ISO 14000 Standards for environmental management have achieved a worldwide impact. The ISO 14000 family of Standards has evolved to provide comprehensive solutions to the range of environmental challenges facing business, government, and society today.
ISO 14000 Standards not only provide environmental benefits, but also significant tangible economic benefits, including the following.
- Reduced raw material/resource use
- Reduced energy consumption
- Improved process efficiency
- Reduced waste generation and disposal costs
- Use of recoverable resources
The best known environmental ISO Standard is ISO 14001:2004 Environmental management systems – Requirements with guidance for use, the world's most recognised framework for environmental management systems (EMS) – implemented from Argentina to Zimbabwe – that helps organisations both to manage better the impact of their activities on the environment and to demonstrate sound environmental management.
ISO 14001 has been adopted as a national Standard by over half of the 160 national members of ISO and its use is encouraged by governments around the world. Although certification of conformity to the Standard is not a requirement of ISO 14001, at the end of 2007 at least 154 572 certificates had been issued in 148 countries and economies.
ISO and the environment
ISO has a multi-faceted approach to meeting the needs of all stakeholders from business, industry, governmental authorities, non-governmental organisations, and consumers, in the environment sector.
- ISO has developed Standards that help organisations to take a proactive approach to managing environmental issues: the ISO 14000 family of environmental management Standards, which can be implemented in any type of organisation in either public or private sectors – from companies to administrations to public utilities.
- ISO is helping to meet the challenge of climate change with Standards for greenhouse gas accounting, verification, and emissions trading, and for measuring the carbon footprint of products.
- ISO develops normative documents to facilitate the fusion of business and environmental goals by encouraging the inclusion of environmental aspects in product design.
- ISO offers a wide-ranging portfolio of Standards for sampling and test methods to deal with specific environmental challenges. It has developed some 570 international Standards for the monitoring of such aspects as the quality of air, water, and the soil, as well as noise, radiation, and for controlling the transport of dangerous goods. The Standards also serve in a number of countries as the technical basis for environmental regulations.
Environmental management and sustainability
ISO international Standards and related normative documents provide consumers, regulators, and organisations in both public and private sectors with environmental tools with the following characteristics.
- Technically credible. ISO Standards represent the sum of knowledge of a broad pool of international expertise and stakeholders.
- Fulfil stakeholder needs. The ISO Standards development process is based on international input and consensus.
- Facilitate the development of uniform requirements. The ISO Standards development process is built on participation by its national member institutes from all regions of the world.
- Promote efficiencies when the same Standards are implemented across markets, sectors, and/or jurisdictions.
- Support regulatory compliance when the Standards are used to meet market and regulatory needs.
- Enhance investor confidence because the Standards can be used for conformity assessment such as by audit, inspection, or certification. This enhances confidence in products, services, and systems that can be demonstrated to conform to ISO Standards, and provides practical support for regulation.
ISO/Technical Committee 207 – 'Environmental management'
ISO technical committee ISO/TC 207, 'Environmental management', is responsible for developing and maintaining the ISO 14000 family of Standards. The committee's current portfolio includes 21 published international Standards and other types of normative document, with another nine new or revised documents in preparation.
ISO/TC 207 was established in 1993 as a result of ISO's commitment to respond to the complex challenge of 'sustainable development', articulated at the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro.
It also stemmed from an intensive consultation process, carried out within the framework of the ISO Strategic Advisory Group on Environment (SAGE). SAGE was established in 1991 and brought together representatives of a variety of countries and international organisations – more than 100 environmental experts – who helped to define how international Standards could support better environmental management.
As a result, the ISO 14000 family of Standards for environmental management was launched to provide a practical toolbox to assist in the implementation of actions supportive to sustainable development.
From its beginning, it was recognised that ISO/TC 207 should cooperate closely with ISO/TC 176, 'Quality management and quality assurance' – the ISO technical committee responsible for the ISO 9000 family of quality management Standards – in the areas of management systems, auditing, and related terminology.
Successful steps have been taken to ensure compatibility of the ISO 14001 and ISO 9001 Standards to help organisations that wish to implement both environmental and quality management systems to benefit themselves and their customers and stakeholders. These steps include a common Standard (ISO 19011:2002 Guidelines for quality and/or environmental management systems auditing) giving guidelines for auditing environmental and/or quality management systems.
Membership of ISO/TC 207 is among the highest of any ISO technical committee and is both broad and diverse in representation, two key indicators of the worldwide interest in the work of this technical committee. National delegations of environmental experts from over 100 countries participate in ISO/TC 207, including 27 developing countries. The leadership of the committee is 'twinned' between a developed and developing country (currently Canada and Brazil).
New Zealand participation
New Zealand participates on all subcommittees of ISO/TC 207. New Zealand's participation on ISO/TC 207 subcommittee 1 was bolstered recently with the establishment of a New Zealand international review group to provide New Zealand's view on environmental management system Standards.
Scope of ISO/TC 207's work
Published documents and ongoing work of ISO/TC 207 address the following areas.
- Environmental management systems
- Environmental auditing and related environmental investigations
- Environmental performance evaluation
- Environmental labelling
- Life cycle assessment
- Environmental communication
- Environmental aspects of product design and development
- Environmental aspects in product Standards
- Terms and definitions
- Greenhouse gas management and related activities
- Measuring the carbon footprint of products
Overview of the ISO 14000 family of Standards
The ISO 14000 family of Standards reflects international consensus on good environmental and business practice that can be applied by organisations all over the world in their specific context.
The ISO 14000 family uses the same Plan-Do-Check-Act (PDCA) cycle underlying all ISO management systems Standards. The following table classifies the Standards published in the ISO 14000 family according to their optimal place in the PDCA cycle.
Environmental management system implementation
Conduct life cycle assessment and manage
Conduct audits and evaluate environmental
Communicate and use environmental declarations and claims
AS/NZS ISO 14015:2003
AS/NZS ISO 14001:2004
AS/NZS ISO 14031:2000
AS/NZS ISO 14021:1999
AS/NZS ISO 14004:2004
AS/NZS ISO 19011:2003
Address environmental aspects in products and product Standards
Evaluate greenhouse gas performance
ISO Guide 64:2008
Manage greenhouse gases
Upcoming new Standards
An integral part of an organisation's EMS is the commitment to continual improvement. ISO/TC 207 is constantly improving its process to identify and respond to new standardisation needs. ISO/TC 207's success in continuing to work on relevant Standards is evidenced by the development of the following new Standards.
- ISO 14045 will provide principles and requirements for eco-efficiency assessment. Eco-efficiency relates environmental performance to value created. The Standard will establish an internationally standardised methodological framework for eco-efficiency assessment.
- ISO 14051 will provide guidelines for general principles and framework of material flow cost accounting (MFCA). MFCA is a management tool to promote effective resource use, mainly in manufacturing and distribution processes, to reduce the relative consumption of resources and material costs.
- ISO 14067 on the carbon footprint of products will provide requirements for the quantification and communication of greenhouse gases (GHGs) associated with products.
- ISO 14069 will provide guidance for organisations to calculate the carbon footprint of their products, services and supply chain.
- ISO 14005 will provide guidelines for the phased implementation of an EMS to help the take up of EMS by small and medium-sized enterprises. It will include the use of environmental performance evaluation.
- ISO 14006 will provide guidelines on ecodesign.
- ISO 14033 will provide guidelines and examples for compiling and communicating quantitative environmental information.
- ISO 14066 will specify competency requirements for greenhouse gas validators and verifiers.
- Finally, a new Standard ISO 14046 on water footprinting is in its initial stages of development.
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Related Touchstone articles
- Tackling climate change – ISO international Standards – February 2010
- Environmental management system Standards – video clip available – September 2009
- Help for exporters – environmental management and labelling Standards provide credibility – April 2009
- Environmental management – revised vocabulary Standard will help implementation of ISO 14000 family in 12 languages – April 2009
- Material flow cost accounting – international Standard in development – April 2009