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What is ISO 14001:2004

Organizations of all kinds are increasingly concerned with achieving and demonstrating sound environmental performance by controlling the impacts of their activities, products and services on the environment, consistent with their environmental policy and objectives. They do so in the context of increasingly stringent legislation, the development of economic policies and other measures that foster environmental protection, and increased concern expressed by interested parties about environmental matters and sustainable development.

International Standards covering environmental management are intended to provide organizations with the elements of an effective environmental management system (EMS) that can be integrated with other management requirements and help organizations achieve environmental and economic goals.

This International Standard specifies requirements for an environmental management system to enable an organization to develop and implement a policy and objectives which take into account legal requirements and information about significant environmental aspects. It is intended to apply to all types and sizes of organization and to accommodate diverse geographical, cultural and social conditions. The overall aim of this International Standard is to support environmental protection and prevention of pollution in balance with socio-economic needs.

This International Standard is based on the methodology known as Plan-Do-Check-Act (PDCA). PDCA can be briefly described as follows.

Plan: establish the objectives and processes necessary to deliver results in accordance with the organization's environmental policy.

Do: implement the processes.

Check: monitor and measure processes against environmental policy, objectives, targets, legal and other requirements, and report the results.

Act: take actions to continually improve performance of the environmental management system.

This International Standard requires an organization to

  • Establish an appropriate environmental policy.
  • Identify the environmental aspects arising from the organizations past, existing or planned activities, products and services, in order to determine the environmental impacts of significance.
  • Identify applicable legal requirements and other requirements, to which the organization subscribes.
  • Identify priorities and set appropriate environmental objectives and targets.
  • Establish a structure and a programme(s) to implement the policy and achieve objectives and meet targets.
  • Facilitate planning, control, monitoring, preventive and corrective actions, auditing and review activities to ensure both that the policy is complied with and that the environmental management system remains appropriate.
  • Be capable of adapting to changing circumstances.
  • Some of the benefits experienced by companies implementing ISO 14001 include :

  • Process improvement.
  • Environmental cost reduction.
  • Better relationships with regulators.
  • Better relationships with insurers, investors, and financial markets.
  • Product improvement.
  • Marketing advantages.
  • Better control of liabilities.
  • Reduced regulatory burden..
  • Protection of company image and name.
  • Demonstration of responsible management.
  • ISO 14001 is a process-oriented standard; it implies a commitment to continuous improvement.

    The most important benefit of ISO 14001implementation is the monetary benefit derived from reduced energy costs as a result of increased energy efficiency. The other benefits include improved industrial relations with the government through following of governmental regulations. In addition, greater shareholder and customer confidence is observed. Also, there is increase in labour productivity due to improved work ethics and corporate identity. Since an EMS according to ISO 14001 is based on the participation of the entire staff, it enhances the integration of employees and motivates them to actively participate in changes within the organization.