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July 17, 2015

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Getting set for ISO 14001, and ready for ISO 45001

By Greg Roberts and Mike Shaw

The revised version of ISO 14001, the international standard for Environmental Management Systems (EMS), will be published in September 2015. Greg Roberts, Manager of Sustainability and Mike Shaw, Senior Manager of Health & Safety (H&S) at Ramboll Environ, look at the changes and explore how it will align with the new ISO management system standard for occupational H&S, ISO 45001, being planned for publication in 2016.

Change is coming

ISO 14001:2015 is significant for H&S practitioners largely because so many also have responsibility for the EMS. Secondly, ISO 14001:2015, like ISO 9001:2015, will follow the same high level ISO standard structure, allowing for greater integration. What this means in practice is that organisations can have a head start on ISO 45001 by considering it in their ISO 14001 transition plans.

The main changes

Although ISO 45001 will come a year after ISO 14001, we already know that some of the conceptual changes will be consistent with the other standards. This is because all new or revised ISO management system standards have to follow a defined high level structure. ISO 45001 is still at the committee draft stage and is likely to change, so it is useful to look at the ISO 14001 standard, which is almost finalised.

There are five main changes between the 2015 version and its predecessor:

  1. Strategic leadership: Cross-functional senior managers will need to promote and be accountable for the EMS, ensuring it achieves its intended outcomes. Your EMS should be integrated with your other business processes and be compatible with your strategy so that decisions are made with consideration for the environment at all levels.
  2. Strategic context: You will be expected to demonstrate a broader understanding of the context in which you operate and ensure your EMS responds to this in order to meet its intended outcome – which is the overall goal of your EMS. This requires understanding of your organisation’s direction, culture and resources, and external influences – political, economic, social, technological, environmental and legal. The new standard flips the question, “what’s your impact on the environment?” to also consider the impact of the environment on you, for example climate change and resource scarcity.
  3. Interested party analysis and communication: Your EMS will need to become more outward looking by understanding the needs and expectations of your interested parties or stakeholders (customers, local communities, regulators etc.) You will need to plan communication relevant to these requirements. Robust monitoring, measurement and internal auditing processes are needed to provide reliable communication.
  4. Risks and opportunities: There are three principal sources of risks and opportunities; environmental aspects, compliance obligations and other issues. You will be required to assess and address these sources for risks and opportunities in order for your EMS to be successful.
  5. Lifecycle perspective: You should determine environmental aspects at each stage of your product or service’s lifecycle, for example acquisition of raw materials, design, production, transportation/delivery, use, end of life treatment and final disposal, and not just those relating to on-site activities. You should consider including environmental requirements at the design stage and during procurement, as well as providing information about potential significant environmental impacts with products and services.

Not all details relating to the above changes will be common to ISO 45001 but the high level structure concepts of leadership, context, interested parties and risks and opportunities will apply. The term ‘lifecycle perspective’ may not be explicit in ISO 45001, but the idea of considering risks and opportunities relating to your business or value chain will at least be implied.

Taking the first step

Organisations should be encouraged to start their transition early. With a clear plan and the appropriate time, transition will be effective and efficient. Conversely, a lack of preparation and the loss of your ISO 14001 certificate cannot be ruled out. Starting out early will also help you to integrate ISO 45001 into your thinking, rather than tackling each independently.

You will have three years to be certified to the revised version and one of your first steps should be to establish when your next recertification audit is due and decide whether to be recertified to the 2004 or 2015 version. In theory, an organisation could be certified to the 2004 version in 2018. However, this is likely to increase audit costs and the time needed as they would then need to be recertified to the 2015 standard before September 2018.

Arguably, leadership commitment is the requirement which will take the longest to implement. Start early by building awareness of the changes with senior management, for example by raising it at management meetings and ISO 14001 management review meetings. One way of securing buy-in is to reevaluate the business case for ISO 14001 – what benefit has it delivered and what more could it bring? After all, drivers such as climate change and resource scarcity are likely to have emerged since the certificate was first awarded. Become familiar with business processes, for example, risk management, mission, vision, values and project sign off, as this will assist you to integrate the EMS.

Another way to develop engagement with top management is to recognise and publicise your environmental achievements, including those which may fall outside of the EMS because they were cost or customer driven. Remember that awareness raising should not be confined to one or two functions, as the revised ISO 14001 demands cross-functional input. When routinely reviewing documents, consider ISO 14001: 2015 and make changes now rather than wait.

Better together

It can be advantageous to integrate your approach to meeting the ISO 14001 with that of ISO 45001. For example:

  • Your approach to undertaking a context review is likely to be the same regardless of the standard. You could conduct a workshop for senior managers to determine context and then relate it to each management system.
  • You could identify interested parties and then decide which are relevant to each management system before determining their requirements.
  • Any engagement with top management could cover more than one standard, rather than doing each in isolation.
  • Risks and opportunities assessment processes could cover environment and H&S.

Regardless of the exact approach taken, it makes little sense to tackle these two standards in complete isolation. Not only can time be saved but the overall integration will provide more robust and intuitive systems.

Greg Roberts is an environmental practitioner who sits on the ISO Technical Committee and is responsible for developing guidance on the new standard (ISO 14004). Mike Shaw is a chartered H&S practitioner and leads Ramboll Environ’s H&S risk consultancy practice in the UK.

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