2.7 The standard ISO14001
Following the success of the ISO9000 standard for quality, the standard 14001 for environmental management was created in 1996 (Morrow and Rondinelli, 2002). One of its goals was to replace the many and often conflicting criteria of “environmental quality” that appeared in each country. The model does not simply address pollution reduction but includes the processes involved in creating, managing and eliminating pollution (Melnuk et al., 2003).
Table 2.1: The different standards of the ISO14000 family
14000 Principles, systems and supporting techniques of environmental management
14001 Environmental management systems – specifications and methodology of use
14010 Environmental audit methodology – General principles
14011 Environmental audit methodology – Audit procedures
14012 Environmental audit methodology – Qualifications of environmental controllers
The introduction of the international standard ISO14001 led to the abolition of the individual standards or criteria that were applied per country. Table 2.1 shows other ISO14000 standards that apply simultaneously on an international level. ISO 14001 is essentially a process and not just a performance standard. It describes a whole system that will lead the company to achieve its environmental goals. It believes that by helping the company to focus on its production process, it will improve its environmental performance (Melnyk et al., 2003).
The latest innovation for achieving the ISO14001 certification is the gradual implementation of the EMS by the company. This provides greater flexibility in achieving the ISO14001 standard by dividing the overall environmental management process into small sub-sections. This follows six levels of integration of the EMS in the business:
1) Commitment to the standard and establishment of a recording base for continuous improvement.
2) Compliance with customer needs and legal obligations of the company.
3) Identification of significant environmental dimensions and impacts to enable the identification of the objectives of a management plan.
4) Management of the most important environmental dimensions by implementing the above management plan.
5) Audit document, review of the environment management system.
6) Extrovert communication with the aim of obtaining full certification through an internationally recognized standard EMS.
With the implementation of each phase of the scheme, the company can either carry out self-assessment through internal audits, or seek evaluation from its main customers, or turn to third parties that will evaluate it, to ensure that the prerequisites of each phase have been completed (Trust, 2005). External audit offers benefits to both customers and suppliers (if it is an intermediate link), since its results can be used by them to avoid further audits in their own supply chain (Gascoigne, 2002). Although full ISO14001 certification is not required to be a link in a supply chain business, adhering to the above gradual adaptation scheme is sufficient, more and more companies are seeking international certification to be recognized for their commitment to environmental issues.
The ISO 14001 standard was first published in 1996 and mainly includes the requirements of an environmental management system. It applies to those environmental aspects that the organization has control over and in which it is expected to have an impact. On November 15, 2004, the revised version of this ISO was published, i.e. ISO 14001: 2004. This revised standard appears to be quite improved compared to the previous one in terms of ease of understanding, emphasis on compliance and compatibility with the ISO 9000: 2000 quality management standard.
ISO 14001 is often cited as the cornerstone of the ISO 14000 series of standards. Not only because it is the most well-known and widespread but also because it is the only standard through which an organization or business can be certified by an external certification body. By declaring the certification, the organization/company does not initially declare any specific environmental performance criteria. The success of the standard depends on the commitment at all levels and, above all, at the level of the top management of the organization. Such a standard enables an organization/business/company to establish procedures for defining its environmental policy and environmental objectives and to evaluate their effectiveness, to achieve compliance with them and to demonstrate to other stakeholders this compliance. The overall goal of ISO 14001 is to generally support environmental protection and pollution prevention equally with other socio-economic needs.
It should be noted that this international standard does not establish absolute requirements for environmental performance, other than a commitment to the company’s policy and compliance with applicable law and other regulations aimed at continuously improving its performance. Therefore, two organizations/companies that carry out similar activities, but have different environmental performance, can both comply with the requirements of the standard. In addition, the mere adoption of this standard alone does not guarantee excellent environmental results. In order to achieve the environmental objectives, the EMS should encourage companies/organizations to consider the application of the best available technology, where this is feasible and economically viable. Finally, this standard does not include workplace health and safety requirements but does not prevent or discourage companies from incorporating such elements into their systems.
The main reason why many people perceive ISO 14001 differently is the misunderstanding of what this standard really is and which its real goals are. With the series of ISO 14000 standards, the international organization ISO once again moves in the area of management, this time to establish the basis for an international certification process for EMS.
ISO 14001 is often incorrectly referred to as an environmental standard. Its purpose is not to measure the environmental impact or to ensure that it is minimized. ISO 14001 should only be considered as a reference framework, in order to properly identify and manage the various performance criteria set by each organization-company that applies this standard. It is a process, which aims at the best possible management of the company’s activities, which can potentially have a negative impact on the environment. Organizations should follow a process of reviewing these activities in order to manage them effectively.
The important environmental aspects that have been identified are the core of the EMS and become the content of the company’s environmental policy and the relevant objectives set out in it. By itself an EMS will not improve the environmental performance of the organization/company but a proper standard will be able to give the organization the ability to measure and control the environmental aspects of its operations.
3.2.2. ISO 14001 Requirements
ISO 14001 provides guidance on the requirements of an EMS, which are based on the “Design – Implementation – Control – Improvement” framework. (Ζουμπούλης, 2015).
The design data of the EMS take into account existing legal regulations, requirements and data from stakeholders, technological and organizational elements and data (eg best practices, standards, production technology, infrastructure, etc.), as well as environmental requirements. The basic stages of design are:
- Recording of the current situation.
- Identification of legal and other requirements.
- Collection of data from stakeholders.
- Evaluation of technologies and infrastructure.
- Assessment of the environmental aspects of the organization.
- Identification, evaluation and prioritization of Environmental Impacts.
- Decision on specific actions to manage the environmental impact in accordance with the previous prioritization.
More specifically, the recording of the present situation includes:
- Carrying out environmental inspection of the facilities:
- Environmental Licenses
- The problems
- The main operational characteristics of the company that are expected to affect the environment
- The possibility of intervention in order to avoid or reduce adverse environmental effects
- Writing a detailed “Environmental Inspection Report”.
In terms of compliance with the legislation, initially an investigation of the current legislation, Greek and European, is carried out. Information on general environmental legislation is found as well as the specific legislation on the activities of the organization/company (if any), whether special permits are required, what are the other requirements, internal regulations (if any), codes, detailed instructions and specifications, etc., and then, the more specific requirements, concerning the operation of the specific company, are identified. The following is a comparison with the results of the environmental inspection and evaluation of the level of compliance The final stage includes identifying the possibilities and ways to improve compliance.
The identification of environmental aspects is done throughout the scope of the EMS and includes:
- The activities of the organization/company.
- Incoming and outgoing activities.
- The products.
- Business processes at all organizational levels (production, sales, procurement, etc.).
- Infrastructure (facilities, equipment, etc.).
- Normal and abnormal (emergency) operating conditions.
Changes in the environment, positive or negative, resulting from environmental aspects, constitute the environmental impact.
The identification of environmental aspects is completed in four steps:
- Step 1: Select the activity/process.
- Step 2: Determine the environmental aspects: normal operating conditions, potential emergency situations.
- Step 3: Identification/description of the respective environmental impacts.
- Step 4: Assessment and prioritization of environmental impacts.
The identification of environmental impact/aspects can be done, e.g. through the examination of inputs and outputs in each individual production process of the company, such as:
- Discharges into water,
- Raw materials and natural resources,
- Liquid waste generated,
- Solid by-products produced,
- Noise generated.
Another proposed method of identifying environmental aspects is to consider the following procedures as a whole, without analysis of inputs and outputs:
- Operation and production,
- Emergency situations.
Once the recording is complete, the effects are evaluated and prioritized by applying certain criteria (e.g. legal requirements, internal requirements or business regulations, damage to the natural or human environment, size and severity of impact, frequency and probability of occurrence, cost to business, possibility of intervention, social interest, contribution to climate change, depletion of natural resources, stakeholders, etc.) and, finally, the appropriate decisions are made for the management of the Environmental Impact.
In the implementation of an EMS, using the environmental impact assessment/management algorithm, decisions are made for the management of the Environmental Impact and their implementation includes some permanent actions of continuous management, as well as specific actions of improvement of the environmental impact, while at the same time requiring more comprehensive coordination.
The implementation is done through the application of specific procedures, ie through the documented description of how some tasks should be performed, and contain the following:
- Scope (in which activities of the company the process is applied).
- Purpose (what we seek to achieve by implementing it).
- Responsibilities (who is involved and what responsibilities they have).
- Actions that are implemented and how to implement procedures.
- Time series of actions.
- Records kept.
Procedures for improving environmental parameters include:
- the preparation and monitoring of environmental management programs,
- targeting, monitoring and elaboration of appropriate environmental indicators,
- the process of corrective and preventive actions.
Design procedures include:
- environmental goals and objectives,
- review by the management,
- communication with third parties,
- investigation of legislative requirements, and
- assessment of environmental aspects and requirements.
System control procedures include:
- Carrying out environmental internal inspections, and
- Maintenance of devices, measurements and controls.
Finally, environmental impact management procedures refer to the management of:
- solid waste,
- liquid waste,
- gaseous pollutants,
- energy consumption,
- water consumption, and
- production of hazardous waste and special handling waste.
It includes the establishment of a control system and the corresponding corrective actions, which will include monitoring and measurement, in case of non-compliance, as well as taking corrective and preventive actions. These will be complied with in accordance with the requirements of the environmental management and inspections of the EMS.
It includes a review process by the management, through which senior management re-evaluates the suitability, effectiveness and adequacy of the EMS at appropriate intervals, in order to ensure the continuous improvement of the system.
3.2.3. Scope of application
The international standard ISO 14001 is applicable to all types and sizes of corporate organizations and can be adapted to different geographical, cultural and social conditions. Specifically, it can be applied to (Ζουμπούλης, 2015):
- The whole company, including the central administration and the factories – international facilities.
- A business unit within a business. This unit may consist of components in different locations.
- A factory – facility of a business, which includes one or more business units.
- A government agency, including all its managements and functions or a single management, such as e.g. is waste management.
- A specific processing procedure of a factory, such as e.g. a plating line.
ISO 14001 can be applied to any organization/business/company, which wishes to (Ζουμπούλης, 2015):
- Implement, maintain and improve an EMS,
- Prove its compliance with the environmental policy stated,
- Demonstrate and prove its compliance to others,
- Ensure compliance with applicable environmental laws and regulations,
- Seek the certification of the environmental management system provided by an appropriate external body,
- Make a self-declaration of conformity.