The ink is dry(ing) on the revision of ISO 14001:2015. “Is the payoff worth the price



The work of writing the new standard is done. Over the summer countries involved in helping to develop the international standard to promote robust, credible and reliable environmental management systems will be reviewing the Final Draft International Standard (the FDIS) and deciding if it meets agreed to operating principles and other technical criteria of importance to their market.
There are many changes in this revision. Some of these include:
 the new framework based on Annex SL, often referred to as the ‘HLS’ or high level structure,
 risk-based thinking (not risk assessment),
 life cycle thinking (not life cycle assessment)
 a stronger connection to the core strategy of the ‘business’ (whether for or not-for profit, public or private sector)
 the implication of prevention action versus an explicit requirement
 deleted terms and definitions, new and modified ones
There are clauses that users, who have reviewed the draft, have said are a definite value-add to their EMS, such as the section on leadership, and the tie to core strategy.
This revision was not an easy process given the number of changes; the new standard is not perfect. It is important to remember that a standard is the product of negotiation, which strives for consensus; most words are a compromise of concepts and various languages.
It is important in any standard to preserve flexibility balanced with audit certainty. Some clauses are evidence that this was a struggle; there is a clear advantage for those that were in the room during the negotiations who were privy to the rationale behind the compromises made. Due to some of these weaknesses, many countries are also considering additional support mechanisms. Some countries are already busy writing their own interpretation guidance, understandable when English is not the first language for all. Even when a version of the ‘King’s English’ (or Queen’s) is the official language, there are regional variations and local connotations; <<we’re Canadian, eh>>.
National committees will be busy for at least two years providing formal interpretations when users, consultants, auditors and registrars seek clarification of a new concept or clause, which they view as ambiguous. Some clauses have not added requirements but have rewritten them to align with the HLS. Also, given changes in terms and definitions, with some requirements are now ‘implied’, whereas they used to be explicit, some users will be sorely challenged.
Understanding how to benefit from the new framework and the new requirements can be useful when considering the suitability of the standard and how it can meet the needs of the organization. There will be a webinar on June 24th, if anyone is interested information is on E2M's website at
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