14 Key Criteria You Must Meet To Pass The ISO 14001 Audit!

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14 Key Criteria You Must Meet To Pass The ISO 14001 Audit!

Is your organization on a mission to improve its sustainability efforts? Are you planning to register for ISO 14001 certification? Then, you have reached the correct place!

The ISO 14001 environmental management system standard has helped over 500,000 organizations across 180 countries implement an effective EMS till now.

The standard puts forward an easy-to-follow framework consisting of 10 clauses that act as the audit criteria in ISO 14001. To obtain the ISO 14001 certification, you shall ensure your organization adheres to all the applicable requirements and create documentation and records as evidence.

In today’s blog, we list the most critical requirements of ISO 14001 to help you understand its criteria and what you should do to obtain the certification.

So, delve into the below section now!

The Most Vital Audit Criteria In ISO 14001

ISO 14001 environmental management system standard has 10 clauses. The first three clauses describe the standard, while the rest of the seven clauses lay out its requirements.

Hence, when creating an ISO 14001 audit checklist, you shall focus on the seven requirements.

Here are the must-know audit criteria in ISO 14001.

Scope of the Environmental Management System

The scope of your environmental management system sets out the type of operations the system will cover and its boundaries.

Establishing the boundary will also help you understand which parts of your organization will come under the EMS and your ISO 14001 audit checklist. It may include processes, departments, divisions, and sites.

In most cases, EMS covers the entire organization. Yet, there are circumstances where specific requirements of the EMS may not apply to your organization or are impossible to implement in a particular department.

Environmental Policy

The environmental policy should describe your company’s responsibilities and commitments towards the EMS and other legal requirements. It should include your commitment to continually improve the environmental management system and prevent pollution.

Evaluation of Environmental Risk and Opportunity 

Audit criteria in ISO 14001 certification require you to identify the environmental risks and opportunities your organization faces and establish strategies to address them.

Although the standard does not specify a particular methodology or process for risk management, you must demonstrate that you are following a risk-based approach.

Your team should be able to explain the methodology you are using to address the risk and document evidence during the ISO 14001 audit questions and answers.

Also, the documented evidence should align with the clauses of ISO 14001.

Analysis of Environmental Aspects

Environmental aspects refer to the organizational activities that impact the environment, such as using resources like gas or water, generating waste, emitting air pollution, and disposing of effluents.

Audit criteria in ISO 14001 ask organizations to identify their environmental aspects and determine their impact on the environment. Experts suggest using a risk-scoring system to find out the significance of the aspects.

Also, you shall review and modify your environmental aspects, their impacts, and the scoring system as required.

Environmental Objectives and Plans For Achieving Them

One of the first clauses of ISO 14001 focuses on setting straightforward environmental objectives and establishing strategies to achieve them. You can use the outcome of your risk assessment to identify your company’s environmental goals and prioritize them.

Ensure the objectives are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound, such as reducing waste production within the next six months.

Along with the objectives, you shall determine who has ownership of each objective, how you will monitor their progress, a timeline to achieve those objectives, and the specialized equipment used in the process.

When assessing your compliance with the audit criteria of ISO 14001, auditors will check how the objectives relate to each other and your environmental policy.

Operational Control Procedures

As per the ISO 14001 EMS requirements, your organization must define and execute its operational controls based on its industry. The standard doesn’t specify how you should implement these controls. However, it’s essential to keep evidence of your operational controls to meet the audit criteria of ISO 14001.

Procedure For Emergency Preparedness And Response

Environmental emergencies are the situations within your company that influence the environment or the environmental events that impact your company.

Your emergency plan should demonstrate your ability to address both. The plan should be able to identify emergencies and address them.

Also, you should have records on testing the proceeds and providing training to relevant parties.

List of Interested Parties and Applicable Regulations

Interested parties are essentially the stakeholders your organization cannot operate without.

The audit criteria in ISO 14001 EMS want organizations to determine the needs and expectations of their interested parties. Considering them when building the EMS will help you ensure its appropriateness.

Furthermore, you shall record the requirements of all interested parties and upgrade them as necessary. Additionally, you shall determine all the environmental regulations applicable to your organization and list them.

Competence Record

Record the skills of every relevant stakeholder at your company. Also, document how you help improve their skills with training. Make sure employee training records are easily accessible.

Communication Evidence

According to the ISO 14001 audit requirements, it’s your top management’s responsibility to communicate the environmental management system to relevant stakeholders. They should be aware of your obligations and their role in the system.

Monitoring Performance

To facilitate continual improvement of the ISO 14001 environmental management system, you must establish a monitoring process to measure performance. Keeping records of these evaluations will help auditors determine your commitment to the standard.

Compliance Obligation Record

You shall obtain records of everyone working at your organization. Experts suggest performing a competence evaluation to establish legal requirements and regular reviews to keep the records up-to-date.

Internal Audit Program and Management Reviews

The internal audit criteria in ISO 14001 require you to perform planned audits to check your company’s overall environmental performance and maintain records of the audit outcomes as evidence of compliance.

Furthermore, your top management shall take the responsibility to review the EMS to maintain its effectiveness and record its outcome.

Non-Conformities and Corrective Actions

Document the non-conformities of your environmental processes and operations and the actions you took to address them. To prove the effectiveness of your corrective actions, consider performing a root cause analysis.

Final Thoughts

Not all audit criteria in ISO 14001 may apply to your organizations. However, following these 14 requirements is a must. These clauses build the foundation of ISO 14001. Complying with them will help demonstrate your commitment to the standard and achieve the ISO 14001 certification.