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ISO 14001: 2004 VS. ISO 14001:2015

To begin with, the 2015 version has ten clauses, whereas the 2004 one has four. As a result, both ISO 14001:2015 and 9001 :2015 respectively environmental and quality management systems (QMS) follow the same structure. 

What are the Differences between ISO 14001:2015 and 2004?

The following tables list the ISO 14001 version 2015 compared to the previous one.

Table 1. The First Three Clauses

The first three clauses of ISO 14001 outline the scope of an EMS and define relevant terms of the standard. The 2015 edition tends to update some definitions and shape additional concepts (e.g., life cycle).

ISO 14001:2004 ClauseISO 14001:2015 ClauseWhat is New?
1. Scope1. ScopeEssentially the same
2. Normative references2. Normative referencesNo normative references in bother versions
3. Terms and definitions3. Terms and definitions
  • It divides the terms and definitions into specific groups.
  • It adds new terms and definitions, including top management, environmental condition, objective, requirement, compliance obligation, risk, risks and opportunities, competence, documented information, life cycle, outsource, process, conformity, effectiveness, indicator, monitoring, measurement, and performance.
  • It omits a few terms and definitions including environmental target, preventive action, procedure, and record.
  • It slightly changes the definitions of a few terms or adds details to them, including environmental management system, environmental policy, organization, interested party, environmental aspect, environmental objective, nonconformity, corrective action, continual improvement, and environmental performance.

Table 2. Context of the Organization

Considering the context of the organization becomes a requirement in the 2015 version. Indeed, organizations are required to determine their internal and external context affecting the EMS performance. Importantly, they must pay attention to the needs and expectations of interested parties.

ISO 14001:2004 ClauseISO 14001:2015 ClauseWhat is New?
N/A4.1 Understanding the organization and its context

This clause requires the organization to determine what internal and external issues can influence the results of the EMS.

It also requires finding out what environmental conditions the organization is or may be affecting.

N/A4.2 Understanding the needs and expectations of interested partiesThe organization must identify the interested parties with their needs, expectations, and compliance obligations.
4.1 General requirements4.3 Determining the scope of the environmental management system

This clause requires the organization to clarify the scope of the EMS by determining its:

  • boundaries
  • context (see clause 4.1)
  • interested parties (see clause 4.2), and
  • authority, control, and influence.

It is necessary to document such scope.

N/A4.4 Environmental management system

It emphasizes the performance of the EMS, considering clauses 4.1 and 4.2.

Table 3. Leadership

The terminology “management representative” is no longer used in the 2015 edition. Instead, commitment and leadership from top management are now a requirement. Top management is responsible for establishing and maintaining an EMS and defining the roles, responsibilities, and authorities. In their environmental policy, the leadership must not only commit to preventing pollution, as in the 2004 edition. Instead, senior management must strive for improving the environment as a whole.

ISO 14001:2004 ClauseISO 14001:2015 ClauseWhat is New?
N/A5.1 Leadership and commitment

The clause emphasizes top management involvement. Therefore, top management must:

a) be accountable for the effectiveness of the EMS,

b) be in control of the EMS policy and objectives,

c) be responsible for sharing his vision to the entire organization (top-down management approach),

d) be in charge of allocating sufficient resources,

e) communicate the EMS and its obligations,

f) verify the EMS results,

g) guide and support the staff in charge of the EMS,

h) promote continuous improvement (see clause 10), and

i) support other management roles related to the EMS.

4.2 Environmental policy5.2 Environmental policy

This clause focuses on the responsibility of top management in establishing and maintaining an environmental policy that:

a) is well adapted to the purpose and context of the organization,

b) focuses on setting environmental objectives,

c) commits to environmental protection, which is broader than just prevention of pollution,

d) commits to meeting its compliance obligations, and

e) commits to continuously improving environmental performance.

It is mandatory to communicate the environmental policy within the organization and to make it available to interested parties.

4.4.1 Resources, roles, responsibility, and authority5.3 Organizational roles, responsibilities, and authoritiesThis clause reinforces the top management responsibility for assigning the responsibilities, authorities, and roles related to the EMS and its performance.

Table 4. Planning

While approaching the P step of the PDCA, the organization should not only consider the risks but also the opportunities that could impact the EMS performance, on top of compliance obligations. Lately, organizations shall also include a life cycle perspective when identifying the environmental aspects of their activities, products, and services.

ISO 14001:2004 ClauseISO 14001:2015 ClauseWhat is New?
N/A6.1 Actions to address risks and opportunities (title only)

See clauses 6.1.1 to 6.1.4.

N/A6.1.1 General

This clause summarizes the process planning approach. It specifies the necessity to:

  • consider risks and opportunities of environmental aspects, and
  • tackle compliance obligations and other issues (per clauses 4.1 and 4.2).

The final environmental goal for the organization is to:

  • achieve the expected results,
  • reduce undesirable effects, and
  • improve the EMS.
4.3.1 Environmental aspects6.1.2 Environmental aspects

This clause details how to determine the environmental aspects of an organization’s activities, products, and services. It also requires considering:

  1. life cycle perspective, and
  2. the relation between risks and opportunities vs. negative and beneficial environmental impacts.
4.3.2 Legal and other requirements6.1.3 Compliance obligations

This clause requires the organization to:

a) determine and have access to compliance obligations relating to its environmental aspects

b) establish a link between the obligations and the organization, and

c) take these obligations into account towards continuous improvement. 

Note: obligations can lead to corporate risks but also opportunities.

N/A6.1.4 Planning action

Here, the clause details how to deal with:

  • significant environmental aspects,
  • compliance obligations, and
  • risks & opportunities,

by developing action plans. The EMS, as well as other processes (e.g., quality, health, and safety), must be able to support such action plans and evaluate their effectiveness.

4.3.2 Objectives, targets, and programmes(s)6.2 Environmental objectives and planning to achieve them (title only)

See clauses 6.2.1 and 6.2.2.

4.3.2 Objectives, targets, and programmes(s)6.2.1 Environmental objectives

According to this clause, objectives must:

  • stem from the environmental policy,
  • come with performance indicators with due dates and deadlines, and
  • be communicated.
4.3.2 Objectives, targets, and programmes(s)6.2.2 Planning actions to achieve environmental objectives

Here, achieving environmental objectives requires all business processes (environmental, quality, health, and safety) monitoring the planned actions.

Table 5. Support

There are new requirements in terms of internal and external communications. Also, the terminology “documented information” replaces “documents and records” from the previous version.

ISO 14001:2004 ClauseISO 14001:2015 ClauseWhat is New?
4.4.1 Resources, roles, responsibility, and authority7.1 Resources

The clause describes the resources necessary for the EMS and its continuous improvement.

4.4.2 Competence, training, and awareness7.2 CompetenceThis one identifies adequate skills and training requirements.
4.4.2 Competence, training, and awareness7.3 Awareness

Here, it focuses on raising people’s awareness. Such general awareness is based on the environmental:

  • policy,
  • significant aspects,
  • responsibility of everyone. What are the consequences, for non-compliance with the EMS? What are the benefits of everyone’s involvement?
4.4.3 Communication7.4 Communication (title only)See clauses 7.4.1, 7.4.2, and 7.4.3
4.4.3 Communication7.4.1 General

This clause provides guidelines for internal and external communication, considering:

  • what to communicate?
  • when?
  • with whom?
  • how?

The communication plan must consider:

  • the organization’s compliance obligations,
  • the consistency, and
  • the reliability of the information.
4.4.3 Communication7.4.2 Internal communicationThe organization should particularly internally communicate any changes and continuous improvement of the EMS.
4.4.3 Communication7.4.3 External communicationThe organization must no longer document its decision to communicate significant environmental aspects.
According to its compliance obligations, it must communicate any EMS information.
4.4.4 Documentation7.5 Documented information (title only)See clauses 7.5.1, 7.5.2, and 7.5.3.
4.4.4 Documentation7.5.1 GeneralThe organization shall document the information necessary for the effectiveness of its EMS.

4.4.5 Control of documents

4.5.4 Control of records

7.5.2 Creating and updatingThere are fewer details on the documented information clause. The documented information must cover everything related to the EMS as defined in clause 3.3.2.

4.4.5 Control of documents

4.5.4 Control of records

7.5.3 Control of documented information

This clause emphasizes the availability of documented information. It specifies:

– the identification and control of documented information from the external origin, and
– management of restricted/confidential information.

Table 6. Operation

Through their regular processes, organizations must consider the control of outsourced processes and the life cycle perspective. Clause 8.2 provides further details on what an emergency manual should contain.

ISO 14001:2004 ClauseISO 14001:2015 ClauseWhat is New?
4.4.6 Operational control8.1 Operational planning and control

The terminology “operating criteria in the procedure(s)” is replaced by “operating criteria in the process(es).”
This clause discusses the control of outsourced processes that fall within the EMS scope and its influence.
The life cycle perspective must also be considered here.

4.4.7 Emergency preparedness and response8.2 Emergency preparedness and response

This clause clarifies some elements of an emergency plan, including:

  • the preparation,
  • practices,
  • mitigation measures,
  • communications, and
  • follow-up measures in case of emergency.

Table 7. Performance Evaluation

ISO 14001:2015 is now more specific in evaluating environmental performance through indicators. It requires organizations to outline how they will monitor, measure, and evaluate their activities and operations that have or might have environmental impacts through internal audit programs and management reviews.

ISO 14001:2004 ClauseISO 14001:2015 ClauseWhat is New?
4.5.1 Monitoring and measurement9.1 Monitoring, measurement, analysis, and evaluation (title only)

See clauses 9.1.1 and 9.1.2.

4.5.1 Monitoring and measurement9.1.1 General

This clause summarizes what the EMS must do:

  • measure,
  • monitor,
  • analyze,
  • control in terms of the outcome, performance, and effectiveness.
4.5.2 Evaluation of compliance9.1.2 Evaluation of compliance

The clause focuses on:

  • understanding and tracking compliance status; and
  • taking compliance actions.
4.5.5 Internal audit9.2 Internal audit (title only)
9.2.1 General
9.2.2 Internal audit program
Here, the clause sets the audit program, from an internal perspective. It makes it clear that the management must know the audit results.
4.6 Management review9.3 Management review

To better make strategic decisions, management review should consider, among other elements, the EMS:

  • risks and opportunities,
  • resources,
  • internal interested parties (employees, etc.),
  • performance evaluation,
  • non-conformities,
  • monitoring and measurement results,
  • compliance, and
  • results from previous audit results.

Table 8. Improvement

Continual improvement is an essential aspect of any medium-term management practice. In ISO 2014:2015, organizations must consider all available information, including results from evaluations of compliance, internal audits, and management review, to continuously improve the performance of their EMS.

ISO 14001:2004 Clause ISO 14001:2015 Clause What is New?
N/A 10.1 General

This clause emphasizes the importance of identifying opportunities for improvement.

4.5.3 Nonconformity, corrective action, and preventive action 10.2 Nonconformity and corrective action

It reinforces the importance of:

  • corrective actions and control through mitigation, measures; and
  • the elimination of root causes.

The organization must show evidence of results stemming from the corrective actions.

N/A 10.3 Continual improvement This final clause summarizes the importance of continually improving the EMS performance.

ISO 14001:2015 Version: the Gist

ISO revises its environmental management system standard over the years to clarify and update its content. ISO 14001:2015 now follows the same structure as the ISO 9001 QMS. Organizations must pay attention to their context to identify better their risks and opportunities. The 2015 version concentrates more on understanding the needs and expectations of interested parties. It also promotes commitment and leadership from top management. The 2015 version introduces the life cycle perspective and focuses on practical environmental improvement. And finally, there are additional requirements for internally and externally communicating information related to the EMS.

What is ISO 14001:2015?

ISO 14001 is part of the ISO 14000 family of standards which provides the most accepted practices for an Environmental Management System (EMS). It is also the most recognized general standard in this regard.

ISO (International Organization for Standardization) publishes and maintains standards to clarify corporate practices while developing global trade. ISO management system standards typically follow the so-called PDCA cycles. 

PDCA Cycles

What is a PDCA Cycle?

PDCA is an acronym for Plan – Do – Check – Act, which you can also find under the name of Deming Wheel. ISO management systems usually describe these four PDCA steps. An organization that repetitively uses the PDCA tool can assure continual improvement of its practices and monitor its effectiveness.

What are the Benefits for an Organization to be ISO 14001:2015 Certified?

Here are some of the perks of meeting the ISO 14001 requirements:  

  • Complying with environmental laws and regulations
  • Reducing the risks associated with non-compliances and negatively affecting the environment
  • Continually improving your environmental performance
  • Preventing the environmental impacts caused by your organization’s activities, products, and services
  • Enhancing your brand image
  • Reaching greater customer satisfaction
  • Increasing profitability
Continuous Improvement

The ISO 14001 guidance is not a static one. It evolves as technical committees gather to update it. As a result, various editions of that same standard are now available on the market. An ISO 14001 certified organization should always meet the requirements from the latest edition.

We are here to help your company become ISO 14001 certified; contact the Enviropass team for any questions regarding ISO 14001. Check out our ISO 14001 online comprehensive course!