We can find ISO 14001:2015 Requirement 7.5 – Environmental Management Systems -, which refers to documented information. Something that happens in other management standards (ISO 9001 and 45001 for example), thanks to Annex SL.
This is an important requirement that helps companies maintain an appropriate, adequate and effective documentation system. And this importance is even greater when we talk about Environmental Management.
ISO 14001 defines documented information as environmental management data that must be documented by the organization to ensure the effectiveness of processes. Not to mention how they help meet legal requirements.
But it is worth remembering that this type of requirement does not exist to make processes more difficult and bring more bureaucracy, but to ensure that the data will be safe and controlled for when it needs to be used.
Now let’s see how ISO 14001:2015 Requirement 7.5 can help companies to document an environmental management system.
Understanding the meaning of ISO 14001:2015 Requirement 7.5
In order to understand what ISO 14001:2015 Requirement 7.5 brings, it is important to clarify what documented information is and how it works in organizations. According to ISO, we can define that this term consists of maintaining and retaining information relevant to the processes and operation of a company.
By keeping procedures and important data properly stored, it is easier for us to access information whenever needed. Thus, we also have greater chances of ensuring the efficiency of processes and compliance with relevant requirements.
This information can be of the most varied types, from new procedures and training registrations to changes in the company (related to Environmental Management), etc.
Thus, maintaining and retaining documented information is important for the company, as it makes it possible to assess the effectiveness and compliance of the system, meet requirements, promote improvements, organize knowledge and plans of the organization itself.
Main types of documented information
Simply put, documents are means where information is contained and which will serve as a guide for the company and its employees. When we talk about documented information, we can divide it into two basic types: maintained documents and retained documents.
Maintained documents can be manuals, instructions, procedures created by the company and that are filed somewhere, either on paper or electronically, or in files on the online network. These types of information change over time and are updated as the context changes.
Retained documents are records of data and information that guarantee proof of activities carried out in the company. They prove that activities were carried out, payments were made, results were or were not achieved, and so on.
The retained documents serve both to document and verify the execution of tasks and for tracking and corrective actions, for example. The documents maintained are a reference for maintaining the EMS and for how to perform certain activities or processes.
Either way, whether documents are kept or records, what matters is that both are relevant to keeping the EMS up to date in companies and simplifying organizational processes.
What is the documented information relevant to the company?
As we mentioned at the beginning, ISO 14001:2015 Requirement 7.5 has a similar objective to other management systems standards. And to better understand what the ISO 14001 expects from organizations, we can fully analyze what the requirement dictates. We will see:
“7.5 Documented information
The organization’s environmental management system shall include:
- a) documented information required by this International Standard;
- b) documented information determined by the organization as being necessary for the effectiveness of the environmental management system“.
SOURCE: ISO 14001
In short, the item tells us that we need to ensure the existence of the necessary documents to comply with the ISO 14001 standard. Documents related to the context of the organization, for example.
In addition, we need to have documents determined by the organization itself, such as those necessary for compliance with laws and regulations relevant to its market niche.
ISO 14001 also clarifies that the extent of documented information for an EMS (what quantity and type of documents are required, for example) can differ from one organization to another, depending on factors such as:
- Complexity of the process;
- Competence of the team carrying out the work;
- Size of the organization;
- Types of activities, products or services;
- Need to demonstrate compliance with legal and other requirements.
Importance of ISO 14001:2015 Requirement 7.5 for the company
Regardless of the size of your company, having the information documented as suggested by the standard is very important to implement efficient environmental management.
Monitoring and structuring the processes of this information in accordance with ISO is a differential for any organization. Because by controlling the company’s documented information, it is possible to draw up improvement plans, analyzes of what can be changed to help the environment and obtain more results and ensure better standardization of work procedures.
Therefore, it is very important that all documented information is available and accessible to those involved. In addition, they are suitable to be used when they need to be used, all to facilitate the day to day work.
ISO 14001, in other requirements that can be analyzed in a next article, also mentions the importance of these documents and records being properly stored and preserved, in order to guarantee their confidentiality, integrity and accessibility.
Finally, we emphasize that following the recommendations of the standard can be the guarantee of greater control of the documentary information and evidence necessary to guarantee and ensure compliance, effectiveness and efficiency.
All this facilitates the training of employees, doubts and proof of compliance in times of audits, for example, and much more! An organized EMS facilitates and streamlines any process, and that is the path to success!