ISO 14001 establishes the standard requirements for an environmental management system. The intent will assist business improve their environmental performance through more efficient use of resources and reduction of waste.  There are some specific terms used in the standard different to terms referenced in the safety and quality standards including

– Life cycle perspective

– Aspects and impacts

– Significant environmental aspects

Life cycle perspective

“Life cycle” is the consideration of a product or service from concept to disposal – cradle to grave – and includes acquisition of raw materials, design, production, transportation/delivery, use, end-of-life treatment and final disposal.

The business needs to consider the life cycle in the context of what can be controlled or influenced such assessment energy efficiency when purchasing equipment, raw materials sources in products (such as recycled paper), sharing of information (electronic over paper), choice of products (such as biodegradable oils) and recycling capabilities after use (such as printer cartridges).

Aspects and Impacts

A business’ activities, products and services that interact with the environment are referred to as “aspects”, which may have a negative or positive impact on the environment. 

An environmental impact is defined as any change to the environment, whether adverse or beneficial, resulting from the business’ activities, products, or services.Use of chemicals – contamination or waterways

– Consumption of water – wastage

– Consumption and emissions from fuels – energy efficiency and air contamination

– Disturbance of vegetation – affects on fauna

– Production of dusts – air quality

– Production of waste – landfill

– Use of paper and other consumables – waste and consumption

– Noise – affects to the public

Significant Environmental Impacts

The standard discusses that the Environmental Management System must manage all aspects which are found to be significant.  There is no single accepted method for evaluating significance.  What is significant for one business will not necessarily be significant to another. 

When determining which aspects are significant, the business needs to adopt an approach that works for its specific circumstances considering its size, the site, and the natural of the works conducted.  The approach taken should consider the significance of each aspect under the following circumstances:

– Normal operating conditions

– Abnormal operating conditions (e.g. start-up, shutdown, maintenance)

– Incidents

– Past activities

– Planned activities

A register of significant environmental aspects is usually produced to meet the requirement to maintain documented information of environmental aspects and associated impacts and of significant environmental aspects.  The register must be kept up to date, and will need to be reviewed periodically (e.g. at management review) or when new aspects are identified; when processes are changed or in the event of an environmental incident, accident or emergency.

Assistance to Business

CCIQ ecoBiz is a free program, funded by the Queensland Government, that helps businesses save money across their energy, water and waste bills.

For any questions about ISO 14001 get in touch with the Astute Business Certification team here.