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The revision of ISO 14001: impact, risks and opportunities

When reading carefully the recently published new revision of ISO 14001 , one realizes that the standard has really “come to age”, and that environmental issues has become a strategic element for any organization in the last years.
First of all, the adoption of the new High Level Structure developed by ISO for Management Systems Standards will increase the compatibility of the standard with other MS standards like ISO 9001 or ISO 27001, making it simpler the adoption of several standards within the organization and fostering the interrelationship and synergies between the systems. Managements systems are now more integrated than ever into the Strategic Management of the companies and, having proved to be an effective and efficient tool to reach strategic objectives, need to have a common structure.
The inclusion of explicit requirements related to the context of the organization and leadership, while maintaining the PDCA model, represents a great opportunity for the companies to better understand and manage the needs and expectations of the interested parties with regard the organization. Moreover, understanding the changing context which influences our company and its activities will lead to easily manage the derived risks and opportunities.
Today, managing effectively risks and opportunities means obtaining a strong competitive advantage for over the competitors; however, to reach this goal it is essential that top management is aware and fully understand these context and risks, and shows its leadership within the whole organization. That´s why we cannot talk any more about commitment of the top management, as in the older versions of the standard, but about a real and proactive leadership which will take advantage of these opportunities and will ensure the integration of the environmental management system in all business processes to achieve the strategic objectives of the organization.
The new ISO 14001, which makes a special emphasis in ensuring the continuous improvement of the environmental performance of the company and its products and services, has adopted a Life Cycle perspective to help organizations to define its environmental aspects and significant aspects. This new approach, which doesn´t mean to make a full LCA, will make easier to understand the main impacts throughout the different stages of the life cycle and to identify the most critical ones in terms of environmental performance. 
Probably the main risk for the organizations with regard the new ISO 14001 is not to be aware of its full potential, especially at the (top) management level. Ignoring the Environment means increasing the risk level of the company in many fields (financial, reputational, compliance…) and will head it to a less competitive performance.
To summarize, the new ISO 14001 is a powerful management tool and represents a great opportunity for the companies to better integrate the environmental factor in its global strategy. It allows taking advantage of its opportunities while controlling or reducing the associated risks, and to successfully achieve the strategic objectives of the company. 

Mario Calderon

AENOR Delegate to IQNet

AENOR – Asociación Española de Normalización y Certificación
Genova 6
28004 Madrid