Seeking a Certification? ISO 14001 Explained

By ETQ on October 25, 2021

If you’ve begun looking for ISO 14001 software to help guide you through the certification process, you’ve come to the right place. ETQ Reliance NXG contains a dedicated environmental management application designed to help you comply with this sustainability standard. However, before diving into that, let’s learn a little more about what this standard is and why you’d want it.

ISO 14001 Explained and What it Covers

ISO 14001 is a quality standard designed to help companies mitigate their environmental impact. As the ISO 9000 family of standards, this standard doesn’t just look at the products you’re producing. Instead, the standard focuses on the externalities, including air pollution, water pollution, carbon emissions, and more.

The purpose of ISO 14001 is to help validate a company’s environmental management systems while measuring and improving its environmental impact. Although this standard is entirely voluntary, it’s a valuable tool regarding complying with mandatory environmental protection laws. That’s because it formalizes the process of managing environmental impacts.

Like ISO 9000, this standard bends companies’ environmental management efforts into the same “Plan, Do, Check, Act” process. The company identifies how its production processes and supply chain affect the environment and then conducts a gap analysis. They may find their current mitigation efforts aren’t enough to bring them into compliance with local laws. They’ll then enact a process that brings them into compliance and measures their results.

This Standard’s Requirements

Getting this certification starts with purchasing and implementing an environmental management system (EMS). Your next step is ensuring the EMS is installed and configured in a way that’s compliant with best practices. Finally, you need a third-party auditor to come and check your work. That’s the short version.

The long version is that EMS implementation and verification can take up to two years, requiring reams of documentation. That’s where ISO 14001 software comes in handy, as it allows you to fill in paperwork, assemble documentation, and create a central database related to your certification efforts automatically. This software can help prevent you from duplicating efforts, getting bogged down in details, or accidentally leaving anything out.

In addition, you’ll most likely need to provide specialized training for your employees. While hiring an ISO 14001 specialist or consultant isn’t a necessity, it can be incredibly helpful. That’s because measuring the impact of your industrial processes regarding waste and pollution isn’t within the core skill set for many QMS team members. Adding expertise to your team may help streamline the overall process of ISO 14001 adoption.

Last, this standard has undergone some changes since its inception. The latest revision, ISO 14001:2015, adds new features and benefits to the standard, including:

  • Environmental management must involve day-to-day business, meaning the C-suite must be involved with EMS planning.
  • EMS operations must be more strictly focused on improving direct environmental impacts, with considerations like resource availability and carbon emissions.
  • The supply chain must be considered in the context of EMS.
  • It has been revised, so its high-level structure is more similar to ISO 9001, making it easier for an organization that’s adopted one standard to adopt the other.

With these new features and processes, it’s much easier to implement ISO 14001 and gain an immediate positive environmental impact.

Mitigating Impacts with This Standard

It may be voluntary, but there are several important reasons you might want to adopt it. First, there’s environmental regulation to consider. ISO 14001 may not be a necessary prerequisite for complying with environmental laws, but it can be an invaluable component of compliance. By its very nature, ISO 14001 forces companies to record the efforts they’re taking to abide by any environmental laws applicable to them. This documentation can be handy when an audit request comes down the road.

In addition, consumers appreciate companies that adopt more sustainable practices. Almost 70% of US and Canadian consumers prefer to shop with sustainable and environmentally-friendly brands. Therefore, the improvements you make as part of ISO 14001 adoption can be used as future advertising materials, helping you achieve a return on your investment.

Last, consumers aren’t the only people who appreciate sustainability. Investors, lenders, and financial regulatory agencies increasingly look at environmental, social, and governance factors (ESG) when deciding which companies to support. Public comments by SEC Chairman Gary Gensler indicate that new ESG disclosure rules may arrive by the end of 2021. These ask companies to detail their direct and indirect carbon emissions, their climate goals and plans to reach them, and their plans to comply with international treaties such as the Paris Agreement.

Because the standard asks companies to do so much reporting already, an ISO 14001 certification could help you look good to investors when it comes to ESG.

ETQ Helps Companies Earn and Keep their Certification

ETQ Reliance NXG contains a built-in EMS application suite allowing you to identify current environmental impacts, create methods for reducing those impacts, and monitor progress towards your targets. With this information, you’ll be well on your way to abiding by environmental laws and adopting the ISO 14001 standard. For more information on ETQ and how we can assist with your EMS implementation, sign up for a demo today!


What is the ISO 14001 standard?

The ISO 14001 standard is a voluntary compliance regime governing environmental management systems’ implementation, configuration, and operation (EMS).

What are the ISO 14001:2015 requirements?

It would help if you had an EMS, implement it according to best practices laid down by the ISO committee, and then undergo an external audit. You’ll also need to set goals for mitigating your environmental impacts and document your progress towards meeting them.

What does the ISO 14001 standard focus on?

ISO 14001 focuses on EMS implementation, although the most recent revision of the standard focuses less on a compliant EMS and more on the idea that a company undergoing this review should measure and then mitigate its environmental impacts.

What is the latest ISO 14001 standard?

The latest ISO 14001 standard is ISO 14001:2015. This latest revision added significant changes. It now demands a management contribution to the EMS, asks companies to consider the impact of their supply chain, and creates a standardized adoption approach to match ISO 9001 for ease of implementation.