ISO 14001 2004 Plain English Introduction

SCOPE OF THE STANDARD

ISO 14001 2004 is an environmental management standard.
It defines a set of requirements for
environmental management
systems
. The purpose of this standard is to help organizations
to protect the
environment, to prevent pollution, and to improve
their
environmental performance.

This new ISO 14001 standard was officially published
on November 15, 2004. It cancels and replaces the old
ISO 14001 1996 standard. It expired on May 15, 2006.

Since it was first published in 1996, ISO 14001 has rapidly
become the most important environmental standard in the
world. Thousands of organizations use it, environmentalists
support it, and governments actively encourage its use.
It applies to all types of organizations. It doesnít matter
what size they are or what they do.

HOW TO USE THE STANDARD

If you donít already have an environmental management
system (EMS), you can use this ISO 14001 standard to
establish one. And once youíve established your EMS,
you can use it to manage the
environmental aspects
of your organizationís activities, products and services,
and to improve its overall
environmental performance.
Environmental performance is all about how well you
manage and control your environmental aspects and
the impact they have on the environment.

You can also use this standard to demonstrate that you
are doing everything you can to protect the
environment
and improve your environmental performance. You can
demonstrate your organizationís commitment in several
ways:

  1. You can simply announce to the
    world that your EMS complies with the
    standard (if it actually does).

  2. You can ask your customers or other
    interested parties to
    confirm that your EMS
    complies with the standard.

  3. You can ask a registrar (certification body)
    or external auditor to verify that your EMS
    complies with the standard.

ISO 14001 expects organizations to comply with all of the
requirements that make up the standard. No exceptions.
According to ISO, every requirement must be built into
every EMS. However, the size and complexity of
systems vary quite a bit.

How far you go is up to you. The size and complexity
of your EMS, the extent of your documentation, and
the resources allocated to it will depend on many things.
How you meet each of the ISO 14001 requirements, and
to what extent, will depend on:

  1. The size of your organization.

  2. The location of your organization.

  3. The scope of your organizationís EMS.

  4. The content of your environmental policy.

  5. The nature of your activities, products, and services.

  6. The environmental impact of environmental aspects.

  7. The legal and other requirements that must be met.

YOUR GENERAL APPROACH

If you donít already have an EMS, ISO 14001 suggests that
you start with a review of your organizationís environmental
status. Your environmental review should:

ē Identify your organizationís environmental aspects.
  Study normal and abnormal operating conditions,
  as well as accidents, disasters, and emergency
  situations. Identify the environmental aspects
  associated with all operating conditions and
  situations.

ē Clarify the legal and other requirements that apply
  to your organizationís environmental aspects. Legal
  requirements include national and international as
  well as local and regional laws and regulations.
  Other requirements include agreements that have
  been established with governments, customers,
  community groups and others as well as commitments,
 
guidelines, principles, or codes of practice that
  influence how your environmental aspects
  ought to be handled.

ē Examine your organizationís current environmental
  management policies, procedures, and practices. Pay
  special attention to your organizationís purchasing
  and contracting policies, procedures, and practices.

ē Define the scope of your EMS. When ISO 14001 asks
  you to define the scope of your EMS, it is asking you
  to define its boundary. You can choose to apply
  ISO 14001 to the entire organization or only to a
  specific operating unit or facility. Once youíve made
  this decision, youíve defined the scope or boundary
  of your EMS. Henceforth, all activities, products, and
  services that fall within this boundary must comply
  with the standard.

Once youíve considered the above factors, you can
begin the development of your organizationís unique
environmental management system.

But if youíve already established an EMS and you simply
need to update it to meet the new standard, you need to
do a
gap analysis. A gap analysis will compare your
current EMS with ISOís ISO 14001 2004 standard.

This comparison will pinpoint the areas that fall short of
the standard (the gaps). Once you know where to focus
your attention, you can begin to make the changes that
are needed to comply with the standard.


MORE ISO 14001 PAGES

Overview of the Standard

ISO 14001 2004 versus ISO 14001 1996

Plain English Environmental Management Definitions

Environmental Standard Translated into Plain English

How to Develop an Environmental Management System

Environmental Management Gap Analysis Tool

Environmental Management Audit Program


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Updated on December 1, 2013. First published on March 7, 2005.

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