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New environmental regulations: what you need to know

These new, revised standard – the first update in a decade – will deliver additional business benefits such as increasing corporate resilience and gaining competitive advantage.

Early transition is therefore an advantage, not only to guarantee that these benefits are realised as quickly as possible, but also to ensure that businesses maintain their ISO 14001 certification longer term. 

ISO 14001:2015 will look and feel quite different to its predecessor.

“ISO 14001:2015 will look and feel quite different to its predecessor”

It will follow a defined ISO high level structure meaning easier integration between ISO 14001, ISO 9001 and the new OHSAS 18001 replacement, ISO 45001, published next year.

Its changes can be summarised in five main areas:

  • Leadership: Cross-functional senior managers will need to promote and be accountable for the EMS, ensuring it achieves its intended outcomes. Your EMS should be integrated with other organisational processes and be compatible with your strategy so that decisions are made with consideration for the environment at all levels.   
  • Strategic context: You will be expected to demonstrate a broader understanding of the context in which you operate and ensure your EMS responds in order to meet its intended outcome. This requires understanding your organisation’s direction, culture and resources and external influences. The new standard flips the question “what’s your impact on the environment” on its head to take into account the impact of the environment on you.
  • Interested party analysis and communication: Your EMS will need to become more outward looking by understanding the needs and expectations of your interested parties or stakeholders. Robust monitoring, measurement and internal auditing processes will be needed. 
  • Risks and opportunities: There are three principal sources of risks and opportunities: environmental aspects, compliance obligations and other issues. You will need to assess and address these sources, as well as making your institution more robust to future challenges.
  • Lifecycle perspective: You should determine environmental aspects at each stage of your product or service’s lifecycle. For contractors this may require greater collaboration with clients, designers, sub-contractors, suppliers and end users. 

For those with sophisticated strategies in place for sustainability and carbon management, these revisions will also play an important role in supporting these initiatives.

“For contractors this may require greater collaboration with clients”

Above all, they will introduce mainstream processes for recognising and responding to mid and long-term environmental challenges and provide an additional framework for the industry to become even more receptive to stakeholder needs. 

Greg Roberts is a manager at Ramboll Environ

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