Understanding the Essence of ISO 14001 and What Compliance Means
The biggest challenge for companies regarding ISO 14000 is to involve all employees to ensure that they understand their roles and accountability regarding the firm’s environmental impact. The purpose of ISO 14000 standards is to provide adequate direction to firms for implementing, managing, monitoring, measuring, improving, communicating, and maintaining their environmental impact as related to their operations. This includes the manufacturing of products, usage of raw materials, discarding of waste, collecting of environmental data, marketing of products, and general operating procedures.
In order to get the full benefit of ISO 14001 compliance, companies are encouraged to make use of the services of experienced ISO 14001 consultants, especially for transition from the old to the new version of ISO 14001. We discuss the most important things to know about the ISO 14000 series of environmental standards to help companies get a better understanding of what ISO 14001 consultants can do for them and what they are talking about.
Understanding ISO 14000
It is a series of international standards to direct firms to manage their environmental impact. Compliance is voluntary; however, many international trading partners require their business partners and suppliers to be ISO 14001-compliant. The series of standards was developed by the International Organisation for Standardisation, and South Africa also supports the implementation of these standards.
The ISO 14000 series consists of several standards, of which the most important is that of ISO 14001, which focuses on the requirements for the development, implementation, and management of a compliant environmental management system (EMS). This is the only standard in the series according to which firms can be audited for certification purposes. It forms the base standard for companies wanting to ensure sustainability of their operations with the lowest possible impact on the environment. ISO 14001 consultants help firms to identify shortcomings, correct them, and also to identify training needs. They furthermore assist in the certification preparation process, and setting up of ISO 14001 management reviews and maintenance plans.
Why it Is Important to Care About ISO 14001 Certification
There is a worldwide trend towards standardisation of operations. Thousands of companies already comply with the requirements of ISO 9001 in terms of quality and other standards. With globalisation comes the problem of variations in the standards of different countries.
To ensure that companies can trade internationally and have the assurance that their trading partners follow specific standards and meet their requirements, international standards are developed. ISO 14001 certification serves as proof of a firm’s compliance with the requirements of the standard and ongoing commitment to improvement. It also provides the firm with a competitive edge over companies in the same industry that have yet to comply and become certified. In addition, it gives customers more confidence in the firm’s commitment to responsible management of resources, selection of suppliers, and management of environmental hazards.
Is ISO 14001 Compulsory?
No. Compliance and certification are voluntary; however, it is beneficial. That being said, compliance or certification may be a requirement for international trade. ISO 14001, as our consultants will explain, is not performance-based. It does not state the level of emissions or impact. However, a firm must meet the environmental requirements of its particular country and as such, compliance with ISO 14001 also implies compliance with the environmental regulations of South Africa.
It is also important to understand that ISO 14001 does not relate to a product. Instead, it is focussed on the creation of a system for managing the firm’s environmental impact. As such, it is not possible to implement only a part of the standard at a time. It is an entire environmental management system, which can be integrated with the firm’s existing management systems to minimise the administrative load of ensuring compliance.
Our ISO 14001 consultants assist firms in identifying the major requirements and to ensure compliance. In many instances, firms already have policies and procedures in place to manage their environmental impact. Through GAP analyses, internal audits, and external audits, it is possible to identify shortcomings and to correct them before the certification audit takes place.
Main requirements include, for instance, the establishment of an environmental policy, which must be drafted by the executive management to be relevant to the firm’s industry, operations, and its commitments to prevention of pollution. In addition, the firm must set up procedures and maintain them for the identification of environmental factors and their impact. The procedures must be of such a nature as to ensure compliance with the company’s policy on environmental management and to ensure compliance with all statutory requirements.
The above are only examples. Many other requirements must be met – best discussed with our team of ISO 14001 consultants.