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ISO 14001 Environmental management systems


ISO 14001

ISO 14000 is a series of international environmental standards that were written by technical committee, ISO/TC 207, Environmental Management and published by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO).  Some of the most commonly referenced standards in this series include:

· ISO 14001

Environmental management systems ― Requirements with guidance for use (2004)

· ISO 14004

Environmental management systems ― General guidelines on principles, systems and supporting techniques (2004)

· ISO 14015

Environmental management ― Environmental assessment of sites and organizations (EASO) (2001)

· ISO 14020

Environmental labels and declarations ― General principles (2000)

· ISO 14040

Life-cycle assessment ― Principles and framework (2006)

· ISO 14050

Environmental management  ― Vocabulary (2002)

· ISO/TR14062

Environmental management  ― Integrating environmental aspects into product design and development (2002)

· ISO 19011

Guidelines for quality and/or environmental management systems auditing


The Opportunity ― we all have an impact on the environment.  Whether working, driving our car, washing clothes or grilling in the back yard, and yes, even eating a hamburger – all these activities yield waste streams that interact with the air, water and/or the earth.  The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reported in its Draft Report on the Environment 2003 that in 1996 the US emitted 9.3 billion pounds of air toxics emissions from 188 toxic air pollutants, into the air.  And, it is currently estimated that the 440 coal-fired power plants in the U.S. produce about 48 tons of mercury a year – 40% of the nation's output.  While no one disputes the need for these types of activities, the question arises, “How can we reduce waste and establish accountability for the impact our activities and products have on the environment?”

Many believe that British standard BS7750: Environmental Management Systems was the blue print for ISO 14000.  It was designed to ensure that a company’s environmental management practices were in line with the goals that it set and that conformance could be verified by third party auditors.

Other observers trace ISO 14000’s roots back to the 1972 United Nations Conference on Human Environment in Stockholm which was the basis for a report titled Our Common Future that was issued in 1987.

The good news ― the total ISO 14001 certificates issued worldwide increased 16% in 2006 to at least 129,199 certificates according to The ISO Survey - 2006 that is published annually by ISO.

Integration With Existing Procedures

Much of what an organization must do to conform with ISO 14001 EMS is probably already being done.  No organization can operate without some environmental programs in place. However, these programs may need modification to conform.  Existing programs serve as a good starting point to begin the implementation.  Information should be available to tell people where to find the programs the organization uses to handle environmental concerns such as: Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS), hazardous wastes handling procedures, wastewater systems operating manuals, air permit operating requirements, material purchasing requirements, and so forth.  A well-conceived ISO 14001 EMS will use existing environmental programs and procedures as a foundation to drive improved environmental performance.  It will also include the business management practices of the company wherever possible.  An example of this would be tying environmental impacts of raw material purchases into an existing procedure to review raw materials specifications for engineering requirements and consistency.  Many firms such as General Motors (GMW3059) already have such procedures in place.  Other types of program integration may include integrating cost accounting practices with environmental operational practices. Many organizations cannot actually determine where their environmental dollars go so they are not able to identify opportunities for financial improvement in environmental practices.  If management cannot see any cost benefit in environmental decision-making, the least costly route is usually taken. An environmental expense budget could be a real eye opener.

Product development, production and other product realization processes should be reviewed to see just how much money can be saved through product redesign, reduction in use of natural resources and elimination or recycling of waste.  This is exactly what ISO 14001 hopes to accomplish ― ROI decisions that are also environmentally and socially friendly ― and some organization are reaping huge rewards.


Many environmental management systems are designed and implemented utilizing Shewart’s “Plan, Do, Check, Act” (PDCA) model:


    ·  Determine goals and targets [4.2 Environmental policy]
    ·  Determine methods of reaching goals [4.3 Planning]

    ·  Engage in education and training [4.4.2 Competence, training …]
    ·  Implement work [4.4 Implementation and operation]

    ·  Check the effects of implementation [4.5 Checking]

    ·  Take appropriate action [4.6 Management review]

Since the standard itself is aligned with this model Jaeger-Holland, Inc.'s implementation workshop is organized in the same manner. Templates (sample documents and records) and exercises are provided to facilitate understanding of the standard.

Suggested Users

ISO 14001 applies to any organization that seeks to control the impact that its activities, products and services have on the environment.

Suggested users include the multi-disciplinary team charged with the responsibility for establishing and maintaining the organization’s EMS.

Glossary of Environmental Acronyms

Click here.

ISO 14001 And Compliance With The Law

Although compliance with law is not required for ISO 14001:2004 registration, the standard does require that organizations identify and have access to applicable legal requirements and that they determine how these requirements apply.  The standard also requires periodic evaluations of compliance with applicable legal requirements.
Laws enacted by Congress are incorporated into the United States Code which is divided into 50 titles.
Titles of the US Code containing environmental legislation include:
Title   5 Government Organization and Employees
Title   7 Agriculture
Title 15 Commerce and Trade
Title 16 Conservation
Title 29 Labor
Title 33 Navigation and Navigable Waters
Title 42 The Public Health and Welfare
Title 49 Transportation

Timeline of US Legislation:

US Code1



The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) gave the public the right to receive copies of records in the possession of the agencies of U.S. Government, including EPA.

42 USC 4321

The National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 formed the basic national charter for protection of the environment.

42 USC 7401
et seq.

42 USC 7401
et seq.


The Clean Air Act (CAA) regulates air emissions by authorizing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to establish National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS).
The Clear Air Act 112(b) List of Pollutants – lists and regulates 188 hazardous air pollutants.
The Clean Air Act 112(r) Prevention of Accidental Releases – introduced the General Duty Clause (GDC) which requires, "The owners and operators of stationary sources producing, processing, handling or storing an extremely hazardous substance (EHS) have a general duty [in the same manner as the general duty clause in the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA)], ... that includes, taking such steps as are necessary to prevent releases, and to minimize the consequences of accidental releases which do occur."
A Risk Management Program is also required and facilities that use listed toxic or flammable chemicals above certain thresholds are required to make their emergency response and prevention program information available to the public.
Under Subchapter V Permits, the 1990 amendments of the Clean Air Act also require potentially major sources of air emissions to obtain federally enforceable operating permits.  A FESOP allows a source that is potentially major to take operational limits in the permit so that it is a non-major source.  The permit will be enforceable by the United States Environmental Protection Agency as well as the State EPA.

29 USC 651
et seq.

The Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) Standard 1910.119 Process safety management of highly hazardous chemicals, contains requirements for preventing or minimizing the consequences of catastrophic releases of toxic, reactive, flammable, or explosive chemicals which may result in toxic, fire or explosion hazards.  These requirements include written operating procedures readily accessible to employees, use of Material Safety Data Sheets (29 CFR 1910.1200(g)), labeling, communication, employee training, etc.

33 USC 1251
et seq.

The Clean Water Act (CWA) regulates discharges of pollutants into the waters of the United States.

16 USC
1531 et seq.

The Endangered Species Act was passed to conserve threatened and endangered animals and plants and their habitats.

42 USC s/s 300f et seq.

The Safe Drinking Water Act was established to protect the quality of our drinking water.

42 USC 6901 et seq.

The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) was established to develop regulations for managing the generation, transport, treatment, storage and disposal of hazardous wastes while ensuring the protection of human health and the environment.

15 USC 2702

The Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) gave EPA the authority to control toxics not subject to previously existing laws as a result of PCB contamination in rivers and other waters, the threat of stratospheric ozone depletion and pesticide tragedies.

The Inventory Update Reporting (IUR) regulation as amended in 2003 requires companies that manufacture or import chemicals to report information about these chemicals.  The information is stored in the EPA's Chemical Substances Inventory.

42 USC Chapters 102 & 103

The Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) commonly known as Superfund, created a tax on the chemical and petroleum industries to fund the clean up of abandoned or uncontrolled hazardous waste sites.

42 USC
9601 et seq.

The Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act (SARA) amended  CERCLA and made several important changes and additions including: provision of new enforcement authorities and settlement tools; increased focus on human health problems posed by hazardous waste sites; an increase in the size of the superfund to $8.5 billion.

42 USC
EPCRA Sections 311-312

The Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA), included under Title III of SARA as a free standing law to encourage and support emergency planning efforts and to provide the public and local governments information concerning potential chemical hazards present in their communities.
A Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) program was established under EPCRA and expanded by the Pollution Prevention Act of 1990.  Toxic chemical release information is publicly available through the EPA and US Government Environmental Health e-Maps website.

33 USC 2702 to 2761

The Oil Pollution Act (OPA) strengthened EPA's ability to prevent and respond to catastrophic oil spills.

7 USC 136 et seq.

The Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act  (FIFRA) provided Federal control of pesticide distribution, sale and use.

1Cornell Law School's Legal Information Institute provides a searchable database for users that know the particular citation for the US Code material they want to find.  For example, knowing the reference under Public Health and Welfare, 42 USC 4321; referred to as Title 42, Section (§) 4321, a user could read the Congressional declaration of purpose.  If you do not know the section in the title the site also provides a Table of Contents by-Title listing that may be helpful.

NOTE The information presented here is for general information only and is not to be used in place of appropriate technical or legal advice related to your organization's specific circumstances.

ISO 14001 Contents

Following is an outline of the ISO 14001 EMS Standard:
Normative references
Environmental Management System Requirements

  General requirements
  Environmental policy
     Environmental aspects
     Legal and other requirements
     Objectives, targets and programs
   Implementation and operation
     Resources, roles, responsibility and authority
     Competence, training and awareness
     Control of documents
     Operational control
     Emergency preparedness and response
     Monitoring and measurement
     Evaluation of compliance
     Nonconformity, corrective action and preventive action
     Control of Records
     Internal audit
 Management Review

ISO 14001 Registrations – Leaders by Country as of December, 2006

ISO 14001 Environmental management systems - Benefits

a provides a mechanism for improving an organization's environmental performance

a confidence that statutory and regulatory requirements are consistently being met

a based on system management - not on inspections

a provides an opportunity for international recognition through 3rd party registration

a bottom-line improvement through the elimination of waste

a reputation of being a good neighbor - priceless!

Training, Conferences & Meetings

· Internal Auditor Course
  - Chicago, IL, February 5-6 and Apr 29-30, 2008


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Last Updated 11/10/2017

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