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What is ISO14001?

The ISO14001 international standard for Environmental Management Systems (EMS) – Requirements was revised by the ISO in 2015. ISO14001 specifies the requirements that your EMS will need to meet in order for your organization to become certified to the standard. The requirements in ISO14001 are supplemented by guidance contained in Annex A of the standard and ISO14004. The latter is well worth reading as it fills in some of the gaps in understanding how the requirements in ISO14001 should be met and gives more clues about what the auditor may be looking for.

How does implementing an EMS benefit an organization?

There are many reasons why a business should implement ISO14001 to improve environmental performance, such as:

  • Reduced costs by implementing more efficient energy and waste management processes.
  • Improve company reputation – especially in recent times customers and stakeholders are looking for more environmental sustainability within organizations.
  • Achieve strategic business aims by incorporating environmental issues into business management.
  • Implementing an EMS will make your business more sustainable and help preserve the world’s resources.

What is an EMS?

When looking at environmental management, the emphasis is usually on the procedures used to manage the environmental impact of its business activities and reduce the risk of pollution.

The function of the EMS is to wrap itself around the procedures and ensure (among other things) that:

  1. We know what it is that the procedures are supposed to achieve (objectives).
  2. We understand the environmental impact of what we do (aspects and impacts assessment).
  3. We have thought about what could go wrong (risk and opportunity assessment).
  4. Everyone knows their part in operating the processes (roles, responsibilities and authorities).
  5. This is the way we do things (leadership and commitment).
  6. We update the procedures when things change (management review).
  7. The procedures get better over time (continual improvement).

What does the ISO14001 standard consist of?

The ISO14001 standard consists of a number of major headings which will be common across other standards and which are:

  1. Scope
  2. Normative references
  3. Terms and definitions
  4. Context of the organization
  5. Leadership
  6. Planning
  7. Support
  8. Operation
  9. Performance evaluation
  10. Improvement

Sections 1 to 3 don’t contain any requirements and so an organization wouldn’t be audited against those. They are worth a read, however, as they provide some useful background to what the standard is about and how it should be interpreted. Section 0 is the introduction to the standard.

Sections 4 to 10 set out the compulsory requirements of the standard. The auditing process is to check whether all of the requirements are being met by the organization. Requirements are not optional and if they are not being met then a nonconformity will be raised by the auditor, and the organization will need to address it to gain or keep their certification to the standard.

How to become ISO14001 certified

There’s no obligation to go for certification to ISO14001 and many organizations choose to simply use the standard as a set of good practice principles to guide them along the way to running their business in an environmentally friendly way. The steps to certification include:

  1. Become compliant to the standard by working through the policies and procedures within the standard and applying them to your organization’s practices.
  2. Perform an internal audit to highlight any nonconformities before the external audit. We advise an internal audit to be completed by an independent third-party auditor or an impartial qualified auditor within your organisation.
  3. This is the final external audit to achieve certification by an accredited Registered Certification Body (RCB). This is not a requirement, but is recommended as certification validates your ISO14001 compliance.

How can CertiKit help?

Our ISO14001 toolkit is an effective way to put an EMS in place quickly and achieve certification to the standard. Our toolkit comes with 12 months of updates and support, helping you get your organization to certification fast. You can download a free sample document to begin your environmental compliance journey today!

Over 3000 businesses have purchased our toolkits


The toolkit is well laid out, clearly written and easy to adapt. I like the fact that it is compliant to the standard as a start point. This is difficult to achieve considering the diversity of organisations it is covering.


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