Why was ISO 14001 revised?

ISO rules require review of standards on a periodic basis. This is to ensure standards stay relevant to changing:

  • stakeholder expectations
  • technology developments


In 2011, a Justification Study (ISO/TC 207/SC 1 N 845) was prepared for the revision of ISO 14001.  The Study was based upon the following principles:

Market relevance - Any Management System Standard should meet the needs of, and add value for, the primary users and other affected parties.

Compatibility - Compatibility between various Management System Standards and within an Management System family should be maintained.

Ease of use - It should be ensured that the user can easily implement one or more Management System Standards

Topic coverage - should have sufficient application coverage to eliminate or minimize the need for sector-specific variances.

Flexibility - should be applicable to organizations in all relevant sectors and cultures and of every size. A Management System Standard should not prevent organizations from competitively adding to or differentiating from others, or enhancing their management systems beyond the standard.

Technically sound basis - should be based on proven management practices or existing scientifically validated and relevant data.

Easily understood - should be easily understood, unambiguous, free from cultural bias, easily translatable, and applicable to businesses in general.

Free trade - should permit the free trade of goods and services in line with the principles included in the World Trade Organisation Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade.

Applicability of conformity - The market need for first-, second- or third-party conformity assessment, or any assessment combination thereof, should be assessed. The resulting Management System Standard should clearly address the suitability of use for conformity assessment in its scope. An MSS should facilitate joint audits.

Exclusions - should not include directly related product (including services) specifications, test methods, performance levels (i.e. setting of limits) or other forms of standardization for products produced by the implementing organization.

What was the mandate for the 2015 revision?

The ISO 14001:2015 revision mandate (dated 2012-01-23) stipulated the following:

  1. The revision shall be based on the ISO approved requirements and application guidance related to the High Level Structure (HLS) for Management System Standards (MSS) and its identical text, common terms and core definitions
  2. The revision shall consider the final report of the ISO/TC 207 SC 1 "Future Challenges for EMS" Study Group
  3. The revision shall ensure the maintenance and improvement of the basic principles of ISO 14001: 2004, and also the retention & improvement of its existing requirements

What is the High Level Structure?

The High Level Structure (HLS) is a new common framework for ISO management system standards, which incorporate identical core text, and common terms with core definitions.

It is designed to benefit users implementing multiple ISO management system standards and be applicable to any management system standard. 

This allows compatibility across ISO management system standards while offering subject-specific flexibility.

What are the “Future Challenges for EMS”?

In 2010 the Study Group on Future Challenges of environmental management systems issued a report detailing eleven themes relevant for future environmental management systems in relation to such a system:

  • being part of sustainability and social responsibility
  • include (improvement of) environmental performance
  • include compliance with legal and other external requirements
  • link to overall (strategic) business management
  • linking to conformity assessment
  • facilitating uptake in small organizations
  • considering environmental impacts in the value/supply chain
  • consider engaging stakeholders
  • managing parallel or sub systems (Greenhouse Gas, energy)
  • reflecting external communication (including product information)
  • being part of (inter)national policy agendas

From these eleven themes emerged a set of recommendations with regard to the revision of ISO 14001 was developed.  




Survey of users



Nele Zgavc
Nele Zgavc
Committee manager to ISO/TC 207/SC 1

+44 (0) 20 8996 7339