What is ISO?

ISO stands for International Organization of Standardisation is an organization instituted for the purpose to set, describe, draft and establish standards for product and services that are safe for consumption and use. It provides assistance in raising and specifying a standard to the field of agriculture, food product or construction, quality analyzing and management, environment etc. It has 162 memberships from different countries which are further categorized into member bodies, correspondent bodies, and subscriber members. ISO 14000 is one of the Management System Standard which set up a benchmark for companies and organization of all types looking to manage their environment.

Introduction to ISO 14000 and 14001:

ISO has set up various management system standards. These lists of the standard are broadly classified into quality, general management, safety and security, health and medical, environment and energy, industry, services, and information technology. (Refer to http://www.iso.org/iso/mss-list). ISO 14000 is one of the Management System Standard which set up a benchmark for companies and organization of all types looking to manage their environment.  It also pertains to industries adhering to the obligation as prescribed by the law in force in order to safeguard the environment. This is the most vital standard within the ISO 14000 series which are nonetheless a bundle of requirements for implementation of Environment Management System (From hereinafter Environment Management System will be referred as EMS).

EMS elucidates firstly, how to manage environmental aspects, secondly, how to abide by environmental laws and policies, and thirdly how to assess the risks and opportunities involved in protecting these standards. It is pertinent to note that ISO 14001 only renders a guideline or an outline to develop and maintain the EMS or in other words, it does not have an enforcement body to regularize and implement the standards to the member nation. The member nations can only use these guidelines as a criterion to evolve and enact one of its own EMS.

The committee involved in the development of ISO 14000:

ISO technical committee ISO/TC 207 (also known as Environment Management), is liable for enhancement and maintenance of the ISO 14000 series. The establishment of the abovementioned committee was the consequences of discussion on the issue of sustainable development in the United Nation Conference on Environment and Development held at Rio De Janerio in the year 1992. Subsequently, in the year 1993, this committee was formed. Gradually, the committee further delegated its work to subcommittees. They are as follows:

  1. ISO/TC 207/SC 1: Environmental Management Systems
  2. ISO/TC 207/SC 2: Environmental Auditing and related environmental investigations
  3. ISO/TC 207/SC 3: Environmental labeling
  4. ISO/TC 207/SC 4: Environment performance evaluation
  5. ISO/TC 207/SC 5: Life Cycle Assessment
  6. ISO/TC 207/SC 7: Greenhouse gas management and related activities.

ISO 14001:

ISO 14001 is the most frequently used and administered standard. It has been constantly revised and modified by the technical committee mentioned above. ISO 14001: 2004 and ISO 14001:2004/Cor 1:2009 was withdrawn and it was revised by ISO 14001:2015. The main objective of ISO 14001 is to achieve sustainable development by equating the disparity between society, economy and the environment and to protect the extinction of this environment for its usage by the future generation.

Any business corporation or an organization can refer to these guidelines and can apply for certification of their drafted EMS under the governing law of the member body. Drafted and certified EMS can contribute to the success of sustainable development by protecting, mitigating and preventing any detrimental environmental impact or any potential impact. It also helps in legal compliances of the organization and aims to strengthen the organization financially without any repercussions on its market position. EMS should also consist of relevant procedure for communicating all the information prescribed in it to the interested party.

ISO 14001 certification procedure:

Bureau of Indian Standard is the organization representing India in International Organisation for Standardisation. ISO registration procedure for ISO 14001 in India is prescribed in the Bureau of Indian Standard (Certification) Regulation, 1988.

  • Regulation 7(1)A describes that the requisite application ought to be submitted to the Bureau for the grant of license/certification for the Management System which shall be signed by Managing Director of the applicant organization. With the required form an additional questionnaire, Manual Plan, and policy should be annexed. Likewise, the bureau shall acknowledge, verify and consequently intimate the applicant about proceeding with the application, if the organization or the company has adhered to all the requirements given by the Bureau. Also, to note that the application can be rejected and the grounds of refusal shall be communicated to the applicants by the Bureau.
  • The next step follows is the assessment procedure wherein the Bureau inspects the premises of the applicant and all the submitted documents as stated above. The assessment team will ensure that the Management system as submitted by the applicant is being observed and hence a practical demonstration is to be presented to them by the applicant.
    [Regulation 7B]
  • Thereafter, the assessment team will prepare a report to the Bureau in the prescribed time stating that the items and clauses mentioned in the Management System are in conformity with the Standards. If they are not in conformity the same shall be notified in writing to the applicant. [Regulation 7D]
  • Finally, after the examination of the report by the Bureau and if he is satisfied that the recommendations mentioned therein are sufficient; he shall provide a certificate of grant of a license under Form III to the applicant. [Regulation 7F(b)]
  • It is to be noted that the assessment fees or reassessment if any; and license fees which are determined by the Bureau and ought to be paid by the applicant. Howbeit, the assessment fees shall be intimated to the applicant before the survey is conducted. [Regulation 7C and G]

However, EMS certification/ ISO 14001 can also be given by accredited private companies specializing in it, for instance, TUV India. To be precise, the International Organisation for Standardisation does not issue any certificate; their primary role is solely to develop guidelines and direction imperative to create a socio-economic environment without affecting the ecosystem at large. National authorities like Bureau of Indian Standard or any other certification bodies can provide the ISO registration.

Is ISO 14001 useful or is it contributing to the environment?

This question can be answered in affirmative as the varied organization will do competitive businesses with the agenda of causing least or minimal damage to the environment.  The introduction of waste management, frugal use of resources, and listing out the criteria for prevention and protection of environment would avail to achieve the goal of sustainable development. Further, the enforcing agents would conduct an inspection to mete out the standard as defined in the Environment Management System.

This would keep a check and balance on corporations earning profit along with deterrence to environmental degradation. Adoption of EMS would preclude the complexity of facing future litigation and payment of heavy compensation as the standards are already complied with in the proposed management system. Besides that the BIS (Certification), Regulation, states about the renewal of license every three years which would be comprehended with the reassessment of the management system; thereupon leading to amendment and improvements thereof.

ISO has introduced the concept of Plan- Do- Check- Act model (PDCA). It emphasizes the methodology to be abided with-

  1. Plan: to enact and establish the environment policy and process
  2. Do: execute the plan
  3. Check: examine that the policy is in operation
  4. Act: to continuously attempt to improvise.

Reference to be made to ISO 14001:2015 (https://www.iso.org/obp/ui/#iso:std:iso:14001:ed-3:v1en) for various terms used like life cycle, environmental performance, outsource, process, audit, conformity, not- conformity, corrective action to eliminate the non-conformity, etc. All these methodologies and frequent amendments in the ISO helps in restructuring and modifying the standards as per the changing circumstances and climatic condition. Subsequently, it boosts up the environmental performance of the organization or corporation.  Albeit, the ISO 14001 framework has been successful so far; its conformity depends upon implementation by the member bodies.

Related Article-