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What’s What: Understanding the ISO 14000 Family Of Standards

Back in the year 1987, the International Organization for Standardization introduced a number of norms known as the ISO 9000 series. For the first time, there were internationally recognized quality management standards. The approach to these standards was voluntary. If you wanted the ISO 9000 certificate, you could obtain it by a third party.

The ISO 14000 family – Tools for environmental management

These quality management norms were later followed by various environmental standards that originated in the 1992 Rio conference, known as ISO 14000. As well as ISO 9000, ISO 14000 require an external verification by a third party, which is neither the organization that asks for the certification, nor ISO itself. For obtaining the ISO certificate, you need an external “certification body”.

“I want to get ISO 14000 certified”

Now, you want your facility to get certified as environmentally friendly. “Give me that ISO 14000?” Not as easy as that. Which norm exactly do you ask for? There is a whole family of standards. Each topic has its own. The variety of norms seems infinite: ISO 14001 can be described as general user’s guide for environmental management, whereas 14020 to 14025 include labels and declaration. ISO 14015 determines the environmental assessment of sites and organizations, 14062 the goals. Some norms even have multiple sub-norms, such as ISO 14064-1,-2,-3. The good news: ISO 14000 is generic. Any organization, no matter what size or branch, whether public or private, can apply. But what do all these numbers stand for?

Pre-Production Phase: ISO 14040

Well, if you plan on releasing a completely new product, and you are concerned with its environmental impact, it might be a good idea to effect a complete life cycle assessment. The certificate of your choice would be the ISO 14040, in this case. It evaluates the product’s LCA framework:

ISO 14040:2006 describes the principles and framework for life cycle assessment (LCA) including: definition of the goal and scope of the LCA, the life cycle inventory analysis (LCI) phase, the life cycle impact assessment (LCIA) phase, the life cycle interpretation phase, reporting and critical review of the LCA, limitations of the LCA, the relationship between the LCA phases, and conditions for use of value choices and optional elements.

Specific Requirements for LCAs are determined in ISO 14044.

EPD, Labelling: ISO 14025

Once you developed your product and you wish to give it a neat label, ISO 14025 will help you out. This standard is all about “type III environmental declarations”: The labels that include “quantified data”, namely factual numbers. Environmental product declaration, EPD, has become a synonyme for these type III declarations.

Evaluate One Production Site: ISO 14015

If you wish to analyze and certify your complete company or single sites, it is the “Environmental assessment of sites and organizations (EASO)” you have to look for. This EASO is included in the ISO 14015:

This International Standard provides guidance on how to conduct an EASO through a systematic process of identifying environmental aspects and environmental issues and determining, if appropriate, their business consequences.

Measuring Environmental Performance: ISO 14031

If you don’t need a certificate, but wish to know how to measure your comany’s environmental performance continuously, check out ISO 14031 and its Plan-Do-Check-Act system (PCDA).

The EPE tool is designed to provide management with reliable and verifiable information on an ongoing basis to determine whether or not its organization’s environmental performance is meeting criteria it has set for itself.

Impact on Climate Change: ISO 14064

When you wish to specifically assess the climate relevant emissions, evaluating and reducing greenhouse gases is your mission. How to measure these emissions is specified in the ISO 14064-1:

ISO 14064-1:2006 specifies principles and requirements at the organization level for quantification and reporting of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and removals.

Scaling the emissions down to one project, ISO 14064-2 will help you in “quantification, monitoring and reporting of greenhouse gas emission reductions or removal enhancements.” The third norm in the 64 group, ISO 14064-3, “provides guidance for those conducting the validation and/or verification of greenhouse gas (GHG) assertions”.

Product Carbon Footprint: ISO 14067

Still under development, ISO 14067 strives to standardize the barely penetrable jungle of product carbon footprint approaches.

Water Footprint: ISO 14046

The other norm under construction worth highlighting is ISO 14046. Its goal is establishing “internationally harmonized metrics for water footprints”. Two ISO authors illustrate, why this issue is so important:

In LCAs, water consumption is typically treated as an intermediate product to be used for the life cycle inventory, without further consideration of whether the water is used from limited resources in dry areas, or from abundant and renewable resources in wet areas. The resulting information is therefore of limited use in decision making.

What Is ISO 14000 Good For?

Why not only the environment, but also your organization, benefits from the measures you take during the ISO 14000 processes? Basically, you save energy and materials, you reduce waste management costs, you optimize your distribution and hence cut on spendings. Of course, you improve your image with customers and business partners. Image improvement for customers makes sense, but the certification effort is especially worthwhile for regulators and insurances – the latter may offer you better conditions, the former may visit you less often.

moritzbuehner

10 comments

  • Currently the update of ISO 14001 is starting. This means that in all countries participating in the ISO process so-called mirror committees are preparing their input for the update. Within ISO an international study group on Future Challenges analysed the future market needs and challenges for Environmental Management Systems (EMS). They identified a wide range of themes as relevant for EMS in the future, such as EMS as part of sustainability and social responsibility, improvement of environmental performance, environmental impacts in the supply or value chain or how to engage stakeholders. Furthermore the link or integration of EMS with Management Systems for Green House Gas Accounting or Energy is considered important was well as the topic of EMS and external communication.

    Practiciones in EMS worldwide get become involved with ISO via their national standardization body’s such as for example DIN in Germany, BSI in UK, AENOR in Spain, AFNOR in France etc. For the German Working group I know that practitioners who want to get involved are very welcome.

    • Hi Martina, very interesting! Especially the efforts towards integration of social aspects in an environmental management system. Maybe ISO heads forward in the race for the all-embracing sustainability standard? Including environmental, social, economic and quality aspects? What you indicate seems to go further than the changes EMAS III brought, with the new version in 2009.
      Just one question: how would interested people get in touch with the DIN group? Any website or contact?
      Thanks!

      • Hi Moritz,
        Regarding the development of a full sustainability standard under the ISO 14000 series I’m not so confident at the moment. In the last years you could observe a tendency that instead of extending making more specific the standard ISO 14001, e.g. for Energy Management EN 16001 resp. ISO 50001 have been developed. What is happing, is that there is an ongoing development of a basic management standard, which will harmonize the structure of all management systems standards, environment, quality, social. So at least the implementation will become easier with this harmonization.

        Especially interested practicioners using ISO 14001 are welcome to join the DIN working group. There is no specific website for that. German industry practioners may contact Ms Katherina Wührl (DIN, Germany). I’m hesitating to post her Email contact without asking her in advance, so please come back to me to receive her direct contact information.

  • I was not knowing that we have these many standards in 14000 family. Thank you for sharing such a blog.

  • Nice and informative blog,ISO 14001 certification is aimed at environmental issues and impact, with the objective of identifying, controlling and reducing environmental issues.