As environmental professionals, we often focus on legal and regulatory environmental requirements. However, many organizations have an environmental management system (EMS) based on voluntary international standards to help manage environmental performance beyond legal requirements. More often than not, the EMS runs in parallel or is integrated with other management systems such as a quality or occupational health & safety management system.

There has been quite a bit of activity recently regarding the predominant international standard for EMS ISO 14001, the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) environmental management system standard. The draft international standard (DIS) to revise ISO 14001—Environmental Management Systems (ISO/DIS 14001) was released in July 2014 and is scheduled to be finalized and published in 2015 (most likely mid-to-end of 2015).

Like all new ISO management system standards, ISO 14001 is reformatted to conform to Annex SL, the high level structure for ISO technical committees to use when drafting revised or new management system standards. By using a standard format along with common terms and definitions, integrating multiple ISO management systems is easier. In addition to formatting changes, other ISO/DIS 14001 changes include:

  • Requiring top management to incorporate EMS requirements into business processes and take accountability for the effectiveness of the EMS
  • Expanding the minimum EMS policy requirements including requiring a commitment to environmental protection (not just pollution prevention)
  • Requiring life cycle perspective be taken into account when determining environmental aspects as well as operational planning and control
  • Replacing "potential non-conformities" with "risks and opportunities" (to align with Annex SL and drive risk based thinking and planning)

Other ISO developments include:

  • ISO is in the process of updating ISO 14004, the general guidelines for developing and implementing an EMS. The revisions to ISO 14004 are expected to be finalized shortly after ISO 14001.
  • ISO is in the process of revising the quality management system standard (ISO 9001—Quality Management Systems). The draft international standard (ISO/DIS 9001) was released in May 2014) and the finalized standard is scheduled to be published in late 2015 (around the same time as ISO 14001).
  • ISO is in the process of creating an occupational health & safety management system standard (ISO 45001) which is based on the existing British Standards Institute (BSI) OHSAS 18001. The first draft (the committee draft—CD) was just released and the finalized standard is scheduled to be published in late 2016.
  • ISO is in the process of creating Compliance Management System guidelines (ISO 19600). The final standard is scheduled to be published late 2014/early 2015.
  • ISO published the final standard for asset management systems (ISO 55001) in January 2014 which was based on BSI's PAS 55 (Publicly Available Standard 55).
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