In November 2011, the International Standards Organization (ISO) started a 3-year procedure to revise the ISO 14001 environmental management system standard. The revision is intended to better align the standard with current and future environmental and business conditions and practices. The revision is due to be published in 2015 and will impact the standard in terms of both structure and content. Once published, it is likely to remain unchanged well into the 2020s. 

See Also: Workplace Environment Protection & Policy Information

Although voluntary, the ISO 14001 standard has become widely accepted as an essential tool to achieve environmental obligations and reduce environmental impacts wherever a company may operate in the world. For many companies, achieving ISO 14001 certification is the cornerstone of managing the interface between their business and the environment.

In particular, the revision likely will result in a higher demand for regulatory compliance services as the revision reflects a move toward integrating a more proactive approach to legal compliance. Companies may need to refocus the regulatory compliance part of their ISO 14001 management system to ensure they meet the new approach of the standard.

The ISO 14001 review (and the reform of the standard that appears likely to take place) may have a significant impact on how companies deal with environmental considerations as part of their business goals. This therefore will be highly relevant to the EHS directors, managers and employees responsible for implementing and maintaining management systems throughout the quarter of a million companies across 155 countries that are believed to have adopted the standard. 

In terms of structural changes to the standard, the review of ISO 14001 is taking place in the context of the development of ISO's new "high level structure" for all its management system standards. The idea behind this is to create a harmonized approach to the structure of all standards in terms of using a common language, format and headings, which then can be used to build subject-specific standards. A copy of the proposed new structure can be downloaded from ISO's Web site (see Annex SL p141-154).

In terms of content, an ISO International study group has put forward 24 specific recommendations (IEMA, 2012) to improve the existing 2004 version of the standard (ISO, 2012), and the review committee is obliged to take these into account. The study group based its recommendations on research it undertook into the future challenges that businesses will face in the environmental context.