. Having the ISO 14001 standard implemented demonstrates to society the environmental commitment of your organization, can serve as a differential for supplier choice, and improves communication with stakeholders regarding environmental practices.
Who Can Implement ISO 14001?
Anyone with a high school diploma can obtain training as an ISO 14001 Internal Auditor or Lead Auditor.
It’s important to note that an organization will rarely work with just ISO 14001; usually, it is implemented alongside two other standards: ISO 9001 – Quality Management System and ISO 45001 – Occupational Health and Safety Management System, which is known as an Integrated Management System (9001 + 14001 + 45001). Therefore, professionals who wish to implement ISO 14001 are advised to study all three standards together.
Another consideration is the choice of course, especially for a lead auditor, which must have international accreditation. Always inquire about this with the training provider, with Exemplar Global and IRCA being the only international accreditors in the market.
The internal auditor course is shorter, focused on understanding the normative requirements and basic implementation techniques. Professionals with this training can carry out implementation, internal audits, and supplier audits for the company.
The lead auditor course, with twice the workload, covers understanding the requirements, as well as case studies, more complex exercises, and the operation of audits by a certification body. This course qualifies for implementation, internal audits, supplier audits, and audits by certification bodies.
Is ISO 14001 Certifiable?
Yes, as a requirements standard, ISO 14001 is certifiable. This means that a company can implement the requirements and at the end of this process, request an audit from an accredited certification body to formally and internationally recognize that the organization meets the standard’s requirements.
Companies of all sizes and industries are suitable for the implementation and certification of ISO 14001.
What is the Certification Process for ISO 14001?
The ISO certification process is the same for all Management System standards:
- Purchase the ISO 14001 standard, which will guide you through the implementation;
- Assign a responsible person in the organization for the implementation (internal auditor or lead auditor);
- Decide if you prefer to use a consultancy for the implementation;
- Conduct a pre-audit to check if everything has been implemented correctly;
- Schedule the certification audit with an accredited body;
After obtaining ISO certification, the organization will undergo annual maintenance audits to verify if the management system is being maintained and improved, otherwise the certification is revoked. Due to this rigor, the certification is so credible.
How Long Does It Take to Implement ISO 14001?
The time it takes to implement ISO 14001 varies depending on each company, including its industry, size, and available resources.
If you work in a company whose industry has a moderate or significant environmental impact, the implementation will be more complex.
Larger companies also tend to take longer to implement, as it involves many people in the process and sometimes multiple locations.
Another factor that will significantly affect the organization is the resources it will allocate for implementation, which includes people, time, and money. It is essential that the top management understands the importance of the management system to willingly provide these three factors.
How Much Does ISO 14001 Certification Cost?
Like the time factor, the cost of ISO 14001:2015 certification depends on a variety of factors such as the size of the company, the complexity of the process, and the number of employees. These factors directly influence the number of auditors needed to audit the entire company process and the number of required audit days.
The calculation of audit days and the number of auditors is practically standard for accredited certifiers, as they all adhere to the calculations of the ISO/IEC 17021 standard.
How to Choose an ISO 14001 Certifier?
Choosing the right ISO 14001 certifier is essential to value the work done in implementing the standard. The chosen ISO certifier must be accredited, meaning they must have authorization to certify companies.
Just as you need to implement the requirements of ISO 14001 to obtain certification, the certifier has a standard to comply with to be able to operate as well, the ISO/IEC 17021 – Conformity assessment – Requirements for bodies providing audit and certification of management systems.
There are several accreditors worldwide, but all of them are gathered in one place, the IAF – International Accreditation Forum. Therefore, here is how you can verify if the certifier you are interested in is accredited:
- Ask if the certifier has international accreditation; if the answer is affirmative, check on the IAF website if this accreditor really exists and if it is valid.
- Then go to the accreditor’s website and verify if the certifier is indeed accredited by them, as this information is public.
We hope this information helps, and if you have any other questions, we are always available 😉