Environmental management systems are relatively modern developments, and have only come about with the increased global concern for the state of the earth that has emerged in the last few decades.
The ISO 14001 standard has its roots in these early developments. Environmental issues first became a mainstream popular and political concern in the 1960s, and the first global United Nations conference on the Human environment took place in 1972.
The conceptual birthplace of the ISO 14001 standard was the Rio De Janeiro Earth summit, held in 1992 in Brazil. The United Nations convened to address the impacts of business and organisations on the natural world, and to scrutinise industrial production methods with a view to reducing damage to the Earth’s environment.
As a result of these talks, the first standard for environmental management systems was born in the form of the British standard BS 7750. This was later to become the ISO 14001 standard, which was developed by the International Organization for Standardization in 1996.
The 1996 incarnation of ISO 14001 consisted of a series of standards for environmental management systems within organisations.
Eight years later in 2004, a revised version of ISO 14001 was released. This new version contained numerous improvements designed to improve clarity and streamline the guidelines. It was released alongside the new ISO 9000 standard, which was a move intended to allow businesses to integrate ISO 14000 environmental standards with the general quality management systems standards set out in the ISO 9000 series.
The Growth of the ISO 14001 Series
The evolution of the standard can be understood by following the trail described below:
1. 1973 – The core principles that would eventually influence the ISO 14000 framework were created and an action plan drafted
2. 1992 – This saw the consolidation of the BS 7750 standard
3. 1992 – In the same year the Rio Declaration was made
4. 1993 – Experts from different backgrounds formed a committee charged with developing the ISO 14000 framework
5. 1996 – ISO 14001 is launched
6. 2004 – ISO 14001 is updated
7. 2015 – ISO 14001 is updated to its current form and re-introduced at the same time as the new ISO 9001:2015 standard. Many of the principles remain the same as the 2004 version, with a new requirement for risks and opportunities introduced. The requirement for mandatory procedures has also been removed leaving business capable of determining the boundaries of their own management system.
Since the introduction of ISO 14001 it has been adopted by thousands of businesses in many countries around the world. More improvements are in the pipeline, and the standard is expected to continually evolve in order to help businesses minimise their impact on the natural world as environmental issues continue to rapidly develop.