ISO 14000 Environmental Management Standards (Archived Report)

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ISO 14000
Environmental Management Standards

James G. Barr

Copyright 2012, Faulkner Information
Services. All Rights Reserved.

Docid: 00017915
Publication Date: 1210
Report Type: STANDARD


The International Standards Organization
(ISO) launched an initiative to address environmental management in the early
1990s, adopting standards for Environment Management Systems (EMSs) known
collectively as ISO 14000. The series includes ISO 14001:2004, the base
standard for EMS compliance as certified by third-party audit bodies, and ISO
14004:2004, the general guidelines for EMSs. ISO
14000 addresses environmental management in a manner similar to the method
used by ISO 9000
to address quality management. The two standards are closely related and are
often worked toward and certified in the same time period. In essence, the
goal of ISO 14000 is to help businesses reduce their environmental footprint
and decrease pollution and waste. This report discusses the various
standards in the series, looks at competing standards, and takes a look at
future work involving ISO 14000.

Report Contents:

Executive Summary

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The International Standards Organization
(ISO) began to develop standards for Environment Management Systems (EMS) in the early
1990s with a goal of helping to understand, measure, and manage human impact
on the environment.

Related Faulkner Reports
ISO 9000 Quality Assurance

To address this goal, the ISO and the British
Standards Institution (BSI) developed a group of standards to sample, test,
and analyze environmental factors such as soil and water quality and air pollution. In
addition, the ISO continued to work on efforts to help businesses develop
new products and services that consider environmental factors, and developed
ISO 14001 to set a standard for organizations to be certified as ISO 14000
compliant. As with ISO 9001, the ISO does not do any certification or
compliancy tests, which are done by third-party audit bodies approved by the

ISO 14000 presents a model EMS. These
standards are one of only two process-based ISO standards. ISO 14000’s older
sibling, ISO 9000 is a Quality Management Model. There is a strong family
resemblance between the two models.

The "Global Greening" movement gained
strength during the first decade of the 21st century. It was fueled by the
public’s desire to decrease carbon footprint, the measure of environmental
impact as indicated by the amount of carbon released into the atmosphere by
a process or service. The movement was given a boost by increasing petrofuel
costs (which made seeking alternative energy sources economically viable), and
widely available credit for "Green" projects.

With the stock market decline and world-wide
recession of 2008, many experts predicted that companies would choose to
ignore environmental programs, but the Green movement seemed to pick up
momentum. Some of the Green programs being advertised were obviously an
effort to take advantage of the movement without any real change in
environmental policies. ISO 14000 certification can help to sort out those
businesses that are truly Green from those that pay lip service to
environmental consciousness.


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The ISO 14000 model includes two tasks:
establishment or enhancement of an EMS, and implementation of that EMS. Only
two of the more than 20 ISO 14000 standards, ISO 14001 and ISO 14004, directly apply
to establishing an EMS or enhancing an existing EMS. The remaining members
of the ISO 14000 family relate to Environmental Management tools and
measurements. Following
is a brief explanation of key ISO 14000 components.

ISO 14001:2004/Cor 1:2009. EMS specification to
which third-party organizations measure ISO 14000 conformance. ISO
14001:2004 requires each organization to prepare a policy statement pledging
its commitment to pollution prevention, continuous improvement of its EMS,
increased environmental performance, and compliance with all applicable
statutory and regulatory requirements. Briefly stated, ISO 14001
requirements include the following:

  • Conducting EMS audits.
  • Monitoring and measuring environmental performance of activities,
    products, and services and setting performance objectives.
  • Evaluating the environmental impact of activities, products, and
  • Providing environmental information on products and services through
    labeling and disclosures.
  • Identifying key environmental aspects and potential impacts.
  • Reporting on the EMS and environmental impacts of an organization.
  • Continually improving environmental consequences of operations.

Organizations do not necessarily need to be
in compliance with local, state, or environmental regulations to be
certified to ISO 14001, but programs must be implemented and show continual
improvement. The goodwill value of ISO 14001 certification, however, is
substantially diminished if the organization does not comply with local
pollution laws.

ISO 14004:2004. General guidelines for
Environmental Management Systems. The objectives of ISO 14004 include the

  • Establishing the guidelines for identifying key environmental aspects
    and potential impacts.
  • Defining the reporting methods for EMS related activities as well as
    the environmental impacts of the organization.

ISO 14005:2010.
Enables a phased implementation of an EMS, including the use of
environmental performance evaluation.

ISO 14006:2011. Provides guidelines on
eco-design much as the LEED accreditation does.

ISO 14015:2001. Environmental
Assessment of Sites and Organizations (EASO).

ISO 14020:2000. General principles for
development and use of environmental labels and declarations.

ISO 14021:1999/Amd 1:2011. Self-declared
environmental claims, Type II environmental labeling and declarations.

ISO 14024:1999. Principles and
procedures, Type I environmental labeling and declarations.

ISO 14025:2006. Principles and
procedures, Type III environmental labeling and declarations.

ISO 14031:1999. Performance evaluation
guidelines for Environmental Management.

ISO 14040:2006. Principles and
frameworks for lifecycle assessment for Environmental Management.

ISO 14044:2006. Requirements and
guidelines for lifecycle assessment for Environmental Management.

ISO 14045:2012. Eco-efficiency assessment of product systems –
principles, requirements, and guidelines.

ISO 14047:2012. Lifecycle impact
assessment for Environmental Management, examples of applications of ISO

ISO 14048:2002. Data documentation
format for lifecycle assessment for Environment Management.

ISO 14049:2012. Lifecycle assessment
for Environmental Management, examples of applications of ISO 14044.

ISO 14050:2009. Vocabulary of
Environmental Management.

ISO 14051:2011 – General framework for material
flow accounting of Environmental Management.

ISO 14062:2002. Product design and
development integrating environmental aspects.

ISO 14063:2006. Guidelines and
examples of communications in environmental management.

ISO 14064:2006-Parts1, 2, and 3. International Greenhouse Gas (GHG)
Accounting and Verification standards that support organization and
proponents of the reduction of GHGs. Part 1 addresses the organization
level, Part 2 addresses the project level, and Part 3 specifies guidelines
for validation and verification of GHG assertions.

ISO 14065:2007. Requirements for GHG validation and
verification bodies to use in accreditation or other forms of recognition.

ISO 14066:2011. Specifies competency requirements
for GHG validators and verifiers.

The ISO has global neutrality and
credibility. Self-regulating industries, even with the most honorable
intentions, find it difficult to remain neutral. Global industries find it
difficult to bring together unbiased representation from industries,
governments, and environmental groups. ISO’s Technical Committees (TCs)
comprise representatives from the global community, including industry,
government, and business. Businesses have stockholders, shareholders, and
bottom lines to satisfy. ISO has no stockholders or shareholders to
satisfy, and no bottom line to support.

ISO has a proven reputation for developing
standards that support the global community. Many of its product-specific
standards, such as ISO 888, which standardized the nominal length and thread
length of general purpose bolts, were developed to define very specific
standards. These types of standards fostered international commerce by
allowing products to be manufactured by one country and used in another. ISO’s process-specific standards, such as ISO 9000 for Quality
Management and ISO 14000 for Environmental Management, were intentionally
designed to be general and non-industry specific. By capturing the
least-common denominator, the standards can be applied to any organization
(Industry, Government, Business), large or small, in any sector, in any
corner of the world. ISO crosses international boundaries that other groups

Being recognized as ISO 14000-compliant
bolsters an organization’s public image as being environmentally conscious
and committed. The ISO family provides organizations with a model to serve
their shareholders, stockholders, and customers by providing quality
products and services while nurturing the earth’s ecosystem. It is important
to note that ISO 140000 compliance does not guarantee regulatory compliance.
Federal and local environmental statutes still apply.

The ISO environmental model, however, can
help reduce or even eliminate legal liabilities by showing a "good faith"
effort on the part of an enterprise. By providing a framework, the ISO 14000
family improves environmental performance and compliance not only to ISO
standards, but compliance to local regulations can easily be incorporated
into the model. An EMS can also bolster an organization’s bottom-line by
increasing efficiency. Organizations are better able to manage environmental
obligations and report on compliance in a clear, consistent, and repeatable
manner. Increased efficiency translates into potential cost savings.

Companies and organizations are able to
purchase the copyrighted standard from the following organizations:

  • International Organization for Standardization (ISO).
  • British Standards Institution (BSI).
  • American National Standards Institute (ANSI).
  • American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM).

Common Environmental Vision

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
issued its revised "Environmental Management System: An Implementation Guide
for Small and Medium Sized Organizations" guide in December of 2000. The
implementation issues come into play based on what EMS strategy is being
followed and by whom. The EPA endorsed 14001 in June 2002.

Organizations seeking to implement an EMS
should start with a common vision of what their environmental commitment
will be. The vision must be shared by people at all levels in the
organization. Awareness training and conditioning is beneficial in achieving
overall commitment to the goals and objectives of the organization’s EMS
plan. Effectively managing natural resource
expenditure is a key EMS objective. All members of the organization need to
understand natural resources are not an unlimited commodity. EMS initiatives
seek to satisfy the natural resource needs of today without undermining the
natural resource needs of tomorrow.

Lastly, providing feedback to individuals at
all levels is essential. Supporters, and every person in an organization,
need to understand what needs to be done and why. Interim reports on how
expected results compare to actual results also need to be
provided. Not only do these updates keep people in the loop, in most cases,
they are required by the EMS.

Financial Rewards and Fines

The financial impact of implementing an EMS,
specifically ISO 140001, versus not implementing an EMS is a key
consideration to many organizations teetering between establishing and
implementing or ignoring the whole concept of EMS.

One of the financial theories behind EMS
implementation is that the organization will run so efficiently that the
cost savings will be reward enough for undertaking the endeavor. While that
may be the case, in theory, trying to convince a company to invest in a
process without a clear understanding on what the Return on Investment would
be is difficult. Trying to pitch the idea to industries married to the
bottom line is doubly hard.

The US Government has implemented programs in recent years
that provide tax advantages and rebates for organizations and individual
citizens for adopting certain environmentally sound polices. These rebates
generally apply to construction of facilities to be compliant with all city,
state, and federal environmental goals and often require that alternate
forms of power be used. There are also rebates for energy-efficient
equipment that replaces power-hungry equipment. Many of these tax advantages
and rebates are under attack during trying economic times owing to the desire to
balance federal and state budgets. Whether or not there are government programs in place for
financial incentives, organizations can benefit from the public
perception of being a Green company.

While it is often hard to quantify the benefits from EMS
compliance, the EPA has levied fines and pursued legal action against
organizations that foul the environment. This kind of impact on the bottom
line are harmful to organizations in ways that go beyond the actual money
paid out. In some cases, the adverse publicity leads to more of a financial
impact that the fines or judgments alone.

More than anything else, the prize for EMS
implementation and compliance is a factor in goodwill toward the
organization. This goodwill is hard to measure, but bad media coverage of
polluters is damaging to any organization. Environmentally sound policies
make better business sense every year. As organizations show their
satisfaction with their EMS implementations, others are certain to follow

Competing Standards and

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While local, state, and federal jurisdictions – both nationally and
internationally – have enacted a wide variety of laws and regulations aimed at
advancing environmental management, and promoting socially-responsible
environmental behaviors, there are no environmental management "standards" that
truly compete with the ISO 14000 family.  

As of 2009, ISO 14001 had been adopted as a national
standard by more than half of the 160 national members of ISO, and its use is
encouraged by governments around the world.

In addition, ISO technical committee ISO/TC 207, which
is responsible for developing and maintaining the ISO 14000 family of standards,
has relationships with dozens of international organizations that serve as
liaison members to the technical committee.  These organizations include:

  • Asian Productivity Organization.
  • Confederation of European Paper Industries.
  • European Commission.
  • Environmental Defense Fund. 
  • International Chamber of Commerce.
  • International Institute for Sustainable Development.
  • International Iron and Steel Institute.
  • Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.
  • Sierra Club.
  • United Nations Environment Program.
  • World Business Council for Sustainable Development.
  • World Health Organization.
  • World Resources Institute.
  • World Trade Organization.

Current View

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In the near term, the evolution of ISO 14000 environmental standards will be
driven by the following environmental and business imperatives:

  1. As recognized from the initial development of
    the ISO 14000 standards, the need to integrate environmental management with
    quality management (ISO 9000).
  2. The need to emphasize – in some cases,
    re-emphasize – the importance of environmental management, especially in a
    "political environment" where climate change-deniers and other
    anti-environment advocates are gaining in influence.
  3. The need to endorse low-cost – or rapid payback – environmental
    management programs and techniques, particularly in the wake of a global
    economic recession. 

Future Directions

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ISO technical committee ISO/TC 207, Environmental management,
is responsible for developing and maintaining the ISO 14000 family of standards. 
This duty includes the routine revision of existing standards (to satisfy
changing environmental conditions and requirements), plus the development of new
standards (to reflect emerging environmental concerns).  At present,
several initiatives are in progress, including revisions to long-time ISO
standards 14001 and 14031, as well as the formulation of a new ISO standard,
14069, which involves the quantification and reporting of greenhouse gas

  • ISO/NP 14001. Environmental management
    systems — Requirements with guidance for use (Will revise ISO 14001:2004)
  • ISO/DIS 14031. Environmental management
    — Environmental performance evaluation — Guidelines (Will  revise ISO
  • ISO/DTR 14069. Greenhouse gases (GHG) — Quantification and
    reporting of GHG emissions for organizations (Carbon footprint of
    organization) — Guidance for the application of ISO 14064-1 (New)

Web Links

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American National Standards Institute:
American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM):
Environmental Protection Agency:
Global Environment & Technology Foundation:
International Organization for Standardization:
Environmental Law Institute:

About the Author

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James G. Barr is a leading business continuity analyst and

business writer with more than 30 years’ IT experience.  A member of

"Who’s Who in Finance and Industry," Mr. Barr has designed,

developed, and deployed business continuity plans for a number of Fortune

500 firms.  He is the author of several books, including How to

Succeed in Business BY Really Trying, a member of Faulkner’s Advisory

Panel, and a senior editor for Faulkner’s Security Management

Practices.  Mr. Barr can be reached via e-mail at

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