The Revision of ISO 14001: the fat lady is not singing yet


By Lynn Johannson

Organizations that use ISO 14001 do not realize the extent of change on the table in the current revision. You have until September 26th to share your concerns.

GLOBE-Net, September 15, 2014 – For those in the know, ISO 14001 is the international standard for environmental management systems. If you are an organization (public, private, or NGO) that has adopted the standard, you need to understand that this revision is introducing a fundamental change to the framework.

The new framework did not use the traditional Plan-Do-Check-Act approach in its design. Organizations also need to understand the new framework is being pushed into all ISO’s management standards, not just 14001. So that means ISO 9001, what will be the new OHSAS 18001 (as ISO 45001) etc. So, what are some of the changes on top of the new framework? Four key changes include:

  • The potential shift from a management systems approach to a management standard
  • A 25% increase in the number of shall statements, from 61 to 76; some shall statements have multiple requirements or criteria, so the stat is a bit misleading.
  • New terms and definition, deletions of some and word changes in others.
  • New concepts and themes such as risk, context and leadership

One of the concerns that some negotiators have is the lack of user input to the revision. By this I mean the insight of those who are responsible and accountable for the pain and gain of implementing a robust, credible and reliable environmental management system has been weak. While in the first and second versions, users represented 50% of the negotiators at the table, the current revision has only had up to 13% involvement from the user community.

There will be a cost to those who wish to or need to adopt the new standard. While the standard is a voluntary one, some supply chains have made ISO 14001 a requirement or a preference. ISO 14001 is one of seven tools recognized to help organizations become sustainable, according to a recent Globescan survey. Will the new version remain on the short list?

The standard is at the public review stage. This is the last stage before countries are asked to vote to approve the revision as an international standard. If it passes, then countries will have to make the decision whether to adopt it, stay with the 2004 version or adopt other standards if it does not meet the needs of the country.

As Canada’s chief negotiator of the standard, there are four questions that I ask every user to address.

1. Do you understand what the changes to the new standard entail?

2. Will these changes add value to your organization?

3. Will these changes improve your environmental performance?

4. Will the benefits outweigh the costs of change?

Canada has invested just under $1 billion in the standard between 1999 and 2013. This amount combines the estimated costs of implementation and certification based on the number of certificates held in Canada. There are others that have adopted the standard but have chosen not to certify, which is a perfectly acceptable option.

The public review period is almost over. Download a copy of the draft standard from CSA’s website. Here is the link:

You can post your comments on the CSA website; they will be reviewed by the committee responsible for Canada’s position. If you have specific concerns you can contact the Chair of the committee, L. Johannson, at

Please remember comments must be received on or before September 26th.

Lynn Johannson is President of E2M and Co-Founder of EnviroReady Report

About the Author

Leave a Reply