What is ISO 14001 and do you need it?

hands holding soil

What is ISO 14001 and do you need it?

If you want to approach your environmental performance in a holistic manner, ISO 14001 might be right for you

hands holding soil
UNSPLASH, GABRIEL JIMENEZ

What is ISO 14001?

A growing number of businesses care passionately about the planet and want to ensure their business practices not only don’t cause harm but actively contribute to the restoration of the environment.

ISO 14001 is a set of standards that can take that good intention and help make it a reality. The certification is ‘an internally agreed standard that sets out the requirements for an environmental management system’ – with the goal being effective action. 

‘It’s a tool that supports advancement, continual improvement,’ said Kevin McKinley, Acting ISO Secretary-General. ‘The standard itself has gained recognition through use in organisations as a self-improvement tool. It’s also gained prominence through third-party recognition, through certification. We now have more than 300,000 certificates for 14001 globally – a sign of its impact and a sign of its uptake.’

An environmental management system outlines your business’s holistic approach to managing, monitoring and controlling your environmental impact. It doesn’t matter what type of business you are, how big or small, or what sector you operate in. ISO 14001 works for all organisations wanting to better manage their impact. 

ISO 14001 can help your business manage everything from ‘air pollution, water and sewage issues, waste management, soil contamination, climate change mitigation and adaptation, and resource use and efficiency’. 

Like most of the other certifications available to businesses, this is meant to be an iterative process. You establish your current operations, set goals and work toward continual improvements year on year. 

What are the benefits of ISO 14001 for my business?

We’ve seen huge shifts recently in public opinion, investor expectations and governmental legislations when it comes to protecting the environment and fighting climate change. According to feedback from businesses that have implemented ISO 14001, the certification can help you:

  • Meet any legal requirements currently in place and comply with future regulations
  • Engage employees at all levels in the business on meeting environmental targets
  • Protect your reputation and meet the evolving expectations of all your stakeholders
  • Ensure your environmental objectives are incorporated into you business strategy 
  • Give you a competitive and financial advantage  through realising efficiencies and improving performance
  • Helping your suppliers improve their environmental impact as they comply with your standards

‘The environmental context now is challenging,’ said Kevin. ‘We see a lot of difficult discussions on climate change. We see a lot of challenges for organisations to meet expectations of policy makers related to water utilisation, related to energy usage – these are big challenges. 

‘Challenges that are reflected as well in the views of their stakeholders, of shareholders – the expectation that organisations will steward the environment and perform according to what they believe is appropriate in a modern organisation.’

How do I get started with ISO 14001? 

If you’d like to learn more about whether ISO 14001 is right for you and your business, check out the website and the resources available there. Then it’s as simple as following these three steps: 

  1. Define what you want to achieve and how it fits into the strategic objectives of the business
  2. Gain support from your senior leadership team and help them understand why it’s so important to take this step
  3. Build a network from within the business that can help you understand the processes and systems relevant to your environmental impact