ISO 14001 FAQs

Find out the answers to common questions to help you and your organisation prepare for transition to ISO 14001:2015.

What are the key changes introduced by Annex SL in ISO 14001:2015?

The changes that are being driven by Annex SL are very similar to the ones that have taken place within ISO 9001:2015. Annex SL has led to changes in relation to the term ‘Documented Information’ rather than procedures or records. In addition, Annex SL will lead to the incorporation of the environmental management system (EMS) into the strategic thinking of the organisation and increased responsibilities on top management.

What changes have been made to the standard?

Most of the changes to ISO 14001:2015 enhance the processes by which an organisation protects the environment using their EMS. The committee was responsible for drafting the clause on environmental policy which now requires that an organisation should commit to protecting the environment.

This is an expansion over the previous policy commitments, which were limited to prevention of pollution and compliance with legislation and is now a generic term which encourages organisations to look at protecting their overall environment rather than just the pollution they or their products and services may cause.

ISO 14001:2015 introduces the terminology of life cycle perspective which will require an organisation to look at their products and services from the beginning to the end of their life cycle.

This incorporates looking at how they will control outsourced processes. To do this, organisations need to determine what they can control and/or influence, and then apply the appropriate controls or influence through their management system.

They also need to look at the end of life treatment and the disposal of their products or of their service. This will extend into areas such as design, because when they are designing new products, they will need to consider its design to see how they can improve its environmental performance.

Another area which is important within the ISO 14001:2015 is in the area of communication - both internal and external. Whilst this was covered in ISO 14001:2004, within the new standard, there is now a need for the organisation to develop a process by which they will determine what they will communicate, when they will communicate and to whom they will communicate.

Another change that has occurred as a result of Annex SL is that the Plan, Do, Check, Act model within ISO 14001:2004 has been redrawn to reflect the Annex SL structure.

What is the first thing that ISO 14001:2004 certified organisations should be doing?

Organisations should start looking at the requirements within the new standard, discussing the changes with LRQA along with any training they think will be required to accommodate the new requirements and changes in the revised standard.

We would also advise you to purchase the new standard to gain an understanding of the changes.

What impact does ISO 14001:2015 have when considering Interested Parties?

Annex SL introduces a new section on context of the organisation (clause 4) which means a company has to have a process in place for the identification of internal and external interested parties. The identification includes recognising the views which are key to the environmental performance of the organisation and take those into account when they are looking at designing their EMS. As a result, this has become an important part of the new requirements.

How will the ISO standards revisions impact the way organisations manage their current management systems?

Organisations should start looking at the requirements for both ISO 9001:2015 and ISO 14001:2015 which will give an indication as to the direction in which they need to move their management systems in order to accommodate the Annex SL requirements. 

The changes that will occur to the future replacement for OHSAS 18001 (the proposed ISO standard to be known as ISO 45001) will also be in line with the requirements of Annex SL.

How are the changes likely to impact smaller organisations?

Typically, the leadership of smaller organisations tends to be closer to their activities, so they will have a much clearer idea as to the context in which the organisation operates, who their interested parties are, and what they wish their EMS to deliver.

How do the features in the new standard impact organisations and their transition plans from the existing ISO 14001:2004?

This depends upon what organisations have included and managed within their current EMS. Organisations should contact LRQA to help them develop their transition plan.

This can be formulated through a gap analysis undertaken by an LRQA assessor, which will tell them their position in relation to the new requirements and where they need to move to. It may also identify any training needs that are necessary for the organisation.

How long will organisations have to transition to the new standard?

The transition period will be three years from the publication date, so organisations will have until September 2018 to transition.

It is up to the organisation when they actually wish to transition. If they feel that they are ready on the publication date of the standard, they can approach their certification body and ask to be certified against the new requirements from that date. However, if organisations feel they need time to develop their new system, they can transition any time during the three year transition period.

Next steps

Start with the standard and focus on the areas that are completely new or have been revised. Those are the areas that are likely to be included in your transition plan. Also, make sure that environmental managers and internal auditors understand the differences that Annex SL (common text and structure) will bring to the design, operation and performance of your EMS and any other management system standards in your organisation.

Talk to LRQA; as a member of the Independent International Organisation for Certification (IIOC), we are a member of all the major ISO technical committees helping to shape the new standards. We not only understand the revisions, but more importantly, we know what they mean to your EMS and wider organisation - and how to apply it to best effect.

Engage with LRQA to find out how a gap analysis and training on specific areas of ISO 14001:2015 can benefit you personally, as well as your organisation.

Begin formalising a transition plan and process and ensure that top management is involved from the start.