01 October 2015

ISO's view on the changes in the new ISO 14001:2015 stand​ard

ISO has explained their view on the changes in the new ISO 14001:2015 standard through formal documents, presentations and even a 'Tweetchat'.  The information below provides a summary of the points ISO has raised, with some further explanation linking the changes to the standard.

ISO has identified the following 9 topics as the main changes in the new standard -

Strategic Environmental Management

ISO's view – "There is an increased prominence of environmental management within the organization's strategic planning processes."

ISO points to the new requirements for understanding the context of the organization, its interested parties and environmental conditions (from local to global) as supporting strategic planning.  After priorities have been identified through the expanded view of context, they can be integrated into the operational planning of the EMS.  The clauses 4.1 (context) and 4.2 (interested parties) are then referenced in the planning section of the standard.  The Leadership clause (5) also includes the requirement for "ensuring the integration of the EMS system requirements into the organisation's business processes", to support ISO's strategic management view.  While the new requirements allow for a greater contextual understanding of the organisation, it is not entirely clear this will increase the prominence of environmental management in an organisation's broader strategic planning.  In the 'Tweetchat', ISO has said the new standard has a "focus for strategic understanding of important issues for organisation + environment", which might be a better way to phrase the changes from Clause 4.


ISO's View – "A new clause has been added that assigns leadership roles with a responsibility to promote environmental management within the organization."

This is obviously Clause 5 of the new standard, which takes the brief requirements of the previous standard and strengthens them with the new High Level Structure.

Protecting the environment

ISO's View – "The expectation on organizations has been expanded to commit to proactive initiatives to protect the environment from harm and degradation".

This expectation follows on from the new requirement for Environmental Policies to commit to the protection of the environment.  In a Tweetchat ISO nominated protection of environment as going beyond "prevention of pollution to broader issues".

Environmental performance

ISO's View – "There is a shift in emphasis with regard to continual improvement, from improving the management system to improving environmental performance."

This emphasis shift presumably follows on from the new requirement for the Environmental Policy to commit to "enhance environmental performance".  Hopefully this removes the previous standard's ambiguity over improving performance for the environment or just the management system.  Policies under the previous standard only had to commit to "continual improvement", which was defined as enhancing the EMS in order to improve environmental performance.  In the Tweetchat ISO said the new standard clarifies "performance improvement is about improving the performance in relation to the environment".

Lifecycle perspective

ISO's View – "organizations will need to extend its control and influence to the environmental impacts associated with product design and development to address each stage of the life cycle"

The clause for Aspects has added this extra "life cycle perspective" to the determination of the environmental impacts.  ISO has made the point in several documents that this lifecycle perspective "does not imply a requirement to do a life cycle assessment".  A well developed EMS would have considered the life cycle under the previous standard, but it is now explicit in the new standard.

Outsourced processes

ISO's View – "Organizations need to control or influence outsourced processes."

The clause for operational control (8.1) requires outsourced processes to be "controlled or influenced".  The Terms and Definitions now have a reference for "outsource" (Clause 3.3.4), which notes an outsourced organisation is outside the scope of the management system, but the outsourced function or process is within the scope.


ISO's View – "The development of a communications strategy with equal emphasis on external and internal communications has been added."

The clause for Communication (7.4) is considerably longer than the previous standard and specifically sets out requirements for internal and external communication.


ISO's View – "the revision incorporates the term 'documented information', instead of 'documents' and 'records'."

This is another obvious change in the standard, with the documented information clause (7.5) replacing the control of documents and records clauses.  There is an additional reference to records/documented information under Operational Planning and Control (Clause 8.1).  ISO says the change was brought about by "the evolution of computer and cloud based systems".  Organisations can continue to use the terms document and record if they are preferred over documented information.  

ISO common framework for management systems

ISO's View – "It uses ISO new High Level Structure (HLS) … which is a new common framework for ISO management system standards, which incorporate identical core text, and common terms with core definitions."

Of all of the changes to the new standard, this is the most noticeable with a complete reordering of the clauses.  Any organisation which has an EMS integrated with their QMS will appreciate the changes, and when the OHS standard is released it will also help with those that have an integrated SMS.

Its interesting that ISO did not select risk as one of the main changes, since it features so prominently in the planning clause.