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Informational Companies with No SIGNIFICANT Environmental Aspects - ISO 14001

John Broomfield

Staff member
Super Moderator

After determining all of the activities and by-products that could have and adverse or beneficial impact on the environment no matter what the organization does it will have some environmental aspects that are more significant in their impacts when compared with the others.

The most significant aspects can then influence the setting of objectives and targets and the operational controls.

Companies can draw their line of significance at whatever level of environmental impact they want. Normally I advise drawing the line fairly high at first to focus on limiting adverse impacts and increaing beneficial impacts.

One of each is advisable so client is not just doing less that is bad but also more that is good for the environment.

Having used the management system to achieve the earlier objectives the line of significance can be drawn lower and lower. Indeed, in a mature system this would be welcome evidence of continual improvement.

I cannot imagine a day when all that we do has no adverse or beneficial impact on the environment.



Hi all,

New member here - though it would be better to post in an existing thread in the first instance (even one that hasn't been active for a few years!) so apologies if it would be more appropriate to start a new thread. I may start a more general thread too, but this seems like an appropriate place for this particular question.

I work at a small (<15 people) office-based company. We're currently in the process of implementing an Environmental Management System which we hope can be certified to ISO 14001. This has been on the cards for a number of years but has always been pushed back in favour of other work so I'm trying to tie everything together to finally get the EMS in place.

This thread is of particular interest because, on the points scoring system we are using (which has come from a template, so the score thresholds were not defined by us) we have no significant environmental impacts. However, there are still a few things that we would like to improve on. So, in our procedure for defining significant aspects, I've added some text to say that even if an aspect is not formally deemed significant, we may still decide to have an aspect control sheet (and associated objectives and improvement programme) if we feel we can reduce our impact in relation to that aspect. So, things like reducing electricity consumption or encouraging people to cycle to work.

I'm now going through the Standard to check we're covered on everything and arrive at clause 4.5.1 for having a monitoring and measurement procedure for your significant aspects. My question is, do you think I need a formal procedure for this, given that the aspects which we're going to try and improve are not formally significant in our system? In reality, the only really quantifiable aspect we're going to have is electricity usage, so is it proportionate for me to have a write a procedure for for contacting the office service company to obtain our meter readings and recording them on a spreadsheet? I'm trying to keep things simple to start with. so I don't want to have to create additional paperwork whilst the System is still in the early stages and just bedding in.

Any advice much appreciated. And as an aside, stumbling across this website has been a massive help – its incredibly useful to see the opinions of others who are actually Environmental Managers rather than having to try and interpret the guidance on my own.



Super Moderator
Super Moderator
Congrats on your first post 5battenburg5 and welcome! :bigwave:

Without knowing all the details of your company or the template, why can't you simply change the thresholds? This will then identify those "significant" items. The template was designed to be generic and just because it works for one company does not mean that it will work for all.

It's also part of continual improvement - as processes become more stable (and improved), what was once significant may end up "losing" that designation, and you can now focus on the next big item(s).


Thanks RCBeyette.

Adjusting the thresholds is certainly an option. We currently have two aspects - electricity usage and waste - which are just below being significant so adjusting the banding slightly would change the category on those. I suppose it's a case of what's significant to us, and in the grand scheme of what we do then these would be the most significant things.

I've just started a new thread which explains a bit more about the company I work at and a few of the issues I'm encountering. Any additional advice or info much appreciated!

John Broomfield

Staff member
Super Moderator

I understand you have put your aspects through an off-the-shelf tool for determining significance.

The tool's default criteria for determining significance may be set for organizations that pollute more than yours.

You should input your own criteria for determining significance and do not forget your aspects with beneficial impacts.

Then you will have a logical force for setting objectives, targets, controls and improvements in accordance with your environmental policy.


Helmut Jilling

Auditor / Consultant
Just to be clear, it is the expectation of ISO 14001 that each company identify those aspects which are more significant than others, as part of continual improvement. ANAB wrote an Accreditation Rule 7 which addresses this, and there are several guidance documents as well. Otherwise, the system would be rather stagnant.


Poh S. Lim (Minuteman Resources Pte Ltd)
Sadly, my experience echoes this point of view.

The extortion tactics of some customers to require formal registration by their suppliers as a condition of doing business is absolutely deplorable.

Worse, the formal registration doesn't guarantee a better supplier, only a bitter one.
Wes, I absolutely agree with you, it only make sense to flow the requirement for need of ISO 14001 down to suppliers who would most likely have significant aspects that affect the environment, not one where the aspects are negligible such as a two man accounting firm. Having said that, getting certified to a standard has always been voluntary and if an unreasonable customer is trying to compel a company to become certified where it does not make sense to obtain certification, I would say that the company is probably better off not doing business with such an unreasonable customer.
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