ISO 14001:2015 gives us the following conceptual changes:
New structure of the standard: ISO has introduced a structural change to incorporate a “High Level Structure“ (HLS) that will be applied to all management system standards, including revised ISO 9001 & ISO 14001 (2015 version). This will help companies adopting these ISO standards to integrate effectively.
1) Strategic Environmental Management: A new requirement to understand the organization’s context has been incorporated in the standard. This will help organizations to identify and leverage opportunities, for the benefit of both the organization and the environment. As a matter of principle, the design of the environmental management system must take into account the external and internal issues and interactions relevant to the organisation (context), risks, and opportunities that arises, as well as the needs and expectations of “interested parties“.
2) Leadership: ISO has included a new clause on Leadership, which assigns specific responsibilities for those in leadership roles to promote environmental management within the organization. Considering the fact that there is no explicit requirement to appoint a dedicated Management Representative, ISO 14001 intents to demonstrate higher level of integration of Management System with the day-to-day operations.
3) Protecting the environment: ISO has broadened the context of EMS from ‘prevention of pollution’ to ‘protecting the environment’. As indicated in one of the note, protecting the environment can include prevention of pollution, sustainable resource use, climate change mitigation and adaptation, protection of biodiversity and ecosystems, etc.
4) Environmental performance: ISO has placed more emphasis on the environmental performance in addition to improving the management as a part of continual improvement.
5) Lifecycle thinking: When determining the key environmental aspects the organization must – within the scope of its knowledge, opportunities, and influence – pay more attention than in the past to the product life cycle (keyword: “Life-Cycle Thinking“). for example, in the phases from raw-material acquisition/generation to design and development, production, transport, use and disposal. The ISO, however, indicates that it does not require companies to perform full life cycle assessment but think about the products or service that the organization can influence.
6) Communication: Equal emphasis on external and internal communications has been added. Though the decision to communicate externally on its environmental management system is retained by organization, it needs to consider the regulatory framework and expectation of interested parties during external communication.
7) Documented Information: Instead of ‘documents’ and ‘records’, the revised version indicates the term ‘documented information’. This reflects the evolution of computer and cloud based systems for running management systems, and therefore any format such as paper, electronic, cloud, etc. would be acceptable.