Things all SMEs need to know about the ISO 14001 revision

Things all SMEs need to know about the ISO 14001 revision


• ISO 14001:2015 transition deadline September 2018
• Changes focus on building environmental concerns into the core of the business whilst maximising business value.

1. New: High Level Structure (HLS)

Many companies have more than one ISO accreditation – eg. ISO9001 (Quality), ISO14001 (Environmental Management) and perhaps ISO18001 (Health and Safety). The new HLS is a standardized ISO management system structure designed to make it easier for companies to administer these multiple systems simultaneously. Starting with ISO 14001, this framework is intended for implementation throughout all future ISO management systems.

2. Leadership and Strategic Considerations

The new standard places requirements on leadership and top management to be accountable for environmental issues ie. It is no longer acceptable to delegate ISO14001 to ‘the Quality Person’ and consider it as ‘job done’. Operational implementation of the system can be delegated but accountability has to be with the top. For many SMEs this will be situation normal – it is very often the SME MD who personally drives the achievement and on-going accreditation process. In larger organisations however, this may prove more challenging.
On the strategic side companies will have to extend considerations from their impact on the environment to also thinking about the impact of the environment on the company. Eg. considering the long-term availability of raw materials, flood resilience strategies, etc.
The policy commitments requirements have been broadened from “prevention of pollution” to “protection of the environment” and there is also a requirement for integrating the EMS into other business processes – eg. alignment with the purchasing procedure.
Each of these things is designed to make environmental management more proactive and to bring it front and centre – a position it already often holds in an unstructured way in many SMEs.

3. Emphasis on Life Cycle and Supply Chains

The new standard extends the perspective beyond the immediate company to include the ‘supply chain’, and also the ‘product life cycle’. Accredited companies will need to demonstrate their consideration of the qualities of their supply chain (for example, as part of their ‘protection of the environment’ policy commitment) and also of the life-cycle impacts – in design, production, use and end-of-life stages.
Where SMEs are part of a longer supply chain for large enterprises providing information on life-cycle considerations is likely to become standard for products.

4. Back-up Monitoring Systems and Training/Awareness

There are some small but significant additional elements that relate to implementing the system itself – eg. the requirement to determine indicators for monitoring progress on objectives and the requirement for environmental information to be ‘reliable’ (ie. not a ‘guesstimate’). The standard also extends the training requirements from those who could have ‘significant’ impacts to those who can ‘affect’ environmental performance – a far wider grouping.

Of course, there are more changes to ISO 14001 that have not been mentioned above but these are just the 4 major ones that require SMEs to review:
1. Aspects and Impacts Register and linked Significance Rating Procedure.
2. How environmental considerations are aligned with internal strategic decision-making processes.
3. How life-cycle impacts can affect operational designs, production, use and end of life considerations.

This can be tackled by someone familiar with these changes but if you are looking for guidance on updating your EMS, we are happy to help you through the process. Please call or email me ( to ask questions or register your interest.


Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *