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ISO 14001 standard: eveything you need to know

Updated: Aug 24, 2023

What is an ISO standard?

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An ISO standard (International Organization for Standardization) is a document that defines requirements, specifications or guidelines for a specific product, service or activity. ISO standards are developed by ISO technical committees, which bring together experts from different countries and sectors.


There are currently more than 22,000 published ISO standards covering areas as diverse as information technology, quality, safety, environment, health, energy, financial services, etc. The ISO 14001 standard is one of them, it defines the requirements for an environmental management system (EMS) in an organization.



What is ISO 14001 standard?


The ISO 14001 standard is an international standard that defines requirements for an environmental management system (EMS) within an organization. The aim of this standard is to enable a company to put in place procedures for identifying and managing the environmental impacts of its activities, products or services and to continually improve its environmental performance.

The ISO 14001 standard is based on a management cycle called PDCA (Plan-Do-Check-Act), which involves planning actions to achieve the company's environmental objectives, implementing them, checking to ensure they are effective, and improving them based on the results obtained.

The latest version of the ISO 14001 standard is ISO 14001:2015. This version was updated to align with the new requirements of the global management system standard ISO 9001 and to adapt to evolving trends and practices in environmental management.



Quelles sont les exigences de la norme ISO 14001


The ISO 14001 standard defines the requirements for setting up, implementing, updating, and continually improving an environmental management system in an organization. The requirements of an EMS include 18 environmental requirements, among which are:

  • Environmental policy: the company must establish an environmental policy that defines its environmental protection goals and targets.

  • Planning: the company must plan the necessary actions to achieve its environmental protection goals and targets by identifying significant aspects and potential risks.

  • Implementation and operation: the company must establish the processes and procedures necessary to implement and maintain its environmental management system.

  • Verification: the company must monitor and measure the environmental performance of its activities and processes to evaluate the effectiveness of its environmental management system.

  • Management review: the company must regularly review its environmental management system to ensure its effectiveness and compliance with legal and regulatory requirements.

  • Continual improvement: the company must establish a continual improvement process to continue reducing the environmental impact of its activities.

The requirements for ISO 14001 certification are the same for all companies regardless of size, activity, or geographical location.



How to set up an environmental management system in accordance with the ISO 14001 standard?


There are several key steps to implementing an environmental management system (EMS) in your company:

  • Establish an environmental policy that sets the organization's environmental objectives and commitment to continual improvement.

  • Conduct an environmental review to identify the organization's significant environmental aspects and impacts.

  • Develop an EMS that includes procedures for implementing and maintaining the environmental policy and objectives, as well as for monitoring and measuring environmental performance.

  • Train employees on the EMS and the importance of environmental protection.

  • Establish a process for checking legal and other environmental requirements to ensure compliance.

  • Regularly monitor and measure environmental performance using established procedures and data collection methods.

  • Conduct regular internal audits to evaluate the EMS's effectiveness and identify areas for improvement.

  • Manage any non-conformities and take corrective actions to prevent recurrence.

  • Continually improve the EMS by updating procedures, setting new environmental objectives, and monitoring progress towards these objectives.

  • Consider seeking certification to the ISO 14001 standard from a certifying body to demonstrate the organization's commitment to environmental protection.


What are the benefits of ISO 14001 certification for businesses?


The obtaining of ISO 14001 certification has become an important issue for companies concerned about their environmental impact. This certification offers many benefits for companies:

  • Achieving strategic objectives by integrating environmental issues into business management.

  • Gaining a competitive and financial advantage by optimizing efficiency and reducing costs.

  • Improving the company's reputation among customers, business partners, and investors.

  • Reinforcing the involvement of management and employee commitment.

  • Allowing for better communication and social responsibility towards stakeholders.

  • Complying with current and future regulations.


Which organizations can deliver the ISO 14001 standard?


The ISO 14001 standard is delivered by accredited certification organizations. These organizations are independent and recognized by accreditation bodies such as the International Accreditation Forum (IAF) and the European Accreditation (EA). In France, the COFRAC (French Accreditation Committee) is responsible for evaluating the competence and impartiality of certification or inspection organizations. It helps to ensure the quality of the services they offer.


Certification organizations, in turn, are responsible for verifying that companies comply with the requirements of the ISO 14001 standard and issuing the certification if these requirements are met. Companies can choose from several accredited organizations to obtain their ISO 14001 certification, such as AFNOR, or Apave certification. It is important to ensure that the chosen organization is recognized by the relevant authorities and that their certification process is impartial and independent.


Costs and duration of ISO 14001 certification


The validity period of an ISO 14001 certification is 3 years. After obtaining the ISO 14001 certification, follow-up audits are carried out to maintain the organization's compliance with the requirements of the standard. These audits are carried out at least once a year during the first two years following the certification, and a renewal audit is carried out before the expiration of the third year.


The cost of ISO 14001 certification varies depending on the size of the company. For a company with fewer than 100 employees, it is approximately €5,000, while it can reach €20,000 for a company with more than 500 employees. Annual follow-up costs are generally lower, ranging from €1,000 to €5,000.


Why is ISO 14001 important for companies?


The ISO 14001 standard is an important tool for companies looking to improve their environmental performance. It enables the implementation of an effective environmental management system by creating a regulatory framework for businesses. By obtaining this certification, companies receive official recognition for their efforts to limit their impact on the environment. The certification is important and can be incorporated into a wider CSR approach.


Finally, ISO 14001 certification is also a way for companies to demonstrate their willingness to comply with current regulations.


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