The Final Draft of ISO 14001:2015 has raised some important points, which may go unnoticed and which may need to be discussed. They form a personal interpretation of the revision that has developed as I have been updating course content, attending certification body meetings and conducting certification audits.
The requirements of the standard should be viewed from a holistic perspective.
Whilst this could be said of any management system that builds its effectiveness from a set of requirements, elements or clauses, it is particularly important for the 2015 version.
This means that individual sentences are unlikely to give a clear perspective of what this new standard requires. Don’t isolate one topic and then dwell upon it to the exclusion of others. There is a need to link one element to another where this is appropriate.
Management of Change is becoming more important as a concept.
It is already well known within more advanced and larger organisations that managing change is an important process. Now ISO 14001 has included reference to it within at least 5 elements. These days business is always changing and expectations of interested parties, environmental aspects and compliance obligations are clear examples that need to be continually tracked.
Documentation and Terminology
Some auditors and consultants may encourage you to make wholesale changes to your management system as a result of the introduction of ISO14001:2015. However that approach may only be necessary if the EMS was already in need of revision.
The new standard states that there is no requirement to replace terminology or change your current clause structure within your EMS. You can still use words such as record or manual even though the standard now actually refers to them as “documented information”. There is an encouraging informality about the requirements and expectations of ISO 14001:2015 that has possibly been missing within the 2 earlier versions.
Clarification of terms and definitions
It is always important to have a clear understanding of particular phrases and words. Better to hone your understanding of the requirements during EMS implementation rather than a stand-off during a certification audit due to misinterpretation of some phrase or terminology. The need for understanding the elements of the new standard is paramount, for example “consider” means an issue can be thought about, and then excluded but the phrase “take into account” means it cannot be excluded. These and many other twists and turns will need to be clarified whilst the EMS evolves to meet the new standard.