ISO 14001:2015

ISO 14001:2015 Explained

Last September saw the revision of ISO 14001—one of the most popular environmental management system standards (EMS). We’ve compiled a list of questions and answers about ISO 14001:2015—including how the standard could benefit your organization’s performance and bottom line.

What is ISO 14001:2015?

ISO 14001:2015—Environmental management systems—Requirements with guidance for use—is an international environmental standard that sets out the criteria for an EMS and has helped thousands of organizations worldwide to improve their environmental, sustainability, and operational performance.

ISO 14001 is one of the world’s most popular standards for environmental management, with more than 300,000 certificates issued globally each year.

What is the history of ISO 14001?

ISO 14001 was first published in 1996, with 2016 marking the 20th anniversary of the standard. The third edition of ISO 14001 was published in September 2015.

View ISO’s video on the release of ISO 14001:2015 here:


What topics does ISO 14001:2015 cover?

ISO 14001:2015 maps out a framework that an organization can follow to establish an effective EMS.

Using this framework, organizations can improve their environmental performance through more efficient use of resources, waste reduction, and gain a competitive advantage and stakeholder trust.

The standard requires organizations to consider all environmental issues relevant to its operations, and can include air pollution, water and sewerage, waste management, soil contamination, climate change mitigation and adaptation, and resource use and efficiency.

Like all ISO management system standards, ISO 14001 includes the need for continual improvement of systems and approaches to environmental concerns.

Why was ISO 14001 revised?

All ISO standards are reviewed every five years to determine if a revision is necessary to ensure the standard remains current and relevant.

The committee responsible for updating ISO 14001 determined that to keep pace with the latest trends in environmental management the standard should be revised. The update also helped to ensure ISO 14001’s compatibility with other management system standards.

What are the key changes in the revised standard?

The revised standard incorporates a number of new concepts, including

  • Increased prominence of environmental management in the strategic planning processes
  • An increased focus on leadership
  • The addition of proactive initiatives to protect the environment from harm and degradation
  • A focus on improving environmental performance
  • Life cycle thinking when considering environmental aspects
  • The inclusion of a communications strategy

ISO 14001:2015 is also based on Annex SL—a high-level structure that brings a common framework to management system standards. This measure helps to ensure consistency, align different management system standards, and offers matching subclauses against the top-level structure, while applying common language across all standards.

The revised standard also uses ISO 9000:2015 as its normative reference. This ensures a common set of definitions for terminology used across management system standards such as ISO 9001:2015 and ISO 14001:2015.

What are the benefits of ISO 14001:2015?

Through implementing the new standard, organizations should find it easier to incorporate an EMS into their core business process and gain greater business benefits as a result.

The revised standard aims to ensure that environmental management is completely integrated and aligned with the business strategies of the organization. This strategic focus will result in improved EMS performance, including sustainability improvements, money savings, and helping to preserve resources for future generations.

Other benefits of ISO 14001:2015 include:

  • More leadership involvement in the management system to ensure the whole organization is motivated toward its goals and objectives
  • A focus on the need to take steps to protect the environment and improve environmental performance
  • Being easier to implement multiple, integrated management systems

Implementing ISO 14001:2015 can provide assurance to company management, employees, and external stakeholders that environmental impact is being measured and improved.

Who should use the ISO 14001:2015?

The standard can be used by organizations of any type or size, including private, not-for-profit, or government.

What benefits does implementing ISO 14001:2015 bring to an organization?

There are many reasons why organizations should take a strategic approach to improving its environmental performance. Users of ISO 14001 report that it helps them to:

  • Demonstrate statutory and regulatory compliance.
  • Increase leadership involvement and employee engagement.
  • Improve company reputation and stakeholder confidence through strategic communication.
  • Achieve strategic business goals by incorporating environmental issues into business management.
  • Provide a competitive and financial advantage through improved efficiencies and reduced costs.
  • Encourage suppliers to improve their environmental performance.

More specifically, organizations have found success across a range of areas, including reduced energy and water consumption, a more systematic approach to legal compliance, and improved overall environmental performance.

Is it necessary to transition to the new standard?

Organizations that are currently certified to the previous version of ISO 14001 have three years from the publication date to transition to the new standard.

After this period has lapsed, ISO 14001:2004 will be out of date and organizations that opt for third-party certification will have to seek certification to the new version of the standard.

Where can I learn more?

More information about ISO 14001:2015 is available on the ISO/TC 207/SC 1 homepage. Click here to learn more.

One Response

  1. Martin Bambo
    Martin Bambo at |

    Good day
    Its Martin from South Africa, am studying Environmental Management Course. And i would like to familiarize myself with new policy Clause 5.2 table of ISO 14001: 2015.

    Can please assist me with it on below email


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