An Introduction to ISO 14000

by Mick Dawes

  1. The ISO 14000 family
  2. Components of an EMS
  3. EMS programs conforming to ISO 14001
  4. EMS: The platform for a low carbon economy
  5. EMS and product certification


1. The ISO 14000 family

The ISO 14000 series provides a framework for international best practice in the delivery of and implementation of environmental management. The ISO 14000 series family includes:



Draft International Standard


Technical Report


Technical Specification


Approved Work Item


Working Draft


Committee Draft

The ISO 14000 Family

Environmental management systems


ISO 14001:2004
Environmental management systems - Requirements with guidance for use

ISO 14004:2004
Environmental management systems - General guidelines on principles, systems and support techniques

ISO/DIS 14005
Environmental management systems - Guidelines for the phased implementation of an environmental management system, including the use of environmental performance evaluation

ISO/WD 14006
Environmental management systems - Guidelines on eco-design

Environmental assessments of sites and organizations


ISO 14015:2001
Environmental assessment of sites and organizations (EASO)

Environmental Labelling




ISO 14020:2000
Environmental labels and declarations - General principles

ISO 14021:1999
Environmental labels and declarations - Self declared environmental claims (Type II environmental labelling)

ISO 14024:1999
Environmental labels and declarations - Type I environmental labelling - Principles and procedures

ISO 14025:2006
Environmental labels and declarations - Type III environmental declarations - Principles and procedures

Environmental performance


ISO 14031:1999
Environmental performance evaluation - Guidelines

ISO/TR 14032:1999
Examples of environmental performance evaluation (EPE)

ISO/AWI 14033
Quantitative environmental information - Guidelines and examples

Life cycle assessment


ISO 14040:2006
Life cycle assessment - Principles and framework

ISO 14044:2006
Life cycle assessment - Requirements and guidelines

ISO/WD 14045
Eco-efficiency assessment - Principles and requirements

ISO/TR 14047:2003
Life cycle impact assessment - Examples of application of ISO 14042

ISO/TR 14049:2000
Life cycle assessment - Examples of application of ISO 14041 to goal and scope definition and inventory analysis

Terms and definitions


ISO 14050
Terms and definitions

ISO/CD 14051
Material flow cost accounting - General principles and framework

Greenhouse Gas emissions


ISO/TR 14062:2002
Integrating environmental aspects into product design and development

ISO 14063:2006
Environmental communication - Guidelines and examples

ISO 14063:2006
Environmental communication - Guidelines and examples

ISO 14064-1:2006
Greenhouse gases - Part 1: Specification with guidance at the organization level for quantification and reporting of greenhouse gas emissions and removals.

ISO 14064-2:2006
Greenhouse gases - Part 2: Specification with guidance at the project level for quantification, monitoring and reporting of greenhouse gas emission reductions or removal enhancements.

ISO/CD 14066
Greenhouse gases - Competency requirements for greenhouse gas validators and verifiers document.

ISO/WD 14067-1
Carbon footprint of products - Part 1: Quantifications

ISO/WD 14067-2
Carbon footprint of products - Part 2: Communication

ISO/AWI 14069
GHG - Quantification and reporting of GHG emissions for organizations (Carbon footprint of organization) - Guidance for the application of ISO 14064-1



ISO/WD 19011
Guidelines for auditing management systems

ISO 19011:2002
Guidelines for quality and/or environmental management systems auditing

Adapted from International Organization for Standardization, Environmental Management - The ISO 14000 family of International Standards, 2009,

2. Components of an EMS

Alignment to EMS ISO 14001

Many organisations choose to adopt an environmental management system (EMS) that conforms or aligns to EMS ISO 14001. The EMS ISO 14001 standard includes the following components:

  • Environmental policy
  • Environmental aspects, impacts and legal obligations
  • Environmental plan, objectives and targets
  • Program of measurement, monitoring and reporting
  • Program of internal assessments or auditing
  • Management review of the system
  • A documented system (Figure 1)

Key Components of an EMS 

Figure 1: Key components of the EMS

An organisation that has completed these requirements may seek EMS certification so as to independently validate and assure the system.

The environmental policy

The environmental policy is a public document that outlines an organisation's commitment to environmental management. The policy also provides an overall indication of key issues to be addressed.

The structure and content of an environmental policy will depend on the nature and scale of the business. As a minimum, the environmental policy will have top management support and will include the following information:

  • compliance with relevant environmental legislation and regulations, and to other obligations to which it subscribes
  • advocates pollution prevention, and
  • seeks continual improvement through planning processes, by setting objectives and targets, and through periodic review and action to enhance the system and its outcomes

An effective environmental policy will be designed following extensive stakeholder consultation and will be clear and concise.

For large organisations, the environmental policy is a tool to initiate behavioural and cultural change. The environmental policy is also a communication tool for stakeholder engagement.

The policy will transform and mature over time, reflecting the dynamic nature of management, changes to environmental issues and society values.

Environmental aspects, impacts and legal obligations

Environmental aspects are defined as those business activities, products or services that have an effect on the environment. These adverse or beneficial changes to the environment are termed environmental impacts. The identification and treatment of environmental aspects and associated environmental impacts form the building blocks of an EMS. The Australian Standards Environmental Risk Management Handbook HB203:2006 outlines processes and methodologies for businesses to identify, assess and treat risks associated with environmental aspects and impacts.

An important part of the identification process is to analyse and document the chain of events (pathway) from environmental aspect to impact. Another important feature of the identification process is to determine stressor events or processes that may impact important local environmental receptor, such as a local creek or lake.

The process will involve assessing those identified aspects and impacts for significance. Those assessed as significant will be treated and managed in the environmental plan. It should be noted that management treatment of insignificant and/or immaterial aspects/impacts can undermine the EMS program and will divert valuable time and resources. It may also effect business credibility which may attract adverse media attention and be a corporate target for 'greenwashing' - as significant and/or material environmental risk areas are overlooked and not managed.
The environmental aspects and impacts are usually recorded in a register with corresponding legal and reporting obligations.

While some business activities, products or services may be easily identifiable in terms of potential environmental impacts, such as effluent discharges (direct impact), other aspects may be less obvious (indirect impact), such as identifying the origins of raw materials used in manufacturing or processing plants. As an EMS matures these indirect aspects/impacts should be targeted for treatment.

Environmental plan, objectives and targets

Environmental objective is the expected outcome from introducing the environmental plan. For example, environmental objective is to reduce energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. The environmental target states the desired level of reduction - for example striving to obtain a five per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by [date]. The five per cent reduction will be driven by a strategy and a range of initiatives outlined in the environmental plan. These initiatives may be in the form of:

  • improved practices
  • improved staff and stakeholder education
  • improved infrastructure
  • improved technology
  • improved business processes
  • improved monitoring programs

Environmental objectives and targets will be documented in the environmental plan.

The environmental outcome will be 'reduced energy consumption and greenhouse emissions'.

Measurement, monitoring, and reporting

The effectiveness of an EMS program is gauged through a process of measurement, monitoring, reporting and review. These processes ensure that the environmental plan is being managed to achieve its objectives and targets, and that environmental initiatives remain on track and on the management radar.

For large organisations, data is usually compiled into management reports and submitted to governance committees for review and/or decision-making. The reporting style to measure success may vary from key performance indicators on a balance scorecard or a report that is expressly written to address each measure. The reporting information is usually compared with historical baselines, seasonal and/or budgeted data. The reporting frequency will depend on a number of factors, such as the type of reporting initiative, the time needed to collect and consolidate data, and the nature of the issues being addressed - such as seasonal factors and time of reporting.

Consistency of measurement and data extraction is an important part of the reporting process as it ensures timeliness and accuracy of reporting and allows for data comparison and benchmarking. For instance, assessing flora biodiversity over various periods should be performed using the same methodology as previous data collections, with seasonal variations and other externalities explained in the report. Similarly, the number of flora samples can impact reporting timeliness; however this should not be at the expense of reporting integrity.

Furthermore, organisations should consider stakeholder expectations and strike a balance between relevance, accuracy, timeliness, and the cost to obtainment for producing environmental reports.

With this in mind, there has been a growing demand over recent years from stakeholders and other interested parties for organisations to disclose environmental performance at the corporate and product levels. Organisations are choosing to report publicly through their annual report, sustainability report and/or a standalone environmental sustainability report. The EMS framework along with other frameworks, such as the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), will assist with capturing, measuring and reporting relevant environmental information for public disclosure.

Internal assessments or audits

An internal environmental assessment or audit is used to gauge conformance to the environmental policy, guidelines and procedures. It also assesses the performance and effectiveness of the environmental plan and areas of compliance.

Ongoing internal assessments or audits ensure that the organisation maintains a program of continuous improvement.

The relevance of internal assessment or audit programs will depend on the nature, scale and distribution of the business. It will also depend on the scope of the EMS itself, such as the EMS being site-based or corporate-based.

The frequency of internal assessments or audits will depend on various factors such as changes to business processes and product lines, changes to legal obligations, new risks, site performance issues, budget and resources.

An internal assessment or audit program will consist of documented criteria that benchmarks performance against the environmental objectives, such as assessing the operational effectiveness of emergency procedures, staff compliance with the corporate environmental manual, relevance and updating of procedure documentation and training manuals, and frequency of staff training.

The effectiveness of an internal assessment or audit program will depend on the scope, frequency, competence of resources, concise and timely reporting, accountability and governance of audit report recommendations.

Management review

This phase of the EMS allows for a reflection and review on the performance of the systems, and any changes in the context of the EMS - such as products, services or activities. The changes may occur inside or outside of the business, and can include such issues as legal obligations, industry developments, new technology development, and market requirements.

The management review is a considered response which translates into taking action to amend or enhance the system.

The review may include key information such as key performance indicators, progress against environmental objectives and outcomes, budgetary position, committee or corporate feedback, and market intelligence.

Documented system

The EMS may be documented in various ways depending on the nature and scale of the business. Some systems may be purely paper-based, while others may be electronic and reside on the corporate intranet or be maintained with dedicated EMS software.

A successful EMS will have current documentation and will be transparent to staff and stakeholders. Training materials will be based on the documentation and will reflect the ongoing changes to the business - whether internally or externally driven.

For large organisations, EMS documentation may be integrated into existing management systems and business processes.

Lastly, the documented system should be designed for ease of maintenance and low overhead, without compromising the integrity of the system itself.

3. EMS programs conforming to ISO 14001

Australian Land Management Certification Scheme (ALMCS) - ALMCS is an independent way of verifying environmental performance that can be used by landholders small and large, catchment management organisations and industry groups. It is Australia's only national, whole-of-farm, catchment-linked and externally audited land management system that complies with internationally recognised management

BestFarms EMS - BestFarms was developed by the Blackwood Basin Group (BBG) in 2003 in response to the growing need to demonstrate environmentally sustainable production. BestFarms assist landowners to identify and address environmental issues on their properties for the long term. BestFarms is dedicated to providing a systematic approach to farming and other land use practices that will sustain environmental values and profitability.

Seafood EMS - is an eight step process which has been customised through intensive consultation with seafood industry people involved in developing an EMS. The process includes a certification process.

Enviro-MarkNZ - is an EMS certification programme that has five steps to help organisations develop and implement an environmental management system (EMS). Following the five steps an organisation is ready for ISO 14001 certification.

Please contact the association if your organisation or industry is involved in helping businesses develop, implement and maintain an EMS that conforms to the ISO 14001 standard - email

4. EMS: The platform for a low carbon economy

In coming years the Australian community will be shifting toward a low carbon economy. The development and maintenance of an environmental management system (EMS) will be the logical platform for businesses and industry to deliver low carbon outcomes.

Organisations that have implemented an effective EMS are already investing in strategies and programs to contain or reduce carbon emissions at organisational and product levels.

In addition, these same organisations have implemented programs to collect data, monitor performance and report scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions.

By having an EMS in place, these organisations will have competitive advantage as consumers and suppliers switch to low carbon products and services, and demand carbon information related to those products and services.

5. EMS and product certification

There have been numerous articles written on the arguments for and against businesses adopting EMS verses product certification. Both have their place and both are relevant to improving environmental performance in government, business and industry.

Some businesses may sell products or services that converge over various industry groups. For example a farm business producing wheat, wool, lamb and beef has difficulty in attributing one product line to an environmental impact - as all products contribute to the impact - such as soil degradation and erosion. This is especially relevant over time due to the cumulative affect of mixed production associated with long-term farming practices. As such, an EMS provides a holistic approach to reduce the impact of all current activities on the environment, as well as a framework to manage environmental liabilities left as a result of historical activities.

Services and information businesses sell products that have no physical attribute, but have requirements to occupy large office accommodation as well as consume vast amounts of energy in information and communication technology data centres. An EMS provides a framework for these businesses to manage the impact of their own activities on the environment.

Some large manufacturers consume large quantities of different material types in order to produce an end product. In some cases, different product lines use the same materials and manufacturing processes. This means that an environmental initiative derived from an EMS process are spread across the whole manufacturing process and will benefit all product lines.

Alternatively, businesses promote their environmental credentials by attaching an ecolabel as a way to inform prospective buyers about their product, and as such gains a competitive advantage. In recent years consumers have been demanding more environmental information on a product's origin and life cycle environmental impacts. For instance, paper products using the Forest Stewardship Certification (FSC) ecolabel or Programme for Endorsement of Forestry Certification (PEFC), which are compliant to the independently certified ISO 14024 standard, informs prospective consumers about the forestry practices and fibre source of the paper.

Businesses declaring or certifying their product to an ecolabel must meet minimum life-cycle environmental performance requirements. These requirements cover life cycle categories such as reduction or elimination of environmentally sensitive materials, materials selection, design for end of life, product longevity or life cycle extension, energy conservation and greenhouse, end of life management, corporate performance and packaging. Products that meet the performance threshold of each criteria (within the life cycle category) can obtain self declaration (ISO 14021) or independent certification (ISO 14024) to the ecolabel.

It should be noted that most reputable life-cycle ecolabels include corporate performance criteria, including criteria that the business conforms to the EMS ISO 14001 standard.