What is ISO 14001?

ISO 14001 is the international standard for Environmental Management Systems (EMS).  It provides guidelines for environmental management in organisations and you can be certified by a third party if you meet all the requirements.  This blog will give you an overview of what ISO 14001 is.

What is ISO 14001?

The international standard for Environmental Management Systems, ISO14001 was last updated in 2015.  An Environmental Management System is a systematic approach to environmental management aiming to protect the environment, fulfil compliance obligations and enhance environmental performance among many other objectives.  The international standard provides a framework for the management system to protect the environment and respond to changes in environmental conditions.

The Standard

ISO 14001 is split up into sections, based on the plan, do, check, act model and each section contains several clauses which describes what an organisation must do to meet the requirements of the standard.  The first few sections of the standard are concerned with the scope of the standard, references and definitions to support organisations looking to implement an EMS.  The next seven sections contain the standard clauses.  They include:

  • Context of the organisation – involves assessing the needs of interested parties and determining the scope of your EMS;
  • Leadership – highlights the importance of commitment and involvement from top management and has clauses about the delegation of roles and responsibilities and the requirements for an environmental policy;
  • Planning –establishing environmental objectives and the processes necessary to deliver them in line with the environmental policy. Also includes clauses on determining environmental aspects and compliance obligations;
  • Support – includes clauses on the resources required to operate an EMS, competency and awareness, communication and requirements for documented information;
  • Operation –planning and controlling operations to minimise environmental impact and preparing for emergencies;
  • Performance evaluation – monitoring and measuring the processes established through evaluation of compliance, internal auditing and reviewing it at a management level;
  • Improvement – the last section contains clauses about responding to nonconformities and continually improving environmental performance.


Organisations can benefit from following the ISO 14001 standard, regardless of their intention to be certified as it provides solid guidelines for managing and improving your environmental performance.  If you do decide to become certified, you will need to demonstrate to a third-party auditor that you meet all of the clauses of the standard.  The auditor will raise opportunities for improvement and any major and minor non-conformities.  If there are no major non-conformities, your EMS will be certified to ISO 14001 and you will need to maintain your EMS and address any opportunities or non-conformities.  You will regularly be audited by your certification company to ensure your EMS complies with ISO 14001 and you are following the processes you have defined.

ISO 14001 is the international standard for Environmental Management Systems, providing guidelines for establishing and maintaining environmental management in your organisation while continually improving your environmental performance.  The standard does not specify specific parameters for improvement, but provides a mechanism for managing an organisations specific products, activities and services.