ISO 14000

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ISO 14000 is a family of standards related to environmental management that exists to help organizations (a) minimize how their operations (processes, etc.) negatively affect the environment (i.e., cause adverse changes to air, water, or land); (b) comply with applicable laws, regulations, and other environmentally oriented requirements, and (c) continually improve in the above.

ISO 14000 is similar to ISO 9000 quality management in that both pertain to the process of how a product is produced, rather than to the product itself. As with ISO 9000, certification is performed by third-party organizations rather than being awarded by ISO directly. The ISO 19011 audit standard applies when auditing for both 9000 and 14000 compliance at once.

The requirements of ISO 14001 are an integral part of the European Union‘s Eco-Management and Audit Scheme (EMAS). EMAS‘s structure and material requirements are more demanding, mainly concerning performance improvement, legal compliance, and reporting duties.

Brief history of environmental management systems

In 1992, BSI Group published the world's first environmental management systems standard, BS 7750.[1] Prior to this, environmental management had been part of larger systems such as Responsible Care. BS 7750 supplied the template for the development of the ISO 14000 series in 1996, by the International Organization for Standardization, which has representation from committees all over the world (ISO) (Clements 1996, Brorson & Larsson, 1999). As of 2010, ISO 14001 is now used by at least 223 149 organizations in 159 countries and economies.[2]

Development of the ISO 14000 series

The ISO 14000 family includes most notably the ISO 14001 standard, which represents the core set of standards used by organizations for designing and implementing an effective Environmental Management System (EMS). Other standards included in this series are ISO 14004, which gives additional guidelines for a good EMS, and more specialized standards dealing with specific aspects of environmental management. The major objective of the ISO 14000 series of norms is "to promote more effective and efficient environmental management in organizations and to provide useful and usable tools--ones that are cost-effective, system-based, [and] flexible, and reflect the best organizations and the best organizational practices available for gathering, interpreting, and communicating environmentally relevant information".[3]

ISO 14000 is based on a voluntary approach to environmental regulation (Szymanski & Tiwari 2004). The series includes the ISO 14001 standard, which provides guidelines for the establishment or improvement of an EMS. The standard shares many common traits with its predecessor, ISO 9000, the international standard of quality management (Jackson 1997), which served as a model for its internal structure (National Academy Press 1999), and both can be implemented side by side. As with ISO 9000, ISO 14000 acts both as an internal management tool and as a way of demonstrating a company’s environmental commitment to its customers and clients (Boiral 2007).

Prior to the development of the ISO 14000 series, organizations voluntarily constructed their own EMSs, but this made comparisons of environmental effects between companies difficult; therefore, the universal ISO 14000 series was developed. An EMS is defined by ISO as: “part of the overall management system, that includes organizational structure, planning activities, responsibilities, practices, procedures, processes, and resources for developing, implementing, achieving, and maintaining the environmental policy’ (ISO 1996 cited in Federal Facilities Council Report 1999).

ISO 14001 standard

ISO 14001 sets out the criteria for an Environmental Management System (EMS). It does not state requirements for environmental performance, but maps out a framework that a company or organization can follow to set up an effective EMS. It can be used by any organization that wants to improve resource efficiency, reduce waste, and drive down costs. Using ISO 14001 can provide assurance to company management and employees as well as external stakeholders that environmental impact is being measured and improved.[4] ISO 14001 can also be integrated with other management functions and assists companies in meeting their environmental and economic goals.

ISO 14001, as with other ISO 14000 standards, is voluntary (IISD 2010), with its main aim to assist companies in continually improving their environmental performance, while complying with any applicable legislation. Organizations are responsible for setting their own targets and performance measures, with the standard serving to assist them in meeting objectives and goals and in the subsequent monitoring and measurement of these (IISD 2010).

The standard can be applied to a variety of levels in the business, from organizational level, right down to the product and service level (RMIT university). Rather than focusing on exact measures and goals of environmental performance, the standard highlights what an organization needs to do to meet these goals (IISD 2010).

ISO 14001 is known as a generic management system standard, meaning that it is relevant to any organization seeking to improve and manage resources more effectively. This includes:

  • single-site to large multi-national companies
  • high-risk companies to low-risk service organizations
  • manufacturing, process, and the service industries, including local governments
  • all industry sectors including public and private sectors
  • original equipment manufacturers and their suppliers.

All standards are periodically reviewed by ISO to ensure they still meet market requirements. The current version ISO 14001:2004 was last reviewed in 2012. The ISO committee decided a revision was necessary. The new version is expected by the end of 2015. After the revision has been published, certified organizations get a three-year transition period to adapt their environmental management system to the new edition of the standard. The new version of ISO 14001 is going to focus on the improvement of environmental performance rather than to improve the management system itself.[5]

Basic principles and methodology

These are based on the well-known Plan-Do-Check-Act cycle.

Plan: establish objectives and processes required

Prior to implementing ISO 14001, an initial review or gap analysis of the organization’s processes and products is recommended, to assist in identifying all elements of the current operation and, if possible, future operations, that may interact with the environment, termed "environmental aspects" (Martin 1998). Environmental aspects can include both direct, such as those used during manufacturing, and indirect, such as raw materials (Martin 1998). This review assists the organization in establishing their environmental objectives, goals, and targets, which should ideally be measurable; helps with the development of control and management procedures and processes; and serves to highlight any relevant legal requirement, which can then be built into the policy (Standards Australia/Standards New Zealand 2004).

Do: implement the processes

During this stage, the organization identifies the resources required and works out those members of the organization responsible for the EMS’ implementation and control (Martin 1998). This includes establishing procedures and processes, although only one documented procedure is specified related to operational control. Other procedures are required to foster better management control over elements such as documentation control, emergency preparedness and response, and the education of employees, to ensure that they can competently implement the necessary processes and record results (Standards Australia/Standards New Zealand 2004). Communication and participation across all levels of the organization, especially top management, is a vital part of the implementation phase, with the effectiveness of the EMS being dependent on active involvement from all employees.

Check: measure and monitor the processes and report results

During the 'check' stage, performance is monitored and periodically measured to ensure that the organization’s environmental targets and objectives are being met (Martin 1998). In addition, internal audits are conducted at planned intervals to ascertain whether the EMS meets the user's expectations and whether the processes and procedures are being adequately maintained and monitored (Standards Australia/Standards New Zealand 2004).

Act: take action to improve performance of EMS based on results

After the checking stage, a management review is conducted to ensure that the objectives of the EMS are being met, the extent to which they are being met, and that communications are being appropriately managed; and to evaluate changing circumstances, such as legal requirements, in order to make recommendations for further improvement of the system (Standards Australia/Standards New Zealand 2004). These recommendations are incorporated through continual improvement: plans are renewed or new plans are made, and the EMS moves forward.

Continual Improvement Process (CI)

ISO 14001 encourages a company to continually improve its environmental performance. Apart from the obvious – the reduction in actual and possible negative environmental impacts – this is achieved in three ways:[6]

  • Expansion: More and more business areas get covered by the implemented EMS.
  • Enrichment: More and more activities, products, processes, emissions, resources, etc. get managed by the implemented EMS.
  • Upgrading: An improvement of the structural and organizational framework of the EMS, as well as an accumulation of know-how in dealing with business-environmental issues.

Overall, the CI concept expects the organization to gradually move away from merely operational environmental measures towards a strategic approach on how to deal with environmental challenges.


ISO 14001 was developed primarily to assist companies with a framework for better management control that can result in reducing their environmental impacts. In addition to improvements in performance, organizations can reap a number of economic benefits including higher conformance with legislative and regulatory requirements (Sheldon 1997) by adopting the ISO standard. By minimizing the risk of regulatory and environmental liability fines and improving an organization’s efficiency (Delmas 2009), benefits can include a reduction in waste, consumption of resources, and operating costs. Secondly, as an internationally recognized standard, businesses operating in multiple locations across the globe can leverage their conformance to ISO 14001, eliminating the need for multiple registrations or certifications (Hutchens 2010). Thirdly, there has been a push in the last decade by consumers for companies to adopt better internal controls, making the incorporation of ISO 14001 a smart approach for the long-term viability of businesses. This can provide them with a competitive advantage against companies that do not adopt the standard (Potoki & Prakash, 2005). This in turn can have a positive impact on a company’s asset value (Van der Deldt, 1997). It can lead to improved public perceptions of the business, placing them in a better position to operate in the international marketplace (Potoki & Prakash 1997; Sheldon 1997). The use of ISO 14001 can demonstrate an innovative and forward-thinking approach to customers and prospective employees. It can increase a business’s access to new customers and business partners. In some markets it can potentially reduce public liability insurance costs. It can serve to reduce trade barriers between registered businesses (Van der Deldt, 1997). There is growing interest in including certification to ISO 14001 in tenders for public-private partnerships for infrastructure renewal. Evidence of value in terms of environmental quality and benefit to the taxpayer has been shown in highway projects in Canada.

Conformity Assessment

ISO 14001 can be used in whole or in part to help an organization (for-profit or not-for-profit) better manage its relationship with the environment. If all the elements of ISO 14001 are incorporated into the management process, the organization may opt to prove that it has achieved full alignment or conformity with the international standard, ISO 14001, by using one of four recognized options. These are:[7]

  1. make a self-determination and self-declaration, or
  2. seek confirmation of its conformance by parties having an interest in the organization, such as customers, or
  3. seek confirmation of its self-declaration by a party external to the organization, or
  4. seek certification/registration of its EMS by an external organization.

ISO does not control conformity assessment; its mandate is to develop and maintain standards. ISO has a neutral policy on conformity assessment. One option is not better than the next. Each option serves different market needs. The adopting organization decides which option is best for them, in conjunction with their market needs.

Option 1 is sometimes incorrectly referred to as "self-certify" or "self-certification". This is not an acceptable reference under ISO terms and definitions, for it can lead to confusion in the market.[8] The user is responsible for making their own determination. Option 2 is often referred to as a customer or 2nd-party audit, which is an acceptable market term. Option 3 is an independent third-party process by an organization that is based on an engagement activity and delivered by specially trained practitioners. This option was based on an accounting procedure branded as the EnviroReady Report, which was created to help small- and medium-sized organizations. Its development was originally based on the Canadian Handbook for Accountants; it is now based on an international accounting standard. The fourth option, certification, is another independent third-party process, which has been widely implemented by all types of organizations. Certification is also known in some countries as registration. Service providers of certification or registration are accredited by national accreditation services such as UKAS in the UK.

ISO 14001 and EMAS

In 2010, the latest EMAS Regulation (EMAS III) entered into force; the scheme is now globally applicable, and includes key performance indicators and a range of further improvements. Currently, more than 4,500 organisations and approximately 7,800 sites are EMAS registered.

Complementarities and Differences

ISO 14001‘s environmental management system requirements are very similar to those of EMAS. Additional requirements for EMAS include:

  • stricter requirements on the measurement and evaluation of environmental performance against objectives and targets.
  • government supervision of the environmental verifiers
  • strong employee involvement; EMAS organisations acknowledge that active employee involvement is a driving force and a prerequisite for continuous and successful environmental improvements.
  • environmental core indicators creating multi-annual comparability within and between organisations
  • mandatory provision of information to the general public
  • registration by a public authority.

ISO 14001 Use in Supply Chains

There are many reasons that ISO 14001 should be potentially attractive to supply chain managers, including the use of the voluntary standard to guide the development of integrated systems, its requirement for supply chain members in industries such as automotive and aerospace, the potential of pollution prevention leading to reduced costs of production and higher profits, its alignment with the growing importance of corporate social responsibility, and the possibility that an ISO-registered system may provide firms with a unique environmental resource, capabilities, and benefits that lead to competitive advantage.

Emerging areas of research are starting to address the use of this standard to show that ISO 14001 registration can be leveraged across the supply chain for competitive advantage.[9] By looking at ISO 14001 registered firms, information from the study compared different amounts of integration and sustainability in the supply chain. Several research propositions and an empirical framework posit the impacts of ISO 14001 on supply chain design.

The propositions include:

  1. ISO registration leading to more proactive environmental management including process and performance measurement related to sustainability across a supply chain;
  2. That ISO-registered plants with formal environmental management systems will have higher levels of communication required between OEMs and Tier I suppliers;
  3. ISO-registered plants with direct relationships to other registered plants in their supply chain will have higher levels of waste reduction and cost efficiency than nonregistered plants;
  4. ISO-registered plants with direct relationships to other registered plants in the supply chain will have sustainable practices and projects with better ROI than nonregistered firms;
  5. ISO-registered plants with direct relationships to other registered plants will have higher levels of customer relationship management and will be positively associated with greater expansion opportunities and image than nonregistered plants;
  6. ISO-registered plants with direct relationships to other registered plants will have fewer issues with employee health and reduced numbers of safety incidents than nonregistered plants;
  7. ISO-registered plants with a direct relationship to other registered plants will have a strong positive relationship between formal communication, training, monitoring/control systems, and firm performance; and
  8. ISO-registered plants with a direct relationship to other registered plants will have higher levels of involvement and communication, which will be positively related to more internal and external integration with supply chain members.

List of ISO 14000 series standards

  • ISO 14001 Environmental management systems—Requirements with guidance for use
  • ISO 14004 Environmental management systems—General guidelines on principles, systems and support techniques
  • ISO 14006 Environmental management systems—Guidelines for incorporating ecodesign
  • ISO 14015 Environmental assessment of sites and organizations
  • ISO 14020 series (14020 to 14025) Environmental labels and declarations
  • ISO 14030 discusses post-production environmental assessment
  • ISO 14031 Environmental performance evaluation—Guidelines
  • ISO 14040 series (14040 to 14049), Life Cycle Assessment, LCA, discusses pre-production planning and environment goal setting.
  • ISO 14046 sets guidelines and requirements for water footprint assessments of products, processes, and organizations. Includes only air and soil emissions that impact water quality in the assessment.

A water footprint assessment can assist in: a) assessing the magnitude of potential environmental impacts related to water; b) identifying opportunities to reduce water related potential environmental impacts associated with products at various stages in their life cycle as well as processes and organizations; c) strategic risk management related to water; d) facilitating water efficiency and optimization of water management at product, process and organizational levels; e) informing decision-makers in industry, government or non-governmental organizations of their potential environmental impacts related to water (e.g. for the purpose of strategic planning, priority setting, product or process design or redesign, decisions about investment of resources); f) providing consistent and reliable information, based on scientific evidence for reporting water footprint results. A water footprint assessment alone is insufficient to be used to describe the overall potential environmental impacts of products, processes or organizations. The water footprint assessment according to this International Standard can be conducted and reported as a stand-alone assessment, where only impacts related to water are assessed, or as part of a life cycle assessment, where consideration is given to a comprehensive set of environmental impacts and not only impacts related to water. In this International Standard, the term “water footprint” is only used when it is the result of an impact assessment. The specific scope of the water footprint assessment is defined by the users of this International Standard in accordance with its requirements.

  • ISO 14046 2014, Environmental Management- Water Footprint- Principles, Requirements, and Guidelines
  • ISO 14050 terms and definitions
  • ISO 14062 Integrating environmental aspects into product design and development (2002)
  • ISO 14063 environmental communication guidelines and examples (2006)[10]
  • ISO 14064 measuring, quantifying, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions
  • ISO 19011 specifies one audit protocol for both 14000 and 9000 series standards together

See also


  1. About BSI - History
  2. ISO 9001 certifications top one million mark, 25 October 2010
  3. ISO 14000 essentials
  4. "ISO 14001 - Environmental Management". ISO. Retrieved 2012-10-29.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. ISO 14000 Revision International Organization for Standardization. Retrieved 2015-02-18
  6. Gastl, R: CIP in Environmental Management, an abstract of Gastl, R: Kontinuierliche Verbesserung im Umweltmanagement, 2nd Edition, 2009, vdf, Zurich Switzerland.
  7. (Source: ISO 14001: 2004, Clause 1: Scope c)
  8. Reference: ISO/IEC 17000:2004(E/F/R)
  9. Curkovic, S, and Sroufe, R.P., "Using ISO 14001 to Promote a Sustainable Supply Chain Strategy," accepted, International Journal of Business Strategy and the Environment, Vol. 20, No. 2, 71-93, 2011.

Further reading

  • Boiral, O. (2007). "Corporate Greening Through ISO 14001: A Rational Myth?". Organization Science. 18: 127. doi:10.1287/orsc.1060.0224.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Brorson, T & Larsson, G 1999, Environmental Management: How to Implement an Environmental Management System within a Company or Other Organization, EMS AB, Stockholm.
  • Burden, L. 2010, How to up the EMS ante, <>
  • Clements, R.B 1996, Complete Guide to ISO 14000, Prentice Hall, Upper Saddle River.
  • Corbett, Charles J.; Kirsch, David A. (2009). "International Diffusion of Iso 14000 Certification". Production and Operations Management. 10 (3): 327. doi:10.1111/j.1937-5956.2001.tb00378.x.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Delmas, Magali (2009). "Erratum to "Stakeholders and Competitive Advantage: The Case of ISO 14001"". Production and Operations Management. 13 (4): 398. doi:10.1111/j.1937-5956.2004.tb00226.x.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Delmas, Magali; Montiel, Ivan (2009). "Greening the Supply Chain: When is Customer Pressure Effective?". Journal of Economics & Management Strategy. 18: 171. doi:10.1111/j.1530-9134.2009.00211.x.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Federal Facilities Council Report 1999, Environmental Management Systems and ISO 14001, National Academy Press, Washington DC.
  • Gastl, R 2009, CIP in Environmental Management, English management summary of: Gastl, R 2009, Kontinuierliche Verbesserung im Umweltmanagement - die KVP-Forderung der ISO 14001 in Theorie und Unternehmenspraxis, 2nd Edition, vdf, Zurich-Switzerland,
  • Hutchens, S, Using ISO 9001 or ISO 14001 to Gain a Competitive Advantage, Intertek white paper, viewed 10 September 2010,
  • Jackson, Suzan L. (1997). "Monitoring and measurement systems for implementing ISO 14001". Environmental Quality Management. 6 (3): 33. doi:10.1002/tqem.3310060306.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) 2010, ISO 14001, viewed 26 August 2010,
  • ISO 2007, The ISO survey of ISO 9000 and ISO 14000 Certifications: 16th cycle, ISO, Geneva.
  • The ISO Survey of Management System Standard Certifications 2011: viewed 7 Jan 2013
  • Martin, R 1998, ISO 14001 Guidance Manual, National Centre for environmental decision-making research: Technical report, viewed 23 August 2010,
  • Potoski, Matthew; Prakash, Aseem (2005). "Green Clubs and Voluntary Governance: ISO 14001 and Firms' Regulatory Compliance". American Journal of Political Science. 49 (2): 235. doi:10.1111/j.0092-5853.2005.00120.x.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • RMIT University, Encyclopedia: ISO 14000 series, viewed 29 August 2010,
  • Sheldon C. 1997, ISO 14001 and Beyond: Environmental Management Systems in the Real World, Prentice Hall, New York.
  • Standards Australia/Standards New Zealand 2004, Environmental management systems – Requirements with guidance for use.
  • Szymanski *, Michal; Tiwari, Piyush (2004). "ISO 14001 and the Reduction of Toxic Emissions". The Journal of Policy Reform. 7: 31. doi:10.1080/1384128042000219717.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Van Der Veldt, Danja (1997). "Case studies of ISO 14001: A new business guide for global environmental protection". Environmental Quality Management. 7: 1. doi:10.1002/tqem.3310070102.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links