ISO 14001 is Changing: Summary of proposed updates to ISO 14001 based on the Second Committee Draft

ISO 14001 Info-Graphic (by Charter4)

Don’t know ISO 14001? Check out this ISO 14001 Info-Graphic (by Charter4) for a brief overview.

ISO 14001 is the international standard for environmental management systems (EMS). The standard was last updated in 2009 and is currently being revised by the International Organization for Standardization [1]. In January 2014, the relevant ISO working group voted to make the second committee draft (CD2) (ISO 14001:201X) a Draft International Standard [2]. Once formally adopted, the revised standard will replace the current version in 2015 and will be valid into the 2020s [3].

The revised standard’s goals reinforce those of previous versions:

“help […] cut costs, improve productivity, capitalize on business opportunities, maintain and enhance brand, and reduce costs” [3, p. 14].

Key Changes

1. Structural Change: ISO 14001:201X will follow a schema common to all international management systems [4]. As a result of this change, implementing multiple management systems within an organisation will be facilitated.

2. Leadership and Strategic Planning: The most important change in the standard is the requirement to incorporate and take into consideration environmental management in all decision-making and strategic planning [2]. The reason for this integration is to incorporate environmental management in the core all business activities/processes [3]. The draft lists certain tasks that can only be performed by executive management. This is a change, because most obligations could previously be delegated by management [1].

3. Interested Parties: The term interested parties are proposed to replace the term stakeholders [1]. The needs and views of interested parties will need to be taken into consideration when implementing ISO 14001:201X [3].

Interested parties in the draft are defined in section 3.2 as

“person(s) and groups affected by an organization expressing their needs and expectations with its environmental performance; [for example:] customers, community, suppliers, regulators, nongovernment organizations, investors, employees” [1, p. 2].

4. Environmental Aspects: ISO 14001:201X includes requirements to not only manage environmental aspects within the organization, but also those aspects that are external to the organization if the organization can influence or control them. This is done in an effort to improve the environmental performance of the entire value chain [3].

5. Impacts of Environment on Business: The revised standard will add requirements to assess not only the impact of the business on the environment, but also the effects of the environment on the long-term business outcomes, formalizing the management of environmental risks [3]. An example of this would be to assess how climate change will affect a business and how the business plans to manage and adapt to these changes.

6. Required Objectives in the Environmental Policy: In the current version of the standard, the environmental policy must make commitments “to be legally compliant, to prevent pollution, and to continually improve their EMS” [3, p. 15]. Legal compliance will be expanded to compliance obligations in ISO 14001:201X. This includes all legal requirements and “voluntary commitments […], such as industry standards and codes, contractual relationships, principles of good governance and accepted community and ethical standards” [1, p. 2]. The meaning of prevention of pollution is also expanded to include the protection of the environment, biodiversity, and ecosystems, the mitigation of and adaption to climate change and the application of environmental management principles such as “environmental responsibility, precautionary approach and polluter pays” [1, p. viii].


Major changes are coming to ISO 14001 [5, 3]. The final version of the new standard is not yet published, but the description above gives a broad overview of the key of the proposed changes. Environmental professionals should keep up-to-date with the changes as this will provide many opportunities in the coming years.


Please check out the following documents, presentations and videos to find out more about the upcoming changes to ISO 14001.


[1] ISO, Environmental management systems — Requirements with guidance for use [Committee Draft (CD2)], International Organization for Standardization, 2013.

[2] S.-J. Russell, “Revised ISO 14001 to become DIS,” 28 January 2014. [Online]. Available: [Accessed 20 February 2014].

[3] M. Baxter, “Moving EMS forward,” The Environmentalist, pp. 14-16, January 2014.

[4] S. L. K. Briggs, “ISO 14001 revision is underway,” 18 April 2012. [Online]. Available: [Accessed 21 February 2014].

[5] M. Tornow, “Major revision of ISO 14001 coming up: what is new in ISO 14001:2015?,” 27 January 2014. [Online]. Available: [Accessed 21 February 2014].


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