ISO 14004:2016 is the latest revision of ISO 14004 – Environmental Management Systems – General Guidelines on Implementation, and updates the 2010 release. From the ever-changing nature of environmental problems and the growing need to address them, it is incredibly important that ISO environmental standards be revised every few years. ISO 14004:2016 is a companion standard to the recently updated ISO 14001:2015 standard, which establishes the requirements for an environmental management system.
There have long been problems with environmental management, and we have failed overall in protecting the Earth. However, the majority of environmental impact has resulted from either carelessness or lack of awareness, and, according to a poll taken in the early 2010s, 71 percent of Americans say “This country should do whatever it takes to protect the environment.” It is easy to simply state that you want to help the environment without actually doing anything about it, but that does not make a difference. ISO 14004:2016 gives organizations the capability to execute an environmental management system in a successful manner.
ISO 14004:2016, like other standards in the ISO 14000 family, has a significant focus on life-cycle thinking (read our post on ISO 14001 – Life Cycle Analysis for more information), in which the different inputs and outputs should always be considered. The standard also calls for leadership to take an active role in any organization that implements an environmental management system. It is also important that each organization understands the specific context in which its environmental management system is established, as it varies throughout the massive range of places that the standard applies.
Larger organizations have had a significant effect on the environment through pollution, overexploitation, and other ways of interacting with natural resources and waste. For example, in 2013 it was discovered that just 90 companies are responsible for 63 percent of the total carbon dioxide emitted into the atmosphere since the Industrial Revolution. However, just because larger organizations pose a greater threat to the environment does not mean that only they should be responsible for their impact on the Earth. Even the smallest organizations should reduce their ecological footprint through an environmental management system.
In achieving environmental objectives, organizations not only benefit their neighboring ecosystems but also their own interests. As stated in the standard, “sustainable development is a goal achieved by balancing the three pillars of sustainability: the environment, society and the economy.” These three aspects influence one another, and through proper implementation of an ISO 14004:2016 environmental management system, organizations can achieve success through increased efficiency, compliance obligations, and enhanced public image.
Available on the ANSI Webstore, several standards packages bundle together the different standards documents for environmental management systems. These include:
If you’d like to learn more about how non-environmentally conscious organizations can be detrimental to the environment, please read our post on The Tragedy of the Commons.