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ISO 14001: the standard for a strong environmental management system

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Within the ISO 14000 series of standards, ISO 14001:2015 is the flagship. What’s more, with more than 350,000 certified organisations – a thousand of which are in Belgium – it is the second most popular management standard in the world. That is why an effective environmental management system is a must-have for many organisations. To help you, we have listed the most important elements below.


What is ISO 14001?

This management standard defines the requirements which a strong environmental management system should meet and also provides guidelines on implementation. The main objective in the process is to identify, prioritise, manage, monitor and improve the correct environmental indicators. These may relate to water, waste, air flow and soil management but just as easily to climate change and the effective use of resources.


The first version dates back to 1996 and the standard has been revised twice since then: in 2004 and in 2015. The purpose of the latest update was to highlight 5 aspects more clearly:

  1. the focus on leadership and the role of members of management;
  2. the incorporation of environmental management within organisational strategy;
  3. the focus on risk management and proactive initiatives;
  4. the inclusion of requirements for all life stages of products (and services): from material extraction through design to end-of-life;
  5. external and internal communication strategy.


Can you get an ISO 14001 certificate?

Yes, although it is not mandatory to do so. However, certain cities and municipalities already require a certificate to be provided with any application for an environmental permit. Larger organisations and authorities are also frequently including ISO 14001 certification in their invitations to tender. 


The 6 main advantages of ISO 14001

Besides the fact that in some cases, certification is an important prerequisite for collaboration, an environmental management system based on ISO 14001 can also provide your organisation with a lot of other benefits:

  • You will be able to manage natural resources and energy more efficiently which in turn will bring financial benefits in the long term.
  • You will be able to build a strong company image for your target group and other stakeholders and gain insight into how to communicate with them.
  • You can encourage suppliers to improve their environmental performance by integrating them in your organisation’s management system.
  • You will be able to carry out proactive risk management measures in a rapidly changing world which will give you a competitive advantage.
  • You can involve top-level management within your organisation by making environmental management a clear strategic choice.
  • You can carry on with your current environmental activities and integrate them in an environmental management system based on ISO 14001 quite easily.

Did you know that…

the updated version of ISO 14005 provides SMEs with an ideal tool for implementing an environmental management system based on ISO 14001 in various phases? Read all about it. 


Who is ISO 14001 intended for?

The major attribute of ISO 14001 is that this management standard is universally applicable so that it can serve both private, public and non-profit organisations, large or small. In addition, its high-level structure (HLS) makes ISO 14001 the perfect partner for ISO 9001 and ISO 45001, the leading standards for quality management and health and safety at work respectively.


Other relevant standards

Within the ISO 14000 series of standards, there are a number of other related standards which will help you get started with setting up an environmental management system. These include:

  • ISO 14004 – Environmental Management Systems – General guidelines on implementation
  • ISO 14006 – Environmental Management Systems – Guidelines for incorporating ecodesign
  • ISO 14040 – Environmental Management – Life Cycle Assessment – Principles and framework
  • ISO 14044 – Environmental Management – Life Cycle Assessment – Requirements and guidelines


How should you go about implementing standards?

NBN can help you to implement standards within your company or organisation. Purchase standards, take one of our training courses to gain insights into certain standards or join committees and make your voice heard.

Are you interested in purchasing one or more standards? You can do that via your personalised standards catalogue in myNBN or via the e-shop.

Would you like to broaden your knowledge through training? Send us an e-mail at or call 02 300 78 52.

Here is a selection of what we have to offer:

Would you like to help develop standards? Then why not join one of our committees. Send us an e-mail at or call 02 300 78 53.