ISO 14001:2015 Asks Managers to Lead the Way

  • Guides

As mentioned last month in a news update, ISO 14001:2015 is approaching completion, whilst many will be rightly interested with what’s changing from an environmental standpoint, a key amendment is the strengthened requirements with the involvement of top management.

This is a trend amongst recent revisions to ISO standards, due to the overarching Annex SL structure. Put simply, this means greater commonality in how ISO’s management standards are set out.

Whereas the existing version of the ISO 14001 standard does not explicitly mention leadership, here in ISO 14001:2015, there is a dedicated clause with associated requirements. Moving forward, senior management will be accountable for both the organisation’s Environmental Policy and the success of the resulting Environmental Management System (EMS).

The outcome is that senior management won’t be able to simply delegate and therefore absolve themselves from responsibility. Quite simply, the buck stops with the leaders of the organisation, and now that can’t be sidestepped when it comes to ISO 14001.

This doesn’t mean that managers need to panic about performing every activity; management is simply accountable for ensuring they are performed.

These changes are there to aid the buy-in of the standard as, without top management involvement, this would arguably be an impossible feat. Rather than certification being a tick box exercise, the new requirements will demand more focus and, as a result, should mean that implementers should start to see the intended internal benefits of ISO 14001, namely:

  • Reduced cost of waste management
  • Savings in consumption of energy and materials
  • Legislative awareness and compliance
  • Engaged and motivated staff

The auditor’s perspective

As a Certification Body, the change in approach is welcome. Currently, too many Environmental Management Systems have little support from senior managers. As a result, common non-conformances such as lack of internal auditing and reporting at management meetings crop up often. Now, with leadership becoming something organisations will focus on first when implementing ISO 14001, this is not only great news in terms of realised benefits, but will strengthen the credibility of the standard and certification as a whole.

The EEF, who provide business support to the manufacturing industry, carried out a gap analysis to evaluate how much work is needed for UK businesses to meet the requirements of ISO 14001:2015. Alarmingly, 80% of over 650 organisations surveyed were found to have insufficient top-level support, whiles in 42% of cases senior management had little or no involvement in their businesses’ EMS.

The business case

The reason why the EMS isn’t discussed at the boardroom is largely down to the business case not being fully understood or articulated beyond the need to get the ISO 14001 ‘badge’. After the initial excitement, things stagnate and a lack of strategy means organisations do not gain the intended value from implementing the standard.

As a result of this common issue, for those responsible for their organisation’s EMS, the opportunity is there to show management what ISO 14001 can do for the business.  For this to happen, it’s important to consider what your directors are responsible for and what pressures they face, then work at them with the benefits that are most relevant. These could be:

  • Assurance that the organisation meets legislation
  • An opportunity for collaboration; proven to help employee motivation
  • Less energy and resource use means financial savings
  • Reduced waste created; less frequent disposal required
  • Pay back in 3 months if the above is achieved
  • Another reason for existing clients to stay with you
  • Another reason for prospective clients to choose you

Moreover, if your EMS is not integrated into business strategy, it is costing you money because it’s an inconvenience. Rather than looking forward to your annual review, it’s a last-minute panic that takes time and people away from their day-to-day jobs. If it was everyone’s shared responsibility, overseen by senior management, it would far easier to maintain; it simply becomes the way you run your organisation.

The British Assessment Bureau will be running seminars later in 2015 on the upcoming changes to ISO 9001 and ISO 14001 due to Annex SL. To register your interest, call free on 0800 404 7007 to speak to your Account Manager.

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Written by Neill Gatley

EMS Scheme Manager - Experienced management systems Lead Auditor and EMS Scheme Leader. Assessing clients management systems to the requirements of ISO 14001, ISO 9001, ISO 27001, ISO 45001, OHSAS 18001.