The Great 2015 ISO14001 Overhaul – What Changes?

By ETQ on July 27, 2017

In a Climate of Costly Compliance and Increasing Regulation, the Revised ISO14001 Requirements for Environmental Management Make a Refreshing Change

Last year, ISO 14001 on Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) was overhauled for the first time since 2004. The updates aren’t mere tick boxes – unlike many regulatory changes they don’t place an onerous administrative burden on quality and compliance managers. Instead, the new requirements reflect how leading organizations approach environmental management.

As a result, the new ISO 14001 requirements make it easier to embed sustainable working practices, benefiting corporates and SMEs alike.

You Now Have the Flexibility to Consider your Organization’s Context

The revised ISO 14001 requirements consider your business’s unique situation, accounting for external and internal issues that affect your ability to achieve positive environmental outcomes. This includes factors like resource availability and climate volatility, as well as your relationships with customers, suppliers, government bodies and community organizations.

This means the revised standard isn’t just about your organization’s impact on the environment – it’s also about the impact of the environment on your organization.

The new contextual focus helps your EHS system succeed because it recognizes the complex interplay of risks and opportunities affecting your business. And this promotes processes that yield better results – financially and environmentally.

Environmental Management Is Now a Strategic Boardroom Focus

According to ISO, bringing environmental performance into the organization’s strategic day-to-day business is the most important change in the overhaul of ISO 14001.

The new requirements give senior leadership more responsibility for spearheading the commitment to EHS – and this isn’t just about the C-suite paying lip service to the issue. Leaders are now responsible for integrating environmental management into strategic priorities, processes and continuous improvement initiatives.

This change will have a major impact on compliance management in the medium- to long-term, because it involves cultural change. EHS management must be integrated into all aspects of operations, with executives driving best practice that boosts employee engagement, realizes efficiencies and improves performance.

Broader Environmental Protection and Lifecycle Perspective Foster a Proactive Corporate Culture

ISO 14001: 2015 introduces two other concepts that foster an environmentally proactive corporate culture – broader environmental protection and a lifecycle perspective.

Environmental management has come a long way from pollution and carbon emissions, and the revised standard reflects this. ISO 14001 requirements now take a broader view of environmental protection, incorporating key factors like water utilization, energy consumption and waste management.

ISO has also introduced a new lifecycle perspective that empowers you to look at environmental issues holistically. Susan Briggs, head of the ISO working group responsible for the 2015 standard, described the lifecycle perspective idea as “looking at the performance, not just of the operations of the organization, but of the products [you] create and their use and final disposal.”

ISO points out that you don’t need to undertake an onerous or costly lifecycle assessment to meet the requirements. Rather, the standard is about considering the lifecycle stages you control and influence – from material purchasing and design through to production, logistics and disposal – in your EHS management.

By broadening the idea of environmental protection introducing a lifecycle perspective, ISO helps you recognize how each department, product and service contributes to performance, linking day-to-day operations to environmental management. This leads to better results, while simplifying monitoring and streamlining reporting.

Take a Holistic, Environmental Approach to Strategy, Operations and Planning

ISO 14001: 2015 gives you more flexibility in how you meet the standard’s requirements, making it easier for you to embed EHS management across the business.

In the 12 months since ISO released the revision, we’ve seen companies achieve more success engaging employees and embedding processes to achieve a competitive advantage.

If you were certified under ISO 14401: 2004, you have until September 2018 to move to the new version. If you’re not yet ISO 14001 certified, you can start immediately on the 2015 standard.

When you identify your context, analyze opportunities and manage risks, you’re in a strong position to realize continual performance improvements. Are you ready to reap the benefits of a holistic and agile approach to environmental management?


  • ISO 14001: 2015 gives you more flexibility in how you meet the standard’s requirements, reducing the burden on quality managers and making it easier to embed environmental management within the organization
  • ISO 14001:2015 isn’t just about your organization’s impact on the environment. It’s also about the environment’s impact on your organization
  • Senior leadership must be actively involved in environmental management, driving best practice to boost employee engagement, realize efficiencies and improve performance
  • Environmental management goes beyond pollution and emissions, incorporating everything from water utilization to energy consumption and waste management
  • The new lifecycle perspective makes it easy to factor in the environmental impact of everything from material purchasing and design through to production, logistics and disposal