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Draft ISO 14001 Environmental Management Standard available for public comment [INTL]

 ISO 14001, one of ISO’s most widely used standards, is currently open for public comment, with an updated version due by the end of 2015.  The proposed update will emphasize the management of environmental risk, with a focus on an organization’s leadership promoting environmental management.  The amendments focus on improving an organizations overall environmental performance.

The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) is now accepting public comment on an updated draft of its environmental management standard, ISO 14001.  ISO 14001 is used by more than 200,000 organizations worldwide to support effective environmental management systems (EMS).  An EMS is a framework that organizations can use to manage their impact on the environment and improve environmental performance.

Some of the emerging changes include:

Strategic Environmental Management:

  • The draft standard includes a new requirement to understand the organization’s context and incorporate environmental management into an organization’s strategic planning processes.  The organization should understand the needs and expectations of interested parties and recognize how it impacts local, regional, or global environmental conditions.
  • As such, an organization’s EMS will need to account for the environmental impact of its inputs or raw materials, as well as its outputs or products.  Organizations will need to extend their control and influence to the environmental impacts associated with product use and end-of-life treatment or disposal of products.


  • A new clause has been added assigning specific responsibilities to those in leadership roles to promote environmental management within the organization.

Protecting the environment

  • Organizations are expected to commit to proactive initiatives to protect the environment from harm and degradation.  The proposal does not define “protect the environment” but notes that it can include prevention of pollution, sustainable resource use, climat change mitigation and adaptation, protection of biodiversity and ecosystems, etc.

Environmental performance

  • Organizations will have to shift from improving their environmental management system to improving their environmental performance.  The organization would need to meet their regulatory commitments, plus organizational targets for reductions of emissions, effluents and waste (as applicable).


  • The standard would require organizations to develop consistent external and internal communication capabilities.  The company should communicate consistent and reliable information, as well as provide mechanisms for employees and contractors to suggest improvements on the environmental management system.  The standard recognizes that the decision to communicate externally is retained by the organization, but the decision should take into account information reporting required by regulatory agencies and the expectations of interested parties.

The 3-month public comment period will begin on August 28, 2014.  ISO will review the comments and proposals in a February 2015 conference, with publication of the final standard expected in the third quarter of 2015.  Organizations with ISO14001 certifications under the previous standards will be given a 3-year grace period; however, any third-party certifications during the grace period must meet the updated 2015 standard.

The draft proposal may be purchased from ISO at their website.


Revision of ISO 14001 Environmental Management Systems, Fact Sheet, July 2014 (http://www.iso.org/iso/1n1000_iso_14001_revision_information_note_update_july2014.pdf)

Relevance of ISO 14001 to Business Strategy and General Management, ISO Briefing Note, http://www.iso.org/sites/14000-briefing-note/index.html

ISO 14001 Revision Homepage http://www.iso.org/iso/iso14001_revision

 Red-on-line EHS Legal Counsel

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