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Briefing: The new ISO 14001

Martin Baxter summarises the recent changes to the popular ISO 14001 environmental standard.

Well-known standard

ISO 14001 is a business standard created by the International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO). Many readers will be familiar with it as a framework for organisations to measure, manage and improve their environmental performance and become resilient to changing external environmental conditions.

Good for business

Businesses which meet the requirements and can demonstrate they are taking active steps to minimise their impact can seek certification, which can be valuable in winning new business and satisfying stakeholder expectations. Customers now expect service providers to have a good – and proven – environmental reputation, so this is a recognisable way of showing stakeholders you walk the walk.

£10,000 savings

That’s why ISO 14001 is the world’s second most used standard. ISO 14001 was introduced in 1996, and more than 324,000 organisations are currently certified as meeting the requirements. Plus it’s been shown that organisations which implement ISO 14001 can save significant amounts of money through efficiencies: 40% save at least £10,000 and some save more than £5m.

New challenges

The environmental challenges that the business world faces have changed significantly since the standard was introduced. It is essential that companies change the way they work to ensure they reduce their impacts and become more resilient to climate change and resource availability threats.

New standard

Over the past three years, a team of international experts on environmental management have been working to revise and update the standard. They have consulted thousands of the standard’s users to understand how it could be improved and really enable organisations to future-proof their business.

On 15th September the fully revised version of ISO 14001 was published.

What has changed?

In a nutshell, this new version of the standard shifts business focus on the environment from compliance with regulations, to placing the environment at the heart of business strategy. That means:

  • Senior management now have a greater role to play in environmental management.
  • Businesses must engage and clearly communicate with their customers, partners, clients and suppliers about their environmental performance.
  • Organisations must evaluate how they are at risk from the changing climate and increasing resource and energy availability issues, and assess where they can turn the challenges into business opportunities.

Change period

All 324,000 certificate holders have three years to make the transition to the new way of working. The publication also presents an opportunity for organisations that aren’t certified to implement ISO 14001 and reap the business benefits.

Foodservice focus

Foodservice businesses depend on the environment for reliable access to ingredients, materials, packaging, water and energy. Ensuring that the environment is placed at the heart of your organisation’s management and decision-making will help you reduce your impacts, deal with significant risks, and take advantage of the opportunities from good environmental performance.

Having a clear structure to help you minimise your impact, reduce consumption and waste, reduce spending on energy and set expectations for a secure and responsible supply chain is essential to modern business. Your customers will increasingly want to see proof that you do the right things, and gaining (or at least working to) ISO 14001 is a recipe for success.

Martin Baxter is executive director (policy) for the Institute of Environmental Management and Assessment.