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Companies that want to optimise their environmental performance are urged to make an early transition to ISO 14001:2015 – the latest revision of the world’s most recognised environmental management system standard.

The standard has been updated in order to help organisations keep up-to-date with changes in the marketplace and better integrate environmental thinking into corporate strategy.

The final draft (ISO/FDIS 14001) was issued in July 2015 and official publication of the standard is scheduled for release this September. The new standard, which adopts a High Level Structure specified in Annex SL, containing common requirements, terminology and definitions that will form the basis of all future and revised management system standards (MSS). Annex SL ensures that all management systems are aligned so that they are easier to implement, integrate and maintain.

Under the new High Level Structure there are several notable changes – strategic environmental management with particular reference to context, adopting a risk-based approach and emphasis on leadership.

Kate Breslin, UK Product Manager at SGS United Kingdom Ltd says context of the organisation involves “companies identifying what they are about, what they do and what people expect from them. They will also need to have a look at external social, economic and environmental factors that may affect their business. From this information they can then form an environmental management programme unique to their needs.”

Companies are also required to ‘determine the risk associated with threats and opportunities that need to be addressed’. It is now essential for companies to understand how to adopt risk-based thinking when developing and implementing their management system.

There is also more emphasis on leadership in ISO 14001:2015. “Senior roles must now have more involvement with their company’s EMS – whereas before top management could delegate responsibility to other members of the organisation. Senior management will now be held accountable for all environmental operations and must be seen to be driving communications down to teams and subordinates to equalise company involvement,” says Ms Breslin. 

From the date of issue, organisations will have three years to transition to ISO 14001:2015 (September 2018) but Ms Breslin believes that companies should consider making the transition early.  “It remains in the best interest of companies to make the transition to ISO 14001:2015 as soon as possible – especially given that all new and revised management systems are going to involve the same common themes and structural framework. Organisations adopting the new structural framework may experience the added benefits of Annex SL sooner than those that wait, including greater opportunity for management system integration” said Ms Breslin.

Companies who make a prompt transition will also benefit from reduced resource costs and enhanced credibility through reinforcing a proactive approach. This will motivate employees while customers and stakeholders will be encouraged by their ongoing commitment to improve environmental performance.

SGS has developed several courses to assist companies with their transition to ISO 14001:2015. These courses include an introduction to ISO/FDIS 14001 seminar, a course to help companies understand the Annex SL structure, a two day workshop for leadership development, a course covering the principles of risk-based thinking and gap analysis against the new requirements to make transition smooth and transparent.

For an optimal transition towards ISO 14001:2015, please contact or visit