ISO 14001 FAQs
We get asked all sorts of questions about ISO 14001 Environmental Management System certification. We’ve taken the most common ISO 14001 FAQs and put them here with our answers.
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All ISO 14001 FAQs
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You don’t need to be an expert. All you need to do is understand your business and the impact you’re your activities have on the environment. If you follow the logical approach of ISO 14001, it will be quite straightforward. You should also check out our ISO 14001 webcast, the Guide to the Requirements of ISO 14001 and perhaps book yourself on a one day ISO 14001 Foundation Course. Of course, you can always use the services of an independent consultant from the ISOQAR Associate Network.
If you’re implementing the system yourself, then yes you do. To get an idea of what’s involved, and to help you interpret the standard in plain English, you should grab yourself a copy of Alcumus ISOQAR’s Guide to the Requirements of ISO 14001. It’s free.
As well as whatever sources of information you use for your own business sector, these are some of the main places to go:
- Environment Agency (England)
- Natural Resources Wales
- Scottish Environmental Protection Agency
- Department of Agriculture, Environment & Rural Affairs (Northern Ireland)
- Local authorities
- The Health and Safety Executive also enforce some environmental legislation
You must make sure you keep up to date on this.
Your Environmental Policy drives the EMS. It needs to be appropriate to your size, scope and ambitions. It must include things like: setting objectives, making a statement committing you to reducing environmental pollution and compliance with legal and other obligations. You can get the information on this within the standard itself. You can also search online for examples of an environmental policy – you will learn a lot from what other organisations are doing.
Far from it. There are many small businesses of fewer than five people with ISO 14001 certification. It’s a great marketing tool to make you stand out from the crowd and of course to help you win more business and grow.
Absolutely. If you have more than one ISO management system, or are thinking of adding another standard such as ISO 45001, you should look at combining them into an Integrated Management System (IMS).
You can share elements of the standards, like the Management Review, so that you can kill two birds with one stone. Your certification body can also audit integrated management systems at the same time, saving time and money.
It’s tempting to respond with “How long is a piece of string?” It depends not only on the size of the business – especially how many sites you have – but the complexity too. In an ideal world, an auditor would like to see that your system has been running for three months, but we do have cases of companies getting certified within six weeks from a standing start. An independent consultant can possibly help you get up and running quicker.
No! ISO systems are nothing like as bureaucratic as they were back in the day. In fact, ISO 14001 doesn’t even use the term ‘procedure’ because so many people always thought it meant ‘documented procedure’. You do NOT have to write everything down. You’re required to have ‘processes’, and in some cases they will have to be documented to work effectively (so in effect, it’s like a procedure) but it’s up to you to determine the extent to which they are needed, or documented. Just be aware that you do need to demonstrate that your EMS is functioning effectively.
The topic of ‘scope’ is one that often causes confusion. In this example: no, you would not need two different systems and certificates. It’s very rare for a single organisation to hold more than one certificate for the same standard. You would just need to ensure that your management system covers the appropriate sites and products that you want certifying. It’s obvious when you think about it, since one of the objectives of ISO management systems is to implement consistent standards across an organisation. Give us a call and we can advise on ‘scope’.
An ‘aspect’ relates to the activities, products and services that interact with the environment e.g. pollutants released into the air. The standard also refers to ‘significant’ environmental aspects but doesn’t define what it means. Generally, you can consider an impact is ‘significant’ if there are legal environmental requirements relating to it.
The ‘impact’ is the outcome of an aspect. For example, emissions to the air (the aspect) may result in warming (the impact).
You may consider ‘aspect and impact’ to be the equivalent of ‘cause and effect’.
Yes. Many organisations do this. It’s called an ‘extension to scope’ (ETS). It’s very easily done – you just need to expand your system to cover the additional sites and/or products you want to include. After a successful ISO 14001 audit, an amended certificate can be issued.
If you are a group of separate companies, then you’ll need separate certificates. But if you just have sites all over the world (but all within the same company), then as stated above, you can have one certificate.
When developing your EMS, you’ll have to establish your Environmental Policy and, like all other ISO management systems, you’re required to set out your goals and objectives (some of which may be contractual obligations to your customers). These should relate to your sustainability agenda overall. The whole purpose of your EMS is to help you achieve your objectives and goals – and, if you don’t achieve them, implement measures to put you back on track. ISO 14001 is arguably the single best way to organise yourselves to achieve your sustainability goals. See 6.2 of the Guide to the Requirement of ISO 14001 which explains this.
The ISO 50001 Energy Managment System is focused purely on improving energy performance and reducing its use. Like ISO 14001, it plays its part in tackling climate change and contributing to the sustainability agenda. It can help you reduce your costs.
There is some overlap between ISO 14001 and ISO 50001 given that energy use is obviously a major contributor to your overall environmental performance. But that’s the limit for ISO 50001 – its focus is on energy and nothing more, whereas ISO 14001 looks at every single ‘aspect’ of your operations – that is, everything that you do that impacts on the environment. ISO 50001 however does go into considerably more depth and if your organisation is a big energy consumer, you should definitely consider it.
Make sure your certificate is UKAS accredited
Not all certificates are equal. You need to make sure your certificate is issued by a body that has been accredited by the government-recognised United Kingdom Accreditation Service (UKAS).
A UKAS accredited certification body like ISOQAR undergoes regular rigorous inspections by UKAS to check we are operating to the highest standards.
This means that when you hold a certificate from a UKAS accredited body, you can be sure it’s more meaningful. Certificates that are issued by bodies which are not UKAS accredited are often not accepted.
UKAS accredited certificates are accepted across the world as evidence that you meet global standards of best practice.
What our clients say about Alcumus ISOQAR
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Nichol Maher - Environmental Health & Safety Manager - Chubb Systems
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