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 ( 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.

Aspects and Impacts: Let’s start here

Every organization needs to consider the aspects of their organization, and the impacts they have on the planet.  Understanding the impacts is critical to the sustainability of the organization, and in the long run, the planet.

Most organizations only consider the impacts of their processes in relation to waste created and materials used.  While these are important, an organization should consider all aspects of their operation and processes before they start a business.  This includes the facilities, people, materials and other elements of their operations.  Once operational, they need to continually evaluate all process to look for improvement.

Many aspects are considered by organizations in order to borrow money to launch a product or service.  This is a good place to start.  Clearly understanding the impacts the organization will have on the local environment and community is a good step toward launching a sustainable business.  Lenders, both private and public, will be more generous lending if they know the organization is considering all three pillars of sustainability; social, environmental and economic.

Generally speaking, recycling an existing structure to a new operational use has less impact than building a new facility.  Applying building technics recommended under Leadership in Environmental and Energy Design (LEED) and Energy Star, will also reduce environmental impacts, and improve the operational economics.  If new structures are required, considering the site location, building facing direction and proximity to water, public transportation, and workers, will also help the organization conform to LEED and other building Standards.  Local communities will be much more accepting of an organization operating in their community if the proper design considerations are considered before construction is begun.

Once operational, every group in an organization needs to evaluate their processes on a regular basis to determine what improvements can be made to the aspects of the organization, and the impacts of there processes.  Management is accountable for the operation of the organization, but every department needs to be responsible for their processes.  This is not just the manufacturing or production departments, but also sales, marketing, receiving, packaging, shipping and customer services.  Organizations are also responsible for the performance of their products and/or services, and often the potential recycling of products. 

The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) has established Standards that can be used by an organization to help improve their management system processes and reduce risks.  ISO 14001:2015 Environmental Management Systems and ISO 9001:2015 Quality Management Systems can be used separately, or together, to provide guidance in improving an organization’s operations.  Lenders and communities appreciate the value of a well-run organization that understands the aspects of their operations and addresses the impacts.

What is ISO 14001 Lifecycle Perspective?

ISO 14001 Lead Auditor training introduces students to the ISO 14001 standard and its interpretation as well as the skills needed to assess the effectiveness of the environmental management system. ISO 14001 in its 2015 revision introduces the lifecycle perspective. In essence, the standard asks organizations to use a lifecycle perspective when designing/manufacturing their products/services. This means that instead of a cradle to grave concept organizations need to think of a cradle to cradle concept.

Cradle to Grave

ISO 9001 ‘Requirements for Quality Management Systems’ ushered in a new era of process-based management systems that could be used to improve the quality of products/services being delivered to customers as well as when well implemented to increase efficiency and productivity. However, as productivity, efficiency and quality were being improved; the by-products of the system were not addressed. During the 1980s there were some regional efforts to address the impact of organizations on the environment and ISO 14001 was ISO’s effort to lay down the requirements for a management system that addressed the aspects and their associated impacts. Organizations were expected to take action on these impacts to reduce them. Auditors undergoing ISO 14001 Lead Auditor training were now ready to assess the effectiveness of these systems.

In its initial publication and subsequent revision in 2004 ISO 14001 asks organizations to take a ‘cradle to grave’ approach to managing their impacts on the environment. This meant reducing the immediate impact on the environment. However, with time we learned that this does not address the growing landfill issues being faced by countries globally. To address this issue as well as to align with international efforts to address climate change, rapid depletion of the planet resources and encourage sustainable operations the ISO 14001 standard introduced the concept of ‘cradle to cradle’ in its 2015 revision.

Cradle to Cradle

ISO 14001 defined lifecycle as “consecutive and interlinked stages of a product (or service) system, from the raw material acquisition or generation from natural resources to final disposal.” Life cycle stages can include the acquisition of raw materials, design, production, transportation/delivery, use, end-of-life treatment, and final disposal. A great example of a lifecycle perspective in manufacturing is the recycling of Lead-Acid Car Batteries. Nearly 99% of these batteries are recycled/reused. Major battery manufacturers have programs in place to encourage the recycling of car batteries.

While ISO 14001 does not call for a formal life cycle assessment ISO 14044 provides the guidelines for a life cycle assessment should an organization wish to do so. In determining the end of life disposal organizations may choose products that are recyclable, sustainable and even perhaps biodegradable. ISO 14001 lead auditor training provided by QMII, highlights the concepts of a lifecycle perspective and how to incorporate it into your environmental management system.


ISO 14001 Lead Auditor training enables participants to go back and implement environmental management systems that will benefit their organization, the environment, and stakeholders. It also enables participants to conduct value-adding audits of their systems. The intent of the audit is to identify opportunities for improvement. With the skills, ISO 14001 Lead Auditor training by QMII and the knowledge of a life cycle perspective participants are ready to hit the ground running in implementing and auditing environmental management systems.


Environmental Best Practices in Vineyards

The number of vineyards in the United States, and abroad, have grown substantially over the last 20 years.  New technology and controlled stainless steel fermentation processes have improved the product of even relatively small vineyards.  Many of the best vineyards are also focusing on their environmental impacts to ensure sustainability.  They are finding that taking a hard look at some of their processes can reduce negative environmental impacts, and in fact, reduce operating costs. 

Implementing an ISO 14001:2015 based Environmental Management Systems can help a vineyard archive sustainability and reduce operating costs.  It can also get the organization recognized as a responsible business neighbor in the community with happy and proud employees.  It starts with the owner’s decision to implement an environmental management system, then getting all employees aware, and on onboard to help improve operational processes.  

Environmental Management Systems (EMS) address recycling, and water conservation. These are important elements that are common to all vineyards.  One company that was spending over $50,000 a year on recycling, not only reduced their recycling cost, they actually saved over $7,000 a year after introducing a new recycling program as a part of their EMS. The program included 95% of its solid waste, packaging, and recycling.  New approaches to water use and heat exchange were able to reduce water use by over 35%.  Water used in the winemaking process is now processed on site and used in the vineyards, instead of being flushed down the drain. 

An EMS gets organizations to address the environmental aspects of their business and the impact they have taken into consideration the business environment they operate in, the needs of the stakeholders and risks associated with their business. Let us consider the aspect of energy use and the impact it has on the business including the organization’s carbon footprint. Taking the example further installing solar panels on buildings reduces energy operating costs and produces no carbon emissions.   One company was able to use solar for 75% of its energy use. 

QMII, with its 32 plus years of experience, can help a vineyard educate its employees so they are aware of the requirements of the internationally recognized and accepted standard for Environmental Management Systems – ISO 14001. Our course will outline the next steps the vineyard can take to begin implementing an EMS within their business.  We offer introductory environmental management system courses that will help a vineyard conform and/or become certified to the Standard.