If you want to improve your environmental performance in a structural way, an environmental management system is a must. It allows you to reduce waste, take resource efficiency to the next level and minimise the ecological footprint of your organisation. Thanks to the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) the combined expertise and know-how of international experts is easily accessible. The requirements of ISO 14001 give your environmental management system every chance of success.
Purchase NBN EN ISO 14001:2015 in the NBN e-shop. The standard is available in English, Dutch, French and German.
ISO 14001 (Environmental management systems – Requirements with guidance for use) indicates what a solid environmental management system entails. The objective:
An environmental management system is preferably part of your overall management system and focusses specifically on controlling and improving your environmental performance through a holistic approach. As an organisation, you must take all environmental issues relevant to your operations into account. These include air pollution, (waste)water management, soil pollution, climate change mitigation and efficient resource use. Only by systematically including all these factors in your policy will you achieve high-impact results.
Officially the standard is called NBN EN ISO 14001:2015 in Belgium.
One of the major changes made during the last revision of ISO 14001 in 2015 was the introduction of the High-Level Structure (HLS). Tens of other management standards have undergone the same transformation in recent years. The importance of this evolution can hardly be overestimated. With HLS, ISO ensures that all management standards have the same basic structure, which makes it easier for organisations to integrate various management standards into one single management system.
Hendrik Decroos, representative for Belgium and NBN in the international workgroup that revises the HLS, explains why the HLS is a blessing for organisations looking to integrate several management standards into a management system.
More concretely, HLS requires ISO 14001 to consist of these ten chapters:
The biggest advantages of ISO 14001:
Each organisation has a certain environmental impact on its surroundings. Therefore, the standard offers a useful framework for organisations from every sector, big or small: micro business, SMEs, large companies and multinationals, governments, research institutions, universities, NGOs, et cetera.
ISO 14001, the international standard for environmental management systems, is the second-most popular standard when it comes to valid certificates. According to the latest ISO Survey (2018) no fewer than 447,547 sites worldwide possess an ISO 14001 certificate, of which 1,637 are in Belgium. This is an increase of 23.4% compared to 2017.
A certificate is written and objective proof of compliance with all requirements of ISO 14001. You receive one after an accredited certification institution confirms the correct and complete implementation of the management standard though an audit. The certificate is valid for 3 years. Afterwards, you can renew your certificate (if you want) by repeating the whole process. In between, there’ll be control audits – normally once a year.
Important: certification for ISO 14001 is – as is the decision to implement the standard – voluntary.
Although certification is by no means mandatory, it does benefit you greatly. These are the biggest benefits of an ISO 14001 certificate:
Although ISO, IEC and NBN facilitate the development of standards, these organisations are not involved in the certification process. In other words, you can never be certified by ISO, IEC or NBN. That is the job of independent certification institutions after the favourable assessment of your ISMS.
In Belgium, there are many institutions that certify organisations for ISO 14001 after a certification audit. However, not all of them are accredited by BELAC, the Belgian accreditation institution. This recognition isn’t necessary, but it does give you extra assurance that the audit process will be executed competently. Why? Accreditation guarantees technical competence, independency and impartiality.
Are you planning on getting your environmental management system certified? These steps will increase your chances of success:
The time you need to complete this checklist depends on the complexity, size and maturity of your organisation. Some do in it 6 months, while others need 3 years or more.
The price tag depends on various elements. For example, will you receive support from an external partner or do everything yourself? Besides that, the size and complexity of your organisation can either raise or lower the costs. One thing is for sure: you’ll need to contact a certification institution to perform the external audit. Normally, you sign a three-year contract with the institution – equal to the validity period of a certificate.
An independent certification institution assesses your conformity to the requirements of ISO 14001.
Once three months have passed after the full implementation of the management standard, you can initiate the certification process and plan an external audit. That audit will take one or more days, depending on the size of your organisation. Are your facilities spread over various locations? The auditor will visit all relevant locations.
The initial certification audit consists of 2 phases:
After the audit, the certification institution decides whether or not you have implemented the requirements correctly and completely. These are the possible outcomes:
These 4 tips raise your chances of success:
NBN organises courses in central locations across Belgium and offers in-house sessions. You can choose from these options in English:
The ISO 14000 series of standards helps organisations to be environmentally responsible. The best-known – and only certifiable standard – is ISO 14001:2015. The other standards focus on specific elements regarding environmental management systems, such as auditing, labelling, eco-design and lifecycle analysis. These are some of the lesser-known family members:
Purchase the standard in the NBN e-shop and get immediate access to all requirements for an efficient and effective environmental management system.
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