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ISO 14001 2015 is an environmental management standard. It defines a set of environmental management requirements with guidance for use that relate to environmental systems. It maps out a framework that a company or organization can follow to set up an effective Environmental Management System (EMS). There are more than 300,000 certifications to ISO 14001 in 171 countries around the world. These requirements can be found in the following seven sections:















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The purpose of this standard is to help organizations to protect the environment and to respond to changing environmental conditions. According to ISO 14001, any organization can achieve these objectives if it establishes an Environmental Management System (EMS) and if it continually tries to improve the suitability, adequacy, and effectiveness of this system.


An environmental management system (EMS) is one part of a larger management system and is a set of interrelated or interacting elements that organizations use to implement their environmental policy, to achieve their environmental objectives, to meet their environmental compliance obligations, to manage their environmental aspects, and to address their environmental risks and opportunities. These elements include structures, programs, procedures, processes, practices, plans, rules, roles, responsibilities, relationships, contracts, agreements, documents, records, methods, tools, techniques, technologies, and resources.


ISO 14001 applies to all types of organizations. It does not matter what they do or what size they are. It can help any organization to protect the environment and to respond to changing environmental conditions.


According to ISO 14001 2015, your organization's EMS must meet every requirement if you wish to claim that it complies with this standard. However, how you choose to meet ISO's requirements, and to what extent, will depend on and be influenced

by many factors. It will depend on your organization’s context, its structure, its activities, its objectives, its compliance obligations, and its products and services; and will be influenced by its environmental risks and opportunities and by its environmental aspects and impacts. Consequently, environmental management systems can vary quite a bit.

If you do not already have an environmental management system (EMS), you can use this ISO 14001 standard to establish one. And once you have established your EMS, you can use it:

To enhance your environmental performance.

To facilitate and support sustainable development.

To meet your compliance obligations.

To achieve your environmental objectives.

According to ISO 14001, any organization can achieve these important goals by establishing an EMS and then using it to manage the environmental aspects and impacts of its activities, processes, products, services, and systems.


Enhance your Environmental Performance:


According to ISO 14001, an EMS will enhance your organization's environmental performance because it will:

  • Reduce your environmental risks.

  • Implement your environmental policy.

  • Achieve your environmental objectives.

  • Meet your environmental compliance obligations.

  • Take advantage of your environmental opportunities.


Support Sustainable Development:


You can also use an EMS to support sustainable development. Why? Because an EMS will show you how to take a systematic approach to environmental management. Such an approach will not only contribute to your organization's long-term success but it will also facilitate sustainable development. It will do all of this by helping your organization to:

  • Prevent or reduce adverse environmental impacts.

  • Implement environmentally sound practices and programs.

  • Mitigate the adverse impact that environmental threats can have.

  • Control how products and services are managed throughout their life cycle.

  • Coordinate and communicate environmental initiatives with interested parties


The ISO 14001 Standard is comprised of 10 clauses/sections which describe the universe of requirements that must be met by an organization seeking certification of their organization’s Environmental Management System (EMS).

Clause / Section
Clause / Section Objective
Understand your organization and its unique context
Clarify the needs and expectations of interested parties
Define the scope of your Environmental Management System (EMS)
Develop an EMS and establish documented information
Provide leadership by accepting responsibility for the EMS
Provide leadership by establishing a suitable environmental plan and policy
Provide leadership by defining EMS roles, responsibilities, and authorities
Define actions to manage risks and address opportunities
Set environmental objectives and develop plans to achieve them
Support your EMS by providing the necessary resources
Support your EMS by ensuring that people are competent
Support your EMS by explaining how people can help
Support your EMS by managing your communications
Support your EMS by controlling documented information
Develop, implement, and control your EMS processes
Establish your emergency preparedness and response process
Monitor, measure, analyze, and evaluate EMS performance and compliance
Use internal audits to examine conformance and performance of your EMS
Carry out management reviews and document your EMS results
Determine improvement opportunities and make improvements
Control nonconformities and take appropriate corrective action
Enhance the suitability, adequacy, and effectiveness of your EMS

ISO’s environmental management requirements are described in ISO 14001 sections 4 to 10. The following material will introduce these seven sections.

Clause / Section 4.


Context asks you to start by understanding your organization and its context before you develop its environmental management system (EMS). It asks you to consider the external and internal issues that are relevant to your organization's purpose and to think about the influence these issues could have on its EMS and the results it intends to achieve. It also asks you to identify the interested parties that are relevant to your EMS and to consider the compliance obligations that they expect you to meet. Why? Because your EMS will need to be able to manage all these influences and obligations. Once you have considered all of this, you are ready to define the scope of your EMS and to begin its development.

Clause / Section 5.


Leadership asks your organization's top management to provide leadership for its EMS by accepting responsibility for it, by showing that they support it, and by providing resources. It also expects them to ensure that an environmental policy

is formulated, that environmental objectives are established, that compliance obligations are acknowledged, that environmental aspects and impacts are considered, and that EMS roles, responsibilities, and authorities are assigned.

Clause / Section 6


Planning starts by asking you to develop a process to consider the risks that could affect your organization's EMS. It then asks you to use this risk planning process to figure out how to address your context, to handle your interested parties, to meet your compliance obligations, to deal with your significant environmental aspects and impacts, and to manage your risks and opportunities. And once you have done all of this it expects you to define actions to address your significant environmental aspects, your compliance obligations, and your risks and opportunities. Then, to make sure that all these actions will be carried out, it asks you to build them into your EMS processes. While this is a lot of planning, you are not done yet. Section 6 also expects you to set environmental objectives at all relevant levels and for all relevant functions, to develop actions to achieve these objectives, and then to figure out how you're going to integrate all of these actions into your organization's processes.

Clause / Section 7.


Support asks you to support your EMS by providing resources, by ensuring the people are competent, by making them aware of their EMS responsibilities, by controlling EMS communications, and by managing EMS documents and records (documented information). In this context, it asks you to start by figuring out how extensive your documentation should be. Once you have figured this out, it asks you to select, include, and control all of the documents and records that your EMS needs.

Clause / Section 8.


Operations asks you to establish your EMS processes and to control how they operate. It asks you to plan how you're going to implement and control the processes that you need in order to meet EMS requirements and in order to implement the actions that were previously built into these processes (in section 6). It asks you to plan how you're going to implement and control the actions that must be taken in order to meet your compliance obligations, to achieve your environmental objectives, to deal with your significant environmental aspects, and to manage the risks and opportunities that could influence your environmental performance. Finally, it asks you to prepare for potential emergency situations and to establish a procedure to respond to these situations when they occur.

Clause / Section 9.


Evaluation asks you to monitor, measure, analyze, and evaluate your organization's environmental performance and compliance and to audit your EMS at planned intervals. It also asks you to carry out management reviews; it asks you to review the suitability, adequacy, and effectiveness of your EMS, to generate appropriate outputs, and to document your results.

Clause / Section 10.


Improvement asks you to identify opportunities and to take all necessary actions to improve your EMS. It asks you to control nonconformities, to take corrective actions, and to enhance the suitability, adequacy, and effectiveness of your EMS.

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