Captain IJ Arora

21 Dec 2020

ISO 14001 – Environmental Management System Auditing

With the HLS (high-level structure) common to all standards ensuring the ten-clause structure an organization can ensure the best results to its management system by having an integrated management system. A divided approach to managing an organization based on several standards can often result in environmental and quality policy being in conflict. If occupational health and safety (ISO 45001) are also to be integrated, it enables the management to consider the risks in the combined context of the organization. When these are separated the combined risks can be mixed. Further, if security is to be also part of the management system (ISO 28000 – still not in the HLS format), integrating the system would ensure a functional management system.

Environmental management system based on ISO 14001, has integral it the consideration of aspects, their impacts, recognition of significant impacts, and prioritization of the same. Experience shows that implementing ISO 14001 is easier and simpler and more readily accepted by the employees when the organization already has a functioning Quality Management System (QMS) based on ISO 9001 in place.

A well-implemented EMS, EMS ensures cost savings by recycling, reduction in consumption, and cost savings in waste. This gives tremendous advantages over competitors for projecting the organization as a responsible company but when tendering for business. Managing risks is more comprehensive, as the leadership is able to see combined risks to the organization in quality, safety, occupational health, and security. The demonstration of commitment to improving the environment in a socially responsible manner is more systematically implemented by interpreting the ISO 14001.

Auditing the integrated management system, if that be the choice (recommended), or just the EMS based on ISO 14001 requires the auditors to first interpret the standard based on company policy, the organization’s goals based on consideration including expectations of the interested parties and the external and internal issues aligned to statutory requirements. Auditors, particularly internal auditors must ensure the interpretations of ISO 14001 are aligned per guidelines for the industry. ISO 14001 certification can improve an organization’s reputation and result in improved relationships to the mutual benefit of stakeholders and the organization.

Auditors must not forget that internal auditing is not to judge the legal compliance of the processes. Legal compliance is a requirement and is best judged by compliance auditors. Internal auditors audit to see that the organization has the processes to ensure compliance. Internal auditors look at the plans of the organization to ensure processes monitor environmental aspects and mitigate as required, systematically address them.

QMII (www.qmii.com) has for 30 plus years integrated management systems and training lead auditors for various standards including ISO 14001. With our vast consulting experience in ISO 14001, we reinvest our field experience into the content development of our courses. The real-world experiences back our instructors and training material in ensuring auditors understand ISO 14001.

A good internal audit process, for any standard, particularly the ISO 14001, should start with a good plan. Good QMII training ensures, auditors prioritize audits, and allocation of time-based on risks, previous results, the importance of the process. The audit cycle is often one year (can vary), and so depending on the environmental importance of the process and past performance-critical environmental aspects can be audited.