Achieving a balance between the environment, society and the economy is considered essential to meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs.
Sustainable development as a goal is achieved by balancing the three pillars of sustainability.
Societal expectations for sustainable development, transparency and accountability have evolved with increasingly stringent legislation, growing pressures on the environment from pollution, inefficient use of resources, improper waste management, climate change, degradation of ecosystems and loss of biodiversity.
This has led organizations to adopt a systematic approach to environmental management by implementing environmental management systems with the aim of contributing to the environmental pillar of sustainability.
0.2 Aim of an environmental management system
The purpose of this International Standard is to provide organizations with a framework to protect the environment and respond to changing environmental conditions in balance with socio-economic needs. It specifies requirements that enable an organization to achieve the intended outcomes it sets for its environmental management system.
A systematic approach to environmental management can provide top management with information to build success over the long term and create options for contributing to sustainable development by:
— protecting the environment by preventing or mitigating adverse environmental impacts;
— mitigating the potential adverse effect of environmental conditions on the organization;
— assisting the organization in the fulfilment of compliance obligations;
— enhancing environmental performance;
— controlling or inf luencing the way the organization’s products and services are designed, manufactured, distributed, consumed and disposed by using a life cycle perspective that can prevent environmental impacts from being unintentionally shifted elsewhere within the life cycle;
— achieving financial and operational benefits that can result from implementing environmentally sound alternatives that strengthen the organization’s market position;
— communicating environmental information to relevant interested parties.
This International Standard, like other International Standards, is not intended to increase or change an organization’s legal requirements.
0.3 Success factors
The success of an environmental management system depends on commitment from all levels and functions of the organization, led by top management. Organizations can leverage opportunities to prevent or mitigate adverse environmental impacts and enhance beneficial environmental impacts, particularly those with strategic and competitive implications. Top management can effectively address its risks and opportunities by integrating environmental management into the organization’s business processes, strategic direction and decision making, aligning them with other business priorities, and incorporating environmental governance into its overall management system.
Demonstration of successful implementation of this International Standard can be used to assure interested parties that an effective environmental management system is in place.
Adoption of this International Standard, however, will not in itself guarantee optimal environmental outcomes. Application of this International Standard can differ from one organization to another due to the context of the organization. Two organizations can carry out similar activities but can have different compliance obligations, commitments in their environmental policy, environmental technologies and environmental performance goals, yet both can conform to the requirements of this
The level of detail and complexity of the environmental management system will vary depending on the context of the organization, the scope of its environmental management system, its compliance obligations, and the nature of its activities, products and services, including its environmental aspects and associated environmental impacts.
0.4 Plan-Do-Check-Act model
The basis for the approach underlying an environmental management system is founded on the concept of Plan-Do-Check-Act (PDCA). The PDCA model provides an iterative process used by organizations to achieve continual improvement. It can be applied to an environmental management system and to each of its individual elements. It can be brief ly described as follows.
— Plan: establish environmental objectives and processes necessary to deliver results in accordance
with the organization’s environmental policy.
— Do: implement the processes as planned.
— Check: monitor and measure processes against the environmental policy, including its commitments, environmental objectives and operating criteria, and report the results.
— Act: take actions to continually improve.
0.5 Contents of this International Standard
This International Standard conforms to ISO’s requirements for management system standards.
These requirements include a high level structure, identical core text, and common terms with core definitions, designed to benefit users implementing multiple ISO management system standards.
This International Standard does not include requirements specific to other management systems, such as those for quality, occupational health and safety, energy or financial management. However, this International Standard enables an organization to use a common approach and risk-based thinking to integrate its environmental management system with the requirements of other management systems.
This International Standard contains the requirements used to assess conformity. An organization that wishes to demonstrate conformity with this International Standard can do so by:
— making a self-determination and self-declaration, or
— seeking confirmation of its conformance by parties having an interest in the organization, such as customers, or
— seeking confirmation of its self-declaration by a party external to the organization, or
— seeking certification/registration of its environmental management system by an external organization.
Annex A provides explanatory information to prevent misinterpretation of the requirements of this International Standard. Annex B shows broad technical correspondence between the previous edition of this International Standard and this edition. Implementation guidance on environmental management systems is included in ISO 14004.
In this International Standard, the following verbal forms are used:
— “shall” indicates a requirement;
— “should” indicates a recommendation;
— “may” indicates a permission;
— “can” indicates a possibility or a capability.
Information marked as “NOTE” is intended to assist the understanding or use of the document. “Notes to entry” used in Clause 3 provide additional information that supplements the terminological data and can contain provisions relating to the use of a term.
The terms and definitions in Clause 3 are arranged in conceptual order, with an alphabetical index provided at the end of the document.