01 September 2015

The ISO 14001 Standard

The ISO 14001​​ Standard for Environmental Management Systems

​ISO14001 can be thought of as a best practice guide for environmental management.  The standard is built on the cumulative lessons learnt over many years at many organisations and also draws on older standards such as ISO9001 (QMS).  While the requirements might seem to be onerous at first, they are generally steps that would be taken in developing a thorough and complete EMS.



The ISO14001 standard provides a framework for Environmental Management Systems (EMS).  ISO14001 is structured around an organisation's environmental policy, significant aspects (or impacts), objectives and obligations (such as legal requirements).  It is a general system that can be applied by any organisation, so ISO14001 does not establish absolute requirements for environmental performance, with the exception of commitments  for  the  environmental  policy.

The Plan - Do  - Act - Check methodology is an implicit part of the standard.

​ISO14001 only contains requirements that can be objectively audited.  That means it can be a difficult read for anyone who is not familiar with ISO-speak.  Fortunately, there is a readable guidance with more explanation provided in:

  • ISO14001 Annex A
  • ISO14004  Environmental management systems — General guidelines on principles, systems and support techniques

The original 14001 standard was released in 1996, updated in 2004 and again in 2015.  ISO14004 is due for an update in 2016.

ISO reported there were over 300,000 ISO14001 certifications at the end of 2013, with China, Italy and Japan the countries with the most certifications.