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ISO 14000 is similar to ISO 9000 Quality Management in that both pertain to the process of how a product is produced, rather than to the product itself. As with ISO 9000, certification is performed by third-party organizations rather than being awarded by ISO directly. ISO 14001 sets out the criteria for an environmental management system. It does not state requirements for environmental performance, but maps out a framework that a company or organization can follow to set up an effective environmental management system. It can be used by any organization that wants to improve resource efficiency, reduce waste and drive down costs. Using ISO 14001 can provide assurance to company management and employees as well as external stakeholders that environmental impact is being measured and improved. ISO 14001 can also be integrated with other management functions and assists companies in meeting their environmental and economic goals. ISO 14001, as with other ISO 14000 standards, is voluntary, with its main aim to assist companies in continually improving their environmental performance, whilst complying with any applicable legislation. Organizations are responsible for setting their own targets and performance measures, with the standard serving to assist them in meeting objectives and goals and the subsequent monitoring and measurement of these. The standard can be applied to a variety of levels in the business, from organizational level, right down to the product and service level. Rather than focusing on exact measures and goals of environmental performance, the standard highlights what an organization needs to do to meet these goals. ISO 14001 is known as a generic management system standard, meaning that it is relevant to any organization seeking to improve and manage resources more effectively. This includes:
All standards are periodically reviewed by ISO to ensure they still meet market requirements. The current version of ISO 14001 – ISO 14001:2004 is under review as of April 2012.
The concept of an environmental management system evolved in the early nineties and its origin can be traced back to 1972, when the United Nations organized a Conference on the Human Environment in Stockholm and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) was launched. These early initiatives led to the establishment of the World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED) and the adoption of the Montreal Protocol and Basel Convention. In 1992, the first Earth Summit was held in Rio-de-Janeiro, which served to generate a global commitment to the environment (RMIT University). In the same year, BSI Group published the world's first environmental management systems standard, BS 7750. This supplied the template for the development of the ISO 14000 series in 1996, by the International Organization for Standardization, which has representation from committees all over the world. As of 2010, ISO 14001 is now used by at least 223 149 organizations in 159 countries and economies.
ISO 14001 was developed primarily to assist companies with a framework for better management control that can result in reducing their environmental impacts. In addition to improvements in performance, organizations can reap a number of economic benefits including higher conformance with legislative and regulatory requirements by adopting the ISO standard. By minimizing the risk of regulatory and environmental liability fines and improving an organization’s efficiency, benefits can include a reduction in waste and consumption of resources, and operating costs. Secondly, as an internationally recognized standard, businesses operating in multiple locations across the globe can leverage their conformance to ISO 14001, eliminating the need for multiple registrations or certifications.
ISO 14000 is a family of standards related to environmental management that exists to help organizations: