Irrespective of the type of organisation that you have, or the industry that you are in, your business is interacting with the environment around it. As a result of this interaction, you are subjected to compliance either by industry, organisations, customers, local authorities or the government. Hence, one of the biggest benefits of implementing an ISO 14001-compliant Environmental Management System (EMS) is to communicate the compliance requirements to the top management.
In this article, we will talk about how you can evaluate compliance in ISO 14001 and how your organisation can abide by its commitments. Let us begin.
Compliance obligations in ISO 14001
The ISO 14001 standard gives a lot of importance to compliance. It treats compliance obligations as mandatory items, very similar to legal, federal or statutory regulations and urges these voluntary requirements to be included into the code of practice and even in the expectations of relevant parties, so that they are included in the scope of the EMS.
In fact, during the implementation of the standard itself and acquiring the certificate, business owners need to determine compliance obligations applicable to their organisation and provide proof to the auditor of how they comply with these identified obligations.
The importance of this requirement is so high that the top management must showcase their commitment to compliance by creating a publicly visible and highly transparent document, named the environmental policy. If you want an ISO 14001 ceritificate you need to use ISO consulting services for implementation of the ISO 14001 standard.
Determine the compliance obligations in ISO 14001
In order to determine the compliance obligations in ISO 14001, it is recommended that the management determines the source, purpose and specific requirements of the obligation, so that they can create the necessary action plan. So, taking the example of emissions, the source of the obligation would be legal, the purpose would be to establish emissions as per the industrial level to integrate pollution prevention and control.
The specific requirement would be to determine if the parent company exceeds the consumption threshold for emissions and the actions would be to develop a plan to reduce emissions and submit the plan to the official authority.
In other words, after the organisation identifies the source of the compliance obligation and determines if it is applicable to their individual circumstances, they must figure out how they are interacting with the environment.
Then, the management must determine if the environmental aspects conform to the applicable compliance obligation, thereby understanding how they are performing in comparison to their peers.
Applicability of compliance obligations in ISO 14001
Compliance obligations are either applicable or dependent upon the quantities involved. For example, if an organisation discharges waste into the nearby water sources, the discharge should be authorised by a license that is issued by a competent authority. This is an example of a compliance obligation that is always applicable.
Similarly, when talking about obligations that depend upon quantities, think of the consumption of electricity that the organisation utilises per year. Therefore, the organisation must identify as a user to determine if the consumption threshold is larger than what is needed and develop a plan to reduce consumption.
What is compliance evaluation in ISO 14001?
The periodic evaluation and monitoring of compliance obligations requirements and the actual situation of the organisation is known as compliance evaluation. The purpose of this evaluation is to determine if the action plan to mitigate the environmental aspect is effective. In order to achieve efficiency in environmental performance, the company must keep an updated list of compliance obligations and the compliance obligation requirements.
Once the company has determined the compliance obligation, they can begin to get a picture of the current situation to understand how they are complying with the requirements that arise from these obligations.
Clause 9.2 of ISO 14001 states that a good way of checking the effectiveness of all actions taken is through an internal audit. However, what we need to remember is that an internal audit will always be based on a sample and it is not representative of the complete picture of the situation. Hence, the management must perform a systematic compliance evaluation as per clause 9.1.2, where the entire compliance obligations are assed from an unbiased perspective.
How do I evaluate compliance in ISO 14001?
Clause 9.1.2 of ISO 14001:2015 says that compliance evaluation is based on the following steps:
- Frequency: To determine what is the appropriate frequency of conducting compliance obligations, you must pay attention to the potential consequences of non-compliance for not only your organisation, but the environment. Different organisations in different sectors require different performance evaluations, which can be subjected to different degrees of changes.
- Execution: The evaluation should be executed by individuals who are competent, capable, experienced and unbiased.
- Reporting: Regular reports should be provided to the top management, as they cannot claim ignorance to stances of non-compliance.
- Action: All non-compliance should be treated like a non-conformity, where it should be appropriately recorded, mitigated and evaluated. The status of the compliance obligation should always be tracked.
How does an organisation abide by its commitments?
When an organisation periodically conducts compliance evaluation, it abides by its commitment as it demonstrates that the top management is aware of the situation and is hiring external or delegating internal competent entities to monitor it.
It is a due diligence exercise that can enhance reputation, prevent fines and amplify environmental performance. For more information you can check ISOcouncil.com.au and use ISO certification consultants help.