ISO 14001:2015 – Earth Stewardship through Environmental Management

When ISO 14001 was first published in 1996, Joseph Cascio, chairman of the ISO U.S.Technical Advisory Group, said: “The consequences of ISO 14000 are incredible and will contribute significantly to improved sustainable development. ISO 14001 is unlike ISO 9000 because quality management standards don’t require enterprises to account for the impact of all their activities on their surroundings.”

Our FREE downloadable guide Essential Steps To Implementing ISO 14001:2015 explores the steps necessary for a successful implementation.

So why should an organisation care about ‘green’ issues and sustainability? Simply because: 

  • Your competitors are punting their ‘green’ initiatives.
  • Customers are more aware of environmental concerns.
  • It helps the bottom line profits.

ISO 14001:2015 clarifies the role of environmental management in contributing to sustainable development, and underpins the Triple Bottom Line. It adopts a systems perspective which assists organisations to focus on the future; and understand that: no business exists as an island; that concentrating on short-term economics can lead to chaos; and that to succeed and be profitable enterprises must embrace economics, environment, and societal concerns.


ISO 14001 provides a systematic approach to environmental management, which will contributes to an organisation’s long-term success and sustainable development by:

  • Preventing / reducing adverse environmental impacts.
  • Implementing environmentally sound practices and programs.
  • Coordinating environmental initiatives with interested parties.
  • Controlling how products are managed throughout their life cycle.
  • Mitigating the adverse impact of environmental threats.

What is an Environmental Management System?

An EMS provides management tools and  principles to help organisations integrate environmental issues into the behaviour of their daily operations. ISO 14001 is among the best-known and widely-used EMSs. Revised twice since 1996, this version was released in September 2015, and it helps organisations to manage environmental concerns holistically.

ISO 14001:2015 - An Improved Tool For Sustainability

ISO 14001:2015 contains the latest environmental thinking, and its additional requirements are grouped around five key areas:

  • Leadership;
  • Strategic context;
  • Interested party analysis & communication;
  • Risks & opportunities; and
  • Life cycle perspective.

ISO 14001 can be used to address issues such as:

  • Air pollution;
  • Water & sewage management;
  • Waste management;
  • Soil contamination;
  • Climate change mitigation & adaptation; and
  • Resource use and efficiency.

How does ISO 14001:2015 benefit an organisation?

Taking a strategic approach to improving environmental performance has many benefits. ISO 14001 delivers on this by emphasising that environmental policies and objectives must be aligned with an organisation’s strategic direction.

Using ISO 14001 organisations can:

  • Demonstrate compliance with regulations.
  • Increase leadership and employee participation.
  • Improve reputation and stakeholder confidence.
  • Improve efficiencies.
  • Include suppliers in business systems & encourage better environmental performance.
  • Apply life cycle thinking to products and services.

Social Responsibility

Opening up communication with stakeholders has enormous benefits. Engagement helps to inform decisions and ensure activity meets customer and industry requirements and expectations. ISO 14001:2015 is ‘outward-looking’ and an organisation must understand and respond to stakeholder needs and expectations.

Compliance Obligations

With ISO 14001, meeting compliance obligations becomes a formal process. Compliance obligations are a combination of statutory and regulatory requirements as well as stakeholder expectations that are accepted by the organisation as obligations. ISO 14001 provides a systematic approach to ensure obligations are identified, recorded and operationalised. The management arrangements to achieve conformance provide high levels of assurance the governance is maintain during changing circumstances.

Supply Chain Compliance

Compliance can make a huge difference to environmental performance. However, benefits can be thwarted if the supply chain is not environmentally aware and following good practices. ISO 14001 is clear that an organisation has responsibilities to control a supplier’s performance, but does not specify the goals and objectives that should be set. Once KPI’s have been established it is possible to assess suppliers’ environmental impacts and to review results.

Life Cycle Thinking Drives Innovation

Products have an impact on the environment at each stage of their life cycle from the sourcing of raw materials through to product manufacture, distribution, consumer use and disposal. Sustainability can improve if environmental management is adopted along with product-related environmental management. Although a life cycle assessment is not required by ISO 14001, the life cycle perspective is included to prevent or mitigate adverse environmental impacts during life cycle stages, which may offer the greatest opportunity to reduce resource use and minimise pollution or waste.

Should I certify?

Compliance or certification to the ISO 14001 standard is not equivalent to sustainability, and certification is not a requirement. However, certification signals to stakeholders that an organisation has implemented the standard properly and met regulatory or contractual requirements.


For leading manufacturers like Henkel and Unilever, among others, innovation plays a crucial role in their sustainability strategies. Innovation for these organisations centres around offering customers and consumers more value, better-performing products and services, while helping them to reduce their environmental footprint.

Henkel Argentina received the “Green Latin America Award 2017” in recognition of its process for treating solid bio waste by vermiculture. Sending zero waste to landfill by 2020 is a strategic objective guided by the organisation’s ISO 14001-based environmental strategy. 

Unilever is one of the world’s biggest buyers of fish. The organisation committed to sourcing all fish from sustainable stocks in 1996, and founded  The Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) to help consumers choose sustainable fish products. ISO 14001 supports all Unilever’s sustainability programmes.


Our FREE downloadable guide Essential Steps To Implementing ISO 14001:2015 explores the steps necessary for a successful implementation.

For more information or guidance on which ISO standard(s) and services would best suit the needs of your organisation, please email Risk ZA at or contact us on 0861 Risk ZA / +27 (0) 31 569 5900.

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