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In 18 months’ time, the revised version of the international standard for Environmental Management Systems, ISO 14001, will be published.  The changes are likely to have a major impact on organisations which are currently certified.

To date, Environmental Management Systems (EMS) have focussed on managing an organisation’s impact on the environment.  Part of the new standard will reverse this perspective to consider the impacts of the environment on the organisation, in terms of business risks and opportunities.

There is going to be a move away from ‘end of pipe’ environmental management methods. Policy commitments are to be broadened from pollution prevention to include sustainable resource use, climate change mitigation and adaptation, and protection of biodiversity and ecosystems.

The new structure will be aligned with other international standards which are also being revised, such as ISO 9001 for quality management. Certain terms such as ‘environmental impact’, ‘risk’ and ‘top management’ are expected to be redefined.


Other key changes to ISO 14001 are likely to include requirements for:

  • Integration of the EMS into core business processes and strategic planning;
  • More senior management involvement and restrictions on delegating responsibility for operating the EMS;
  • Considering the upstream and downstream environmental impacts of business decisions (a lifecycle perspective);
  • More transparent public communication of the EMS;


Drafts of the new standard are currently being reviewed; the final version is to be published in May 2015. It is expected that there will be a three year transition period from the date of publication to allow certified organisations to demonstrate that they can meet the new requirements.

The changes will affect almost 286,000 businesses worldwide which are currently certified to ISO 14001. The global market for the standard continues to grow – there was a 12% increase in the number of certified organisations in Europe between 2011 and 2012, whilst the highest growth rates were observed in the Middle East and Africa (21%).


The top 5 countries for ISO 14001 certification in 2012 were:

1. China – 91,590 (certificates)

2. Japan – 27,774

3. Italy – 19,705

4. Spain – 19,470

5. United Kingdom – 15,884


Source: Institute of Environmental Management and Assessment