The International Accreditation Forum (IAF) and the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) support the following concise statements of outcomes that are to be expected as a result of accredited certification to ISO 14001. The intent is to promote a common focus throughout the entire conformity assessment chain in order to achieve these expected outcomes and thereby enhance the value and relevance of accredited certification.
NOTE: Accredited certification is only one way that an organization may demonstrate conformity to ISO 14001. ISO does not promote accredited certification over other conformity assessment methodologies.
ISO 14001 certification is frequently used in both private and public sectors to increase the confidence level of interested parties in an organization’s environmental management system.
ISO is the developer and publisher of ISO 14001, but does not itself carry out auditing and certification. These services are performed independently of ISO by certification bodies. ISO does not control such bodies, but does develop voluntary International Standards to encourage good practice in their activities on a worldwide basis. For example, ISO/IEC 17021 specifies the requirements for bodies providing auditing and certification of management systems.
Certification bodies that wish to provide further confidence in their services may apply to be “accredited” as competent by an IAF recognized national accreditation body. ISO/IEC 17011 specifies the requirements for carrying out such accreditation. IAF is an international association whose membership includes the national accreditation bodies of 49 economies.
Expected Outcomes for Accredited Certification to ISO 14001
(from the perspective of interested parties)
“A certified organization, for the defined certification scope, is managing its interactions with the environment and is demonstrating its commitment to:
- preventing pollution,
- meeting applicable legal and other requirements, and
- continually enhancing its environmental management system in order to achieve improvements in its overall environmental performance.”
What This Means
The accredited certification process is expected to ensure that the organization has an environmental management system, suitable for the nature of its operations, that conforms to the requirements of ISO 14001, and in particular can demonstrate for the defined scope that the organization:
- has defined an environmental policy appropriate to its activities, products and services
- has identified the environmental aspects and impacts associated with its activities, products and services, and determined their significance
- has procedures in place to ensure that applicable environmental legislation and other relevant requirements are considered and that this information is kept up to date
- has defined measurable environmental objectives and targets that take into account legal requirements and significant environmental aspects, and has programmes in place to achieve these
- ensures that people working for or on behalf of the organization are aware of the requirements of its environmental management system
- has implemented procedures for communications with interested parties
- monitors and controls the key characteristics of its operations that can have a significant environmental impact
- has established and tested procedures to address and respond to emergencies that can have an effect on the environment
- periodically evaluates its compliance with applicable legal requirements
- aims to prevent nonconformities, and has procedures in place to:
- correct any nonconformities that do occur
- analyze the cause of any such nonconformities and take corrective action to avoid their recurrence
- has implemented effective internal audit and management review procedures
What This Does Not Mean
- ISO 14001 defines the requirements for an organization’s environmental management system, but does not define specific environmental performance criteria.
- Accredited certification to ISO 14001 provides confidence in the organization’s ability to meet its own quality policy, including the commitment to comply with applicable legislation, to prevent pollution, and to continually improve its performance. It does not ensure that the organization is currently achieving optimal environmental performance.
- The ISO 14001 accredited certification process does not include a full regulatory compliance audit and cannot ensure full legal compliance all of the time, although this should always be the organization’s goal.
- Accredited certification to ISO 14001 does not necessarily indicate that the organization will be able to prevent accidents from occurring.