ISO 14001:2015 Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Wondering how to get ISO 14001:2015 certification? When should you start your organisation’s transition to the new 2015 version of the ISO 14001 environmental management system standard? Answers to those common questions and many others below.

What is the first thing that ISO 14001:2004 certified organisations should be doing?

Firstly, remember that the three-year transition deadline for ISO 14001:2015 is September 2018.  The clock is ticking – more than a year has already passed on the transition timeline, so don’t risk your existing ISO 14001 certification by waiting any longer to begin your transition journey.

In parallel, research and read the communications from ISO and LRQA to understand the proposed transition guidance.  ISO has published transition guidance, as well as guidance for the interpretation and implementation of ISO 14001:2015.

Then, have a look at how your organisation already manages your existing environmental or integrated management system.  You should already begin thinking about an outline plan, and timings for when and how you will review your management system to understand how well it relates to the new areas within ISO 14001:2015.

Also, consider how your key stakeholders’ knowledge and skills may need to be developed to help your organisation through the changes, and if they might benefit from third-party training from LRQA.

Is it too late to be thinking about ISO 14001:2015 training?

It’s never too late.  In fact, training is typically a good place to start rolling out your transition plan, to deliver a common organisation-wide understanding around the new standard, and to obtain buy-in from your top management.

During the planning process, you may also find that training for yourself, and your key people involved in the management system, might be necessary in order to upgrade existing expertise and techniques to accommodate the changes within ISO 14001:2015.

A lot has changed since the last significant revision to ISO 14001 more than 15 years ago.  Therefore, training to understand the new direction and topics introduced within ISO 14001:2015 should benefit both the individual and the organisation.

LRQA’s training courses deliver against a wide range of needs, from introductory briefings to specialised role-based courses.  Click here to learn more about our most popular courses.

What are the new and revised areas in ISO 14001:2015?

By now, you should have already heard about the introduction of the new High Level Structure, Annex SL, which is also the single biggest change contained within the ISO 9001:2015 document.  Annex SL has led to changes in relation to the term ‘Documented Information’ rather than procedures or records.  In addition, Annex SL will lead to the incorporation of the environmental management system (EMS) into the strategic thinking of the organisation and increased responsibilities on top management.

Other changes that are new to ISO 14001:2015 include:

a] processes by which an organisation protects the environment using their EMS,

b] a generic term which encourages organisations to look at protecting their overall environment rather than just the pollution they or their products and services may cause,

c] the terminology of life cycle perspective which will require an organisation to look at their products and services from the beginning to the end of their life cycle, which incorporates looking at how they will control outsourced processes, the end of life treatment and the disposal of their products or of their service,

d] a new section on context of the organisation (clause 4) which means a company has to have a process in place for the identification of internal and external interested parties,

e] a need for the organisation to develop a process by which they will determine what they will communicate, when they will communicate and to whom they will communicate,

f] the redrawing of the Plan, Do, Check, Act model within ISO 14001:2004 to reflect the Annex SL structure

How are the changes likely to impact smaller organisations?

Typically, the leadership of smaller organisations tends to be closer to their activities, so they will have a much clearer idea as to the context in which the organisation operates, who their interested parties are, and what they wish their EMS to deliver.

How do the features in the new standard impact organisations and their transition plans from the existing ISO 14001:2004?

This depends upon what organisations have included and managed within their current EMS. Organisations should contact LRQA to help them develop their transition plan.

This can be formulated through a gap analysis undertaken by an LRQA assessor, which will tell them their position in relation to the new requirements and where they need to move to. It may also identify any training needs that are necessary for the organisation.

Next steps

Talk to LRQA; as a member of the Independent International Organisation for Certification (IIOC), we are a member of all the major ISO technical committees helping to shape the new standards. We not only understand the revisions, but more importantly, we know what the revisions mean to your EMS and wider organisation and how to apply it to best effect.

Engage with LRQA to find out how a gap analysis and training on specific areas of ISO 14001:2015 can benefit you personally, as well as your organisation.

Focus on the areas that are completely new or have been revised. Those are the areas that are likely to be included in your transition plan.  Also, make sure that environmental managers and internal auditors understand the differences that Annex SL (common text and structure) will bring to the design, operation and performance of your EMS and any other management system standards in your organisation.

Begin formalising a transition plan and process and ensure that top management is involved from the start.