ISO Helper - We Prepare You For Certification
We Prepare You For Certification

What is ISO 14001 | Environmental Management | EMS

What is ISO 14001? What is an Environmental Management System (EMS)? ISO 14001 explained & the steps to achieving compliance or certification.


ISO 14001 - Environmental Management Systems (EMS)


WHAT IS ISO 14001?

ISO 14001 is the International Standard that specifies the requirements for an Environmental Management System (EMS).


An EMS is a tool for protecting the environment. You can liken an EMS to your organisation’s road map for reducing environmental impacts. This road map consists of processes, procedures, checklists, registers and forms but can take any shape or form; paper, electronic, written, pictorial, flowchart.


ISO 14001 does not specify what shape of form your EMS must take. The standard is written very broadly, enabling organisations to use a common sense approach when interpreting the standard’s requirements. There is no ‘one size fits all’ EMS. Using the road map analogy from above, a Melbourne road map is not a useful resource when navigating Sydney.


Context of the Organisation: Who are we? You need to demonstrate that you understand who your organisation is. This is done by identifying environmental aspects & impacts, needs & expectations of interested parties, compliance obligations and your activities, products & services. Your organisation’s SWOT analysis is a great starting point for understanding who you are.

Leadership: Where are we going? Top management needs to demonstrate leadership commitment to the EMS. Top Management must take responsibility for: establishing & communicating the environmental policy & objectives, being committed to the protection of the environment & fulfilling compliance obligations, defining roles & responsibilities, providing adequate resources and promoting improvement. The Standard has no intention of tripping up Top Management for not knowing the micro detail of your EMS, but it does require the organisation’s leaders to know the way, go the way and show the way.

Planning: What’s the plan? You need to demonstrate planned actions to achieve your organisation’s environmental objectives. You also need to show planned actions to address environmental aspects & impacts, meet compliance obligations, along with your actions associated with planning for abnormal conditions and foreseeable emergency situations. Your local Environment Protection Authority have useful resources that can get you started.

Support: What’s keeping us upright? Competent people, infrastructure, environment, equipment and knowledge resources need to be determined, provided, reviewed and maintained to support the EMS. Your organisation’s induction, training records, and equipment maintenance schedules could be your starting point.

Operation: How are we related? You are required to understand the processes within your organisation and plan & control the environmental aspects & impacts of those processes. This requirement includes externally provided processes, and emergency preparedness & response. Essentially, these are all the activities necessary to eliminate, mitigate or limit your organisation’s negative impact on the environment. Simple flowcharts mapping each stage of your processes and the associated control measures are a useful tool to get you started.

Performance evaluation: How did we do? You will need to make your EMS accountable by measuring & monitoring performance. Think SMART: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Tangible when determining what needs to be measured & monitored, when & how to do so, and how to analyse & evaluate the results. These evaluations will need to include compliance evaluations, internal audits and management reviews. Your leadership team meetings or management meetings are the perfect forum to report performance evaluation.

Improvement: What could we do better? You need to identify opportunities for improvement and determine the actions to implement improvement. Improvements can include corrective action, process change, innovation and re-organisation. The suitability, adequacy and effectiveness of the EMS needs to be reviewed and improved continuously as the organisation develops and evolves over time. The EMS is not a set and forget tool. Referring to our road map analogy, we would struggle to navigate our way around Melbourne today using a road map from 1920.


All organisations regardless of size, industry or ownership structure can benefit from compliance with ISO 14001.


• Improve environmental performance by reducing your organisation’s impact on the environment

• Give your organisation a competitive edge & improve your marketing pitch

• Improve your organisation’s image by providing ethical products and services

• Increase sustainable development

• Gain a better relationship with stakeholders

• Increase productivity and profit

• Help you compete with bigger enterprises

• Improve your risk profile with financiers and insurers

• Enable you to compete for public and private tenders

• Meet legal & compliance obligations with consistency

• Enhance your profile as a good corporate citizen


ISO 14001 only has a handful of documents that it explicitly requires. The best way to get started is to conduct a review of your existing management tools (business plan, objectives & KPIs, processes, procedures and registers) to assess how they satisfy the requirements of the Standard. Stay focused on the items that matter. Start with the bare minimum and build your EMS from there. Most importantly, make a visible note: ‘Environmental Management does not equal mountains of paper & metrics.’


Certification is the written assurance (in the form of a certificate) from an independent body (Certification Body) that your organisation meets the requirements of the Standard. It stands to reason that assurance can only be provided once the Certification Body has reviewed your EMS in action. This is done in two stages. Stage 1 is a top level readiness review; it is used to gain knowledge of your organisation and review your organisation’s understanding of how your EMS meets the requirements of the Standard. Stage 2 is the evidence gathering audit; it is used to gather objective evidence that your EMS is compliant with the Standard and that you actually do what you say you are doing in your system.

next steps

ISO Helper Consultants are Industry Experts in the Development, Implementation & Maintenance of user friendly Compliant Environmental Management Systems. We can help you get started on your path to ISO 14001 compliance or certification by conducting an Environmental Management Health Check of your organisation..


Specialising In: ISO 9001 | ISO 14001 |  ISO 45001 | OHSAS 18001 | AS/NZS 4801