The ISO 14001 Environmental Management Standard (EMS) was introduced in 1996 to help organizations manage the environmental aspects that are under organizational control. ISO 14001 is one of the only environmental management standards that can be certified by an external authority. Intended to work as a framework for environmental management, the standard does not specify specific environmental criteria that must be met. These criteria are defined as part of the planning process.
The first step to becoming certified as an ISO 14001 organization is to define your organization's EMS objectives. In general, there are two classes of objectives, internal objectives and external objectives. Internal objectives define activities and practices that meet an organization's internal environmental policies. These policies may be part of an organization's mandate or could help to assure employees that their organization is environmentally responsible. External objectives can include assurances of environmental responsibility to external customers, regulatory agencies or the community at large. Objectives can include ensuring that an organization's supply chain meets overall organizational environmental management policies.
Define and Implement Processes
Once the objectives are defined, they can be formally documented. Process definition could include exploring legal requirements and potential risks and exploring known industry best practices. An important aspect of process definition is process documentation. The process documentation system should be designed to allow for constant analysis and improvement of environmental management processes. Process documentation and implementation must be done using ISO 14001 standards. Implementation of the process will likely require the training of the employees responsible for doing the required work. By coordinating process management and training systems, changes in processes can automatically trigger the training required to implement the processes, a common gap in process implementation plans.
Certification for ISO 14001 compliance is performed by third-party certification agencies. Once your EMS system is defined and documented, your organization can contact a certification agency. The agency will then audit your processes and procedures to ensure ISO 14001 standard compliance. In some cases, a certification agency may find gaps, or places where your processes don't fulfill an ISO 14001 requirement, and may require gap remediation. If your organization is found to have fulfilled the ISO 14001 requirements, the certification agency will issue an ISO 14001 compliance certificate.