Environmental Aspects, Impacts, and Targets

ISO 14001:2004 is concerned with environmental management so an organization can:

  • minimize harmful effects on the environment caused by its activities
  • achieve continual improvement of its environmental performance

Implementing an environmental management system requires identifying the environmental aspects associated with the organization’s past, existing, or planned activities, products, and services. An environmental aspect is an element of an activity or product or service that can interact with the environment.

ISO 14001:2004, clause 4.3.1, on Environmental Aspects requires an organization to:

  • Establish, implement, and maintain a procedure to identify its environmental aspects
  • Include aspects of its activities, products, and services within the defined scope of its system
  • Consider environmental aspects that it can control or influence
  • Take into account:
    • planned or new developments
    • new or modified activities, products, and services
  • Determine those environmental aspects that have or can have significant environmental impacts
  • Document the environmental aspects and impacts and keep the information up to date
  • Ensure the significant aspects are taken into account in its environmental management system
After identifying the environmental aspects, you must analyze them to determine any significant environmental impacts. Anenvironmental impact is any change to the environment, whether adverse  or beneficial, wholly or partially resulting from an organization’s environmental aspects. The table below provides examples of aspects and impacts for an activity, service, and product:

Activity, Product, or ServiceEnvironmental AspectEnvironmental Impact
Activity:  Boiler OperationDischarge of heated waterChanges to water quality (temperature)
Service:  Fleet OperationFuel consumptionDepletion of non-renewable fossil fuels
Product:  Printer DisposalGeneration of solid wasteLand use

After identifying environmental aspects and determining impacts, you are ready to establish environmental objectives and targets. Be sure to consider regulatory and other requirements that are applicable to the environmental aspects when setting the environmental objectives and targets.

An environmental objective is an overall environmental goal, consistent with the environmental policy, that an organization sets itself to achieve. For example, reduce your consumption of non-renewable resources.

An environmental target is a detailed performance requirement, applicable to the organization, that arises from the environmental objectives and that needs to be set and met to achieve those objectives. For example, reduce your use of heating oil by 20% by end of 2007.

Performance indicators are used to track progress in achieving objectives and targets, for example:

  • Quantity of raw materials, energy, or emissions
  • Waste produced per quantity of finished product
  • Number of environmental incidents (above limits)
  • Percent of waste being recycled
  • Number of environmental accidents (unplanned)
  • Percent of recycled material used in packaging
  • Quantities of specific pollutants emitted
  • Number of prosecutions
Activity, product, and service examples are provided below for an environmental aspect, objective, target, program, indicator, control, and measurement

Activity: Operation of fossil fuel-based boiler
Aspect: Consumption of heating oil
Objective: Reduce consumption of non-renewable resources
Target: Reduce current consumption by 20% within one year
Program: Install more efficient fuel burners
Indicator: Heating oil consumed per working hour of boiler
Control: Procedure for recording oil consumption

Measurement: Monthly tracking of oil consumption rates
Note: another aspect for this activity would be the discharge of heated water

Product: Air conditioner
Aspect: Generation of solid waste
Objective: Reduce consumer solid waste from disposal of packaging by reducing quantity of materials used
Target: Achieve 35% reduction in packaging material by 2008
Program: Redesign packaging and implement changes
Indicator: Quantity of packaging material used per unit
Control: Procedures for design control and product packaging
Measurement: Quarterly tracking of quantity of material used
Note: another aspect for this product would be the use of electricity

Service: Transportation and distribution of products
Aspect: Vehicle emission of nitrogen oxide
Objective: Increase positive impact on air by improving effectiveness of fleet maintenance
Target: Achieve 25% reduction in emissions by 2008
Program: Identify key maintenance parameters for reduction
Indicator: Vehicle emissions per mile
Control: Procedures for maintenance; training of technicians
Measurement: Quarterly testing of vehicle emissions
Note: another aspect for this service would be the generation of waste oil

The benefits of establishing an environmental management systems are:

  • Improving environmental performance
  • Maintaining good public relations
  • Obtaining insurance at reasonable cost
  • Enhancing image and market share
  • Reducing incidents that result in liability
  • Helping attain permits and authorizations
  • Conserving input materials and energy
  • Improving cost control
  • Promoting contractor and supplier awareness