ISO 14001: 2015 – Main transition challenges

ISO 14001: 2015 has been published and many organizations are in the process of updating their management systems to comply with it. The deadline for transition is September of 2018. It seems a long way off, but many companies intend to complete the process as early as 2017, as the effort and time required for the transition depend on the maturity level and complexity of each company’s processes.

Below, we highlight the key challenges that organizations will have to overcome for a successful transition:

Context of the organization: ISO 14001 requires that factors that may undermine the achievement of objectives are identified and understood. The standard also broadens the concept of stakeholders, as well as customers, partners and shareholders.

Risk-based thinking: Organizations need to consider risks during decision making, whether on a strategic, tactical or operational level. In some segments, this is something normal, in others, the complexity may be greater.

Process approach: Define processes relevant to the business and assign indicators that prove their effectiveness. This challenge was present in the earlier versions of the standard, and will continue to be relevant in the transition to the 2015 version.

The new standard requires greater commitment from leadership

Leadership and commitment: Demonstrating commitment to environmental management systems, and ensuring the integration of these requirements in business processes, requires a greater degree of dedication from executives in the certification process. By engaging them in the process, organizations will be able to demonstrate the true value of a management system.

Geographic distribution: In organizations with multiple business units, ensuring that the transition is consistent raises the level of complexity of the process. Technology can be a great ally in the dissemination of knowledge.

Time: In large organizations, changes of this nature generally involve the entire company, which facilitates implementation over shorter time periods. In smaller organizations, it is common for the transition to involve only a few business units or departments, and often the process does not occur very quickly. Therefore, early planning, gap assessment, awareness raising, education and training may reduce risk exposure during the transition process.

Terminology: Terminology has evolved with the norm. The transition process will require a lot of effort to raise awareness and implement these innovations at all levels and processes, and also to integrate them into the context of the organization and meet the expectations of stakeholders.

Productivity and Results: ISO 14001: 2015 demands a greater focus on aspects such as “productivity” and “performance.” With the basic requirements, and addressing the issues of leadership commitment, risk-based thinking and stakeholder expectations, organizations can focus on achieving the expected results.

Despite the challenges, the transition to ISO 14001: 2015 is critical for organizations to continue reducing their environmental impact and improve profitability.

Now that you understand the main challenges, would you like to learn more about this topic?

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Marcelo Becher


Marcelo Becher

Specialist in Strategic Management from PUC-PR. Business and market analyst at SoftExpert, a software provider for enterprise-wide business processes automation, improvement, compliance management and corporate governance.

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