New version of ISO 14001 on environmental management systems should take a broader perspective – users say

A recent survey of the environmental management system standard ISO 14001 covering its future content and its current benefits, which received over 5 000 responses, found that it is particularly useful in meeting legal requirements and improving environmental performance. However, a clearer focus on preventing pollution, eco-efficiency and life-cycle thinking should be provided in the next version of the standard.

The survey had responses from organizations of various sizes in 110 countries – a majority of whose system is built on ISO 14001 – with 46 % from small and medium-sized companies. Conducted in 11 languages, the survey was run by the ISO committee responsible for the standard (ISO/TC 207/SC 1).

"The survey was designed in part to get a better idea of what people see as the main benefits of ISO 14001 and what could be improved, as the standard is currently being revised," explained Lisa Greenwood of the Rochester Institute of Technology, lead author of the survey report.

Inform the ongoing revision

“The results will be used to inform the ongoing revision of the standard based on the importance users gave to a number of future challenges and whether they felt the standard should address this,” explained Maiko Okuno of Mitsubishi UFJ Research and Consulting, one of the experts involved in analysing the survey responses and taking part in the revision to ISO 14001.

According to the survey results, the most important issues that required more attention were reducing and controlling pollution, strategies for efficient use of resources and reducing waste and pollution, as well as identifying and evaluating the environmental aspects related to the life cycle of products and services.

"One really important thing for the working group experts in the revision process is to make ISO 14001 as "future proof" as possible," explained Susan Briggs, Convenor of the group responsible for the revision of ISO 14001. "This means taking into account future challenges and trying to design for them."

The full survey results and accompanying report can be found here.