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ISO 14000 is a series of international, voluntary environmental management standards, guides, and technical reports. The standards specify requirements for establishing an environmental policy, determining environmental impacts of products or services, planning environmental objectives, implementing programs to meet objectives, and conducting corrective action and management review. The primary objective of the ISO 14000 series of standards is to promote effective environmental management systems in organizations. The standards seek to provide cost-effective tools that make use of best practices for organizing and applying information about environmental management.

ISO 14000

The ISO 14000 family was developed in response to a recognized industry need for standardization. With different organizational approaches to environmental management, comparisons of systems and collaboration had proved difficult.

The ISO 14000 series addresses the following aspects of environmental management:

1. Environmental Management Systems (EMS)
2. Environmental Auditing & Related Investigations (EA&RI)
3. Environmental Labels and Declarations (EL)
4. Environmental Performance Evaluation (EPE)
5. Life Cycle Assessment (LCA)
6. Terms and Definitions (T&D)

ISO 14000 registration

With respect to ISO 14000, registration is the formal recognition of an organization’s ability to conform to the requirements of an EMS. Organizations may simply declare that their EMS meets the requirements of ISO 14001 (“self-declaration”). However, many organizations choose to have their EMS registered, usually to provide greater assurance to clients and the public, or because regulators and clients require it.

What are the principles behind the ISO 14000 series?

The ISO 14000 standards and documents are being developed with the following key principles in mind:

  • Result in better environmental management
  • To encompass environmental management systems and the environmental aspects of products
  • Applicable in all countries
  • To promote the broader interests of the public as well as users of these standards
  • To be cost-effective, non-prescriptive and flexible so they are able to meet the differing needs of organizations of any type or size, worldwide
  • As part of their flexibility, to be suitable for internal and/or external verification
  • To be scientifically based
  • Above all, to be practical, useful and usable

The ISO 14001 standard is the most important standard within the ISO 14000 series. ISO 14001 specifies the requirements of an environmental management system (EMS) for small to large organizations. An EMS is a systemic approach to handling environmental issues within an organization. The ISO 14001 standard is based on the Plan-Check-Do-Review-Improve cycle.

The Plan cycle deals with the beginning stages of an organization becoming ISO 14001-compliant. The Check cycle deals with checking and correcting errors. The Do cycle is the implementation and operation of the ISO 14001 standard within an organization. The Review cycle is a review of the entire process by the organization’s top management. And the Improve cycle is a cycle that never ends as an organization continually finds ways to improve their EMS.


The entire process can take several months to several years depending on the size of the organization. If an organization is already ISO 9000-certified, the implementation of ISO 14001 does not take as long. When an organization is compliant, they can either register with a third-party registrar or self-declare their compliance. The ISO 14001 standard is the only ISO 14000 standard that allows an organization to be registered or certified.

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