The next generation

The ISO Technical Committee 207 has released the final draft of the revised ISO 14001 standard. Amy Pettit and John Pepper of DNV looks at the impact on business

ISO rules require standards be reviewed every five years. In 2000, the ISO Technical Committee began a review. Fairly early in the process it decided that, given that it is a relatively new standard, revision would be based on enhancing the compatibility between ISO 14001 & ISO 9001:2000, and improving the clarity of ISO 14001 itself.

Certain clauses within the standard were seen as vague and too open to interpretation, although when clarifying the standard they wished to avoid additional or diminished requirements compared to the current version of ISO 14001. It is certainly clear there will be a greater importance placed on demonstrating continual improvement of environmental management systems, including improvement of environmental performance, along with a need for increased clarity when defining the scope of the EMS. More specifically, under clause 4.3.1, Environmental Aspects, the revision is far more explicit when looking at the inclusion of planned or new developments and new or modified activities, products and services within the aspects process.

More explicit

Significant aspects will require consideration when establishing and maintaining the EMS and as a basis to set objectives. Another example of clarification comes under Competence, Training and Awareness. The new version is more explicit in including persons working on behalf of the organisation, which could include contractors and temporary staff, not just a company's own employees.

In For Management Review, a list specifying subjects required to be reviewed has been included. Other changes can be seen to the clause related to monitoring and measurement. The new version no longer requires a "documented procedure", but the clause does require the procedure to document information required to monitor performance, operational controls and conformity with targets.

The last paragraph of the clause in the current version was regularly overlooked during system implementation. As a result a new clause has been created from the last paragraph of 4.5.1 in order to make requirements for periodic evaluation of legal compliance more visible. There is no requirement for documented procedure, but the new Clause 4.5.4 (Records) has a more explicit requirement to demonstrate records of compliance evaluation.

Ongoing compliance

The changes in the current Final Draft International Standard (FDIS) of the revised ISO 14001 should not require significant additional work for organisations currently certified to the 1996 version and any changes required look likely to be assessable as part of ongoing surveillance visits within any given certificate cycle.

For most organisations, the revisions will require the carrying out of some quick reviews of system documentation and processes, verification of ongoing compliance in those areas subject to change and clarification, and minor changes as necessary to align an EMS to the new standard.

It is likely there will be an approved transition period for all current certificates, but as the changes are minor it is most likely an upgrade can take place either during a re-certification audit or a surveillance visit.


For companies seeking certification of an EMS for the first time, the ideal approach is to develop this on the basis of the FDIS version of ISO 14001 with the view to long-term compliance against this new version.

If the EMS has already been largely developed, with plans for certification before issue of the new version, then the best plan would be a certification audit against the existing version, with updates and amendments subsequently to cover the minor differences in the new version.


The revisions will make ISO 14001 more readable and user friendly. Ultimately, a well-implemented EMS should meet the key requirements of the new version, as fundamentally the requirements match those of the 1996 version.



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