The latest milestone in the ISO 14001 revision process was reached on 1 July 2014 when ISO/DIS 14001 was issued. The first formal draft describes the potential requirements of the revised version of ISO 14001 but it does give an indication on what might be included in the final version of the standard planned to be published in 2015.

Why is ISO 14001 changing?

Increased attention to ISO 14001 comes as more and more companies are considering the importance of the “triple bottom line”—not only financial, but social and ecological concerns. In this way, by incorporating sustainability and strengthening the standard with respect to business management, the standard helps organizations be more sustainable and forward-looking, as opposed to just focusing on managing environmental aspects and compliance issues.

In the 2015 version of the standard, the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) has made a point to reach out to small and medium-sized enterprises. In particular, the standard helps small enterprises control environmental effects in the value/supply chain, engage stakeholders, and communicate more effectively with those both in and out of the organization.

ISO has identified the following emerging changes as a result of the revision:

  • Strategic Environmental Management
  • Leadership
  • Protecting the environment
  • Environmental performance
  • Lifecycle thinking
  • Communication
  • Documentation
Strategic Environmental Management

There is a new requirement to understand the context of the organization determining external and internal issues relevant to the organization and the environment. Particular focus is on the needs and expectations of interested parties that can affect, or be affected by, the organization. In this context the organization shall identify risk associated with threats and opportunities, significant environmental aspects and compliance obligations and determine actions to address them within the EMS.

Leadership: Commitment to environmental management

A new clause has been added with specific responsibilities for Top Management to demonstrate their leadership and commitment to environmental management.

From prevention to protection

Environmental Policy shall include a commitment to the “protection of the environment”. There is no definition about this but it includes “prevention of pollution” and other commitments, such as sustainable resource use, climate change mitigation and adaptation, protection of biodiversity and ecosystems, etc.

Improving environmental performance

Now the emphasis is on improving performance related to the management of environmental aspects. The organization shall determine criteria to evaluate its environmental performance, using appropriate indicators.

Lifecycle thinking

Organizations will need to extend its control and influence to the environmental impacts from raw material acquisition/generation to end-of-life treatment. This does not imply a requirement to do a life cycle assessment.


Equal emphasis on external and internal communications has been added. The decision to communicate externally is retained by the organization but taking into account its compliance obligations.


The term ‘documented information’, is used instead of ‘documents’ and ‘records’. The organization has the flexibility to determine when ‘procedures’ are needed.

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