Why climate change is suddenly a hot topic in management system standards

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The addition of a climate change clause to all management system standards received final approval on Friday, 23 February. As a result, the addition is available free of charge for all management system standards. These are standards that help organisations manage or streamline their processes, for example, the widely used ISO 9001, ISO 14001, ISO/IEC 27001 and ISO 45001 standards.

In this article, we reflect on the impact of this change – although the addition is significant, it does not currently affect certification.

What is the impact?

With the addition of the new clause, sustainability is now an essential part of every management system standard. It means every organisation needs to take a moment to look in the mirror. However, it can lead to confusion, because what exactly is expected? The new clause focuses on the impact of climate change:

1. Organisations should take a position on whether climate change is a relevant challenge for them.

2. Organisations should recognise that certain stakeholders may have requirements or expectations that are climate-related.

This is primarily a reminder that climate change is part of every organisation's broader context, without identifying specific environmental actions to be taken. According to the standard, an organisation must demonstrate that climate change was taken into account when planning the management system, as provided for in clause 6 of the various standards. Also, for the second element, the point is that, even if climate change may not have an impact on the organisation's own specific context, the issue may be important for suppliers, customers or other stakeholders.

And in practice?

The clause is now available and all new versions of management systems standards (MSS) include it. It is up to organisations to implement this aspect effectively. In the coming months, concrete measures are expected from the International Accreditation Forum (IAF) which will be important for certified companies (transition periods, concrete implementation, etc.). Perhaps now, with spring approaching, is the ideal time to take a moment to consider the impact of climate change on your organisation – and vice versa.

To kick-start your reflection, you can find the amendments in our webshop. For example, you'll find the amendments for the most popular management system standards: ISO 9001, ISO 14001, ISO/IEC 27001 and ISO 45001.

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