NOTE from Marc on 4 July 2007: The below is Cut and Pasted from the ISO site linked to within the body of the text:
Look at the ISO 14000 FAQ's:
What is ISO?
ISO (International Organization for Standardization) is a worldwide federation of national standards bodies, at present comprising 127 members, one in each country. The object of ISO is to promote the development of standardization and related activities in the world with a view to facilitating international exchange of goods and services, and to developing cooperation in the spheres of intellectual, scientific, technological and economic activity. The results of ISO technical work are published as International Standards. (Source: ISO, ISO Memento 1998. France: 1998)
What is ISO 14000?
ISO 14000 is a series of international, voluntary environmental management standards. Developed under ISO Technical Committee 207, the 14000 series of standards address the following aspects of environmental management:
- Environmental Management Systems (EMS)
- Environmental Auditing & Related Investigations (EA&RI)
- Environmental Labels and Declarations (EL)
- Environmental Performance Evaluation (EPE)
- Life Cycle Assessment (LCA), and
- Terms and Definitions (T&D)
What are the principles behind the ISO 14000 standards?
The ISO 14000 standards are being developed with the following key principles in mind:
- They must result in better environmental management
- They must be applicable in all nations
- They should promote the broad interests of the public and the users of the standards
- They should be cost effective, non-prescriptive, and flexible, to allow them to meet the differing needs of organizations of any size worldwide
- As part of their flexibility, they should be suitable for internal or external verification
- They should be scientifically based
- And above all, they should be practical, useful and useable
How do I obtain copies of the ISO 14000 standards?
Final published copies of ISO 14000 standards and related documents can be obtained from your respective National Standards Association (ISO Member Body). They are normally the primary ISO sales agent in their country. For people in countries whose national standards association is not an ISO member body, ISO 14000 documents can be obtained directly from the ISO Central Secretariat.
What is an Environmental Management System (EMS)?
An environmental management system (EMS) is a systematic approach to dealing with the environmental aspects of an organization. It is a 'tool' that enables an organization of any size or type to control the impact of its activities, products or services on the natural environment. The ISO 14001 standard "Environmental management systems--Specification with guidance for use" is the standard within the ISO 14000 series that specifies the requirements of an environmental management system.
What are the benefits of an EMS?
- Assuring customers of commitment to demonstrable environmental management
- Maintaining good public/community relations
- Satisfying investor criteria and improving access to capital
- Obtaining insurance at reasonable cost
- Enhancing image and market share
- Meeting vendor certification criteria
- Improving cost control
- Reducing incidents that result in liability
- Demonstrating reasonable care
- Conserving input materials and energy
- Facilitating the attainment of permits and authorizations
- Fostering development and sharing environmental solutions
- Improving industry-government relations
What are the key elements of an ISO 14001 EMS?
The key elements of an ISO 14001 EMS are:
- the environmental policy and the requirements to pursue this policy via objectives, targets, and environmental programs
- the analysis of the environmental aspects of the organization (including its processes, products and services as well as the goods and services used by the organization);
Implementation and operation
- implementation and organization of processes to control and improve operational activities that are critical from an environmental perspective (including both products and services of an organization)
Checking and corrective action
- checking and corrective action including the monitoring, measurement, and recording of the characteristics and activities that can have a significant impact on the environment
- review of the EMS by the organization's top management to ensure its continuing suitability, adequacy and effectiveness
- the concept of continual improvement is a key component of the environmental management system; it completes the cyclical process of plan, implement, check, review and continually improve.
Are the ISO 14000 standards 'organization' or 'product' oriented?
The standards in the ISO 14000 series fall into two major groups: organization-oriented standards, and product-oriented standards. The organization-oriented standards provide comprehensive guidance for establishing, maintaining and evaluating an environmental management system (EMS). They are also concerned with other organization-wide environmental systems and functions.
The product-oriented standards are concerned with determining the environmental impacts of products and services over their life cycles, and with environmental labels and declarations. These standards will help an organization gather information it needs in order to support its planning and decisions, and to communicate specific environmental information to consumers and other interested parties.
What is the difference between EMAS and the ISO 14000 standards?
The ISO 14000 standards are voluntary instruments, reflecting input from a variety of interested parties worldwide, which are intended for use in countries at all stages of economic development, under a wide range of governmental systems. The Eco-Management and Audit Scheme (EMAS) is a regulation, developed to meet the needs and expectations of governments, citizens and consumers in the EU Member States. Because EMAS has legal status within Member States, it can take a more prescriptive approach to environmental management issues; the ISO 14000 standards, by contrast, rely on voluntary acceptance by all interested parties, and therefore must maintain a balance between the needs and expectations of each of these parties. Another important difference is that EMAS currently applies primarily to manufacturing industries. The ISO standards apply to all types of organizations - even those not considered to be "businesses", for example, government offices.
What is the scope of each of TC 207's subcommittees?
SC1: Environmental Management Systems
Standardization in the field of environmental management systems.
SC2: Environmental Auditing and Related Environmental Investigations
Standardization in the field of environmental auditing and related environmental investigations.
SC3: Environmental Labelling
Standardization in the field of environmental labelling, including first-party practices (self-declaration/claims), and guiding principles for third party certification programs (private and government).
SC4: Environmental Performance Evaluation
Standardization in the field of environmental performance evaluation for use by organizations to measure, assess and communicate their environmental performance for appropriate management purposes.
SC5: Life Cycle Assessment
Standardization in the field of life cycle assessment as a tool for environmental management of product and service systems. It encompasses the assessment of impacts on the environment from the extraction of raw materials to the final disposal of waste.
TCG: Terms and Definitions
Coordination of terms and definitions between ISO/TC 207 subcommittees and other committees and relevant organizations. Development of a comprehensive International Standard on terms and definitions within Environmental Management.
What is the Chair's Advisory Group?
The operation of TC 207 is guided by the ISO Directives, a set of three books covering different aspects of standards development. In addition to the structure laid out in the directives, TC 207 has chosen to establish a Chair's Advisory Group. This group does not make decisions for the TC, but rather identifies issues, holds preliminary discussions on how to address them, and through the Chair, makes recommendations to the TC.
The membership of the CAG includes:
- TC 207 Chair & Secretary
- All TC 207/SC Chairs and Secretaries
- 10 Rotating member countries with two year terms
What are the main implementation issues for the ISO 14000 standards?
Although TC 207 was created to develop standards, it would be remiss if it did not look beyond the published standards to their use and influence in the marketplace.
TC 207 has taken several initiatives to help ensure that the standards do what they were designed to do, and that they meet the needs of all of their intended users, including small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) and businesses in developing countries. In fact, TC 207 is placing increasing emphasis meeting the needs of these organizations. These make up the vast majority of businesses in the world, and their use of the ISO 14000 standards is essential to the success of the series.
Effective implementation of the standards will depend on a number of factors, among them:
- clear communication of the purpose and scope of the documents to users and the public;
- acceptance and use of the standards in developing countries;
- creating a mechanism for improving trade; and;
- consistent and reliable conformity assessment mechanisms to support ISO 14001 certification
How does TC 207 communicate the purpose & scope of the ISO 14000 standards to users and the public?
Communication has always been a part of the TC's work, but now, with the first standards published and being used, this function is becoming even more important. Many of the ISO 14000 Series standards are at the cutting edge of environmental management, and there is a potential for misunderstanding of the TC's role and products - by the public, and by potential users of the standards. Interested parties of all types - businesses, governments, and members of the public, among others - may need help in understanding the management standards approach, especially if they are familiar only with traditional safety, performance and technical specification standards. While the ISO member bodies are ultimately responsible for communication in their respective countries, the TC is also working to facilitate communication of its work and its standards.
TC 207 provides information and updates on its activities through frequent communiqués.
How are Small & Medium sized Enterprises (SME's) and Developing countries affected by the ISO 14000 standards?
ISO member bodies in many developing countries recognized early on the potential significance of the ISO 14000 series, and have been active participants in the standards development process. This participation, combined with TC 207's efforts to meet the similar concerns of Small and Medium Sized Enterprises (SMEs), has had important effects on the overall shape and focus of the core EMS standards in the ISO 14000 series.
By encouraging participation in TC 207 and its subcommittees by representatives of these groups, and through consultation with other experts, TC 207 has considered the particular requirements of these groups and incorporated them into the core EMS documents. However, to be truly responsive to the needs of SMEs and developing countries, TC 207 will continue to listen, and to encourage participation by those who may not have the resources to otherwise have their voices heard. This is particularly important in the current implementation phase of the ISO 14000 EMS and environmental auditing standards.
TC 207 has encouraged developing country participation; but lacking its own financial resources, it has had to rely on the assistance of several countries that, beyond recognizing the importance of broad participation of developing countries in the TC, have donated funds to support this participation. These donations have been coordinated by ISO/DEVCO (Policy Development Committee).
DEVCO is also working to facilitate implementation of the standards in developing countries. It recognizes that countries need to have a standardization infrastructure in place, and clear, accurate information should be available for potential users. DEVCO has worked with TC 207 to develop a manual on environmental management, and has initiated a seminar program to build the capacity of developing countries to use and support the standards.
Meanwhile, TC 207's SC 1 has undertaken an initiative to help the TC to better meet the needs of SMEs worldwide, as they implement and use the ISO 14001 and ISO 14004 standards. SC 1 has assigned a project team to gather information on the needs of SMEs in this area.
What are the trade issues associated with the ISO 14000 standards?
The intent of environmental management standards has been to develop a common language for environmental issues, so that customers, manufacturers, governments and other organizations can be assured that environmental issues have been taken into account in the activities and products of their trading partners.
However, TC 207 is also aware that standards can be used to limit trade - a fact recognized by the World Trade Organization when it set limits on the use of "non-tariff barriers" to trade. Environmental issues are highly regulated in many countries, and there are pressures in some areas to use regulations, as well as national and regional standards, to exclude goods and services on environmental grounds. On the commercial level, environmentally-related expectations and requirements of purchasers can have a significant effect on purchasing decisions, and can also affect trade.
By concentrating on management standards, and by emphasizing guidance over strict specifications in its documents, TC 207 has tried to create a positive mechanism for improving trade, while encouraging improvements in environmental performance. Its challenge now is to help ensure that the standards are used as intended, and not as a barrier to trade.
What is conformity assessment and how does it relate to the ISO 14000 standards?
Conformity assessment is a general term that covers any situation in which a person or an organization tries to determine if the requirements of a standard are being met. In the case of a management system standard such as the ISO 14001 EMS specification, conformity assessment by an accredited third party is the basis for the "certification" or "registration" of an organization to the standard.
As with the ISO 9000 standards, the value of an ISO 14001 certification depends on the confidence that others have in the body that performs the certification, and in the process it uses. There must be some assurance that the certification was performed rigorously and fairly. This confidence is provided through the process of accreditation - that is, the recognition that a certifying body is qualified to do the work.
Although TC 207 is not directly responsible for establishing a conformity assessment system to support certification to its ISO 14001 standard, we are both monitoring and participating in international efforts in this area. Much of this work is taking place through CASCO, the ISO Committee on Conformity Assessment. In 1996, CASCO formed an EMS working group, whose mandate includes developing general requirements for bodies operating assessment and certification/registration for environmental management systems. At present, the group is working on a guide that will lay out requirements for certification bodies and for the certification process.
What is the relationship between conformity assessment for environmental management standards and government regulation?
Many governments are beginning to recognize the limits to "command and control" environmental regulation, and some have expressed interest in environmental management standards as a complement to regulation. While some governments have taken a "hands off" approach, and have let the marketplace itself promote the use of these standards, other governmental bodies have tried to form links between voluntary standards and mandatory regulation.
ISO 14001 requires organizations to establish and maintain procedures to:
- identify and have access to relevant legislation and regulations.
- ensure that its legislative records are applicable to its business activities.
- ISO 14001 also provides the ideal management structure to centrally store and maintain permits, licenses, authorizations, etc.
They do so without infringing on national sovereignty or inhibiting the ability to compete. Standards have the potential to reduce regulation-making and enforcement burden on governments, as the cost of both development and conformity assessment is borne by the private sector.