ISO 14001:2015 Changes – Clause 4

This article summarizes the new and changed ISO 14001:2015 requirements in Clause 4 compared to ISO 14001:2004.

4. Context of the Organization
4.1 Changes – Understanding the Organization and its Context

New requirement on context of organization. High-level, conceptual understanding of the important issues that affect the way the organization manages its environmental responsibilities.

These issues are:
  • important topics,
  • problems for debate and discussion, or
  • changing circumstances that affect ability to achieve intended outcomes.
Issues affecting the intended outcomes may be:

External: cultural, social, political, legal, regulatory, financial, technological, economic, natural, and competitive issues, whether local, regional, national, or international.

Internal: activities, products, services, strategic direction, culture, and capabilities (i.e., people, knowledge, processes, and systems).

Issues can result in risks and opportunities.

Environmental conditions that may affect, or be affected by, the organization include:

  • climate; air quality; water quality;
  • land use; existing contamination;
  • natural resource availability; biodiversity.
4.2 Changes – Understanding the Needs and Expectations of Interested parties

  • New dedicated clause on interested parties
  • Decide which needs and expectations become “compliance obligations” (see 6.1.3)

    For example, all relevant:

  • Laws, regulations, permits, and licenses;
  • Contracts and corporate requirements;
  • Requirements of relevant interested parties you decide to comply with, and which become organizational requirements.

4.3 Changes – Determining the Scope of the Environmental Management System

  • Defining and documenting the scope is not new
  • What is new is adding specific topics to consider when determining the scope
  • Considers activities, products, services in scope that can have significant environmental aspects
  • Clarifies physical and organizational boundaries (scope) for application of EMS
    (especially if part of a larger organization)
Freedom and flexibility to define boundaries:

  • May choose to implement ISO 14001 throughout organization, or only in specific parts
  • EMS credibility depends on boundary choice
  • Do not exclude activities, products, services, or facilities with significant environmental aspects or to evade compliance obligations
  • Adds that scope must be available to interested parties
  • Scope is a factual and representative statement that should not mislead interested parties
4.4 Changes – Environmental Management System

  • Replaces old 4.1 on general requirements
  • Adds needed processes and their interactions
  • Adds achieving intended outcomes and enhancing environmental performance
  • Adds considering knowledge from 4.1 and 4.2 when establishing and maintaining EMS
The organization retains the authority and accountability to decide how it will meet ISO 14001 requirements for integration with business functions and inclusion of issues and interested party requirements.