ISO 14001:2015 Leadership and Commitment

Hello Folks,

As you know, with the new ISO 14001:2015, the leadership concept gained much more importance than before. Let’s face it; if the top management in an organization is not supportive of the environmental management system (EMS), this management system is not going to go far!

The EMS implementation is not meant to be completed by only the environmental manager, coordinator or specialist or any other one person. The EMS has to be supported by the entire organization with clearly defined roles, responsibilities and authorities. Think of the EMS as a good-natured virus that will be spreading through your organization, with a top-down and bottom-up strategy.

The most successful organizations in implementing an adequate and effective EMS, in my experience, have been the ones with full support from the leadership team of the organization along with an effective engagement percentage from the entire workforce.

Having said that, I would like to emphasize that this concept has not just become important or crucial for an organization’s EMS, but with the changes in the new ISO 14001:2015 Standard, it has been lot more emphasized requiring more comprehensive objective evidence demonstrating the role of a company’s leadership. Based on the new requirements of ISO 14001, the senior management of an organization is expected to demonstrate their commitment and leadership. They’re expected to support their staff, take accountability for the EMS, ensure the proper allocation of resources and most importantly, they’re required to demonstrate that the organization’s EMS has been integrated into the business operations and activities. These are only some of the requirements of the new ISO 14001. Having said that, how can companies demonstrate conformance to this section? Let’s take a look:

First and foremost, my recommendation is to train your leadership team on the requirements of ISO 14001:2015, specifically on Section 5 Leadership. Here are some other suggestions:

  • Ensure that the your senior management understands their EMS responsibilities, your company’s regulatory compliance status. They should also be aware of your EMS’ intended outcomes, context of your organization (Section 4), environmental policy and environmental objectives. When an auditor ask them: “How do you ensure that your company’s EMS policy and objectives are compatible with your strategic direction?”, this knowledge could become handy.

  • Time commitment towards achieving the intended outcomes of the EMS (i.e. Monthly inspections, EMS one-on-one meetings with middle management, spending more time on the floor with employees/contractors, etc.)

  • Giving priority to the resolution of environmental issues and resolving them quickly

  • Actively enforcing the EMS requirements within the organization

  • Incorporating operational key performance indicators into the EMS. For example, if you are tracking energy consumption, waste generation, water use etc., track them through your EMS. Establish related environmental objectives and track them accordingly.

  • Ensure that the environmental staff  and the rest of the organization, especially operations, work together on EMS issues, and that they have clear and concise communication at all times. Record meeting minutes where necessary.

  • Consider assigning an EMS program to each leadership team member and middle managers and ensure that their job description includes the ownership of an EMS program (i.e. Recycling, Chemicals, Waste, etc.)

  • Establishing EMS objectives for relative job descriptions and evaluating EMS responsibilities during the performance evaluations

  • It’s always a good practice for the senior management to attend tool box or 5-minute safety talks or shift exchange meetings

  • Holding state of the plant meetings with the entire workforce and communicating the importance of the EMS and keeping records

  • Including related environmental personnel in budget meetings, annual forecasting, new process or machinery addition decisions, related capital projects, etc.

  • Supporting the environmental department or staff visibly; for example, weekly meetings to discuss the EMS needs including the discussion of corrective actions to be resolved, etc.

  • Please make sure that there is objective evidence for each your EMS efforts.

These are just some of the suggestions based on my experience as a third party EMS auditor. I believe that they might help your organization.

Thanks for reading, and don’t forget that the deadline to upgrade to ISO 14001:2015 is September 15, 2018. If you haven’t done already, make sure you schedule your upgrade audit with your registrar.

Best of luck,

Mel DeGregorio                                                                                                                            

Owner of GreenUp Consultants and GreenUp Academy                                                           ISO 14001:2015 Lead Auditor

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