The 7 Challenges of Implementing ISO 14001

ISO Standards

ISO 14001 certification is of immense value. Implementing this environmental management system has been shown to directly lead to more efficient use of resources and less waste. This is an extremely easy way to increase profitability. It has also been proven to reduce the risk of prosecution and insurance claims stemming from environmental issues. Finally, customers are reassured by the standard’s ethical basis.  Here are some of the challenges sometimes associated with ISO certification:

  1. Getting Started

The first major challenge in ISO 14001 implementation is to get started. Too often companies complain that they are not ready to start, and they want everything to be perfect before they begin the certification process. However, ISO implementation is considered an ongoing process which will never be perfect. Organisations should also understand the return they want on their investment in ISO 14001.

  1. Setting Goals

Companies aiming for ISO 14001 certification set their own environmental targets. A company knows its own capabilities and limitations best and should be able to set realistic goals. In theory this can allow very conservative, easy-to-attain goals to be set simply for the sake of attaining certification. Given the expense of ISO certification, companies should create realistic goals to maximize return on investment.

  1. Problem Solving

Most organisations find that once they understand their environmental issues and impacts, implementing ISO 14001 is relatively simple. In some cases however, it can be significantly more complex. Sometimes a detailed statistical analysis may need to be carried out, with the necessary statistics being hard to record and more difficult to analyse.


  1. Applying Relevant Regulations

A successful ISO 14001 implementation usually requires more than just a list of acts of legislation. You should also understand in plain English how each piece of legislation applies to each part of your business, including sites, organisations and people. Legal registers such as Pegasus are available to help achieve this for a fraction of the cost of legal advice.

  1. Self-Management

ISO 14001 implementation is self-managed, and its success mostly depends on the enthusiasm of the organisation’s management. Many ISO 14001 certification failures are due to the management’s lack of awareness of the resources required. Managers may also set unrealistic, ultra-lenient goals to portray their organisation in a better light than is justified.

  1. Transparency

Ensuring the correct information is shared with all employees is another major challenge of ISO 14001 implementation. Frequently, information about the implementation process is not disseminated to the levels required for the maximum return possible. Customers have also been known to make purchasing decisions based on ISO 14001 certification, so they should also be informed.

  1. Integration to Lean Six Sigma

Surveys suggest that environmental teams and Lean Six Sigma teams cooperate more often than not. Most organisations also admit a combined environmental management and Lean Six Sigma system would be of value to them. However, Lean Six Sigma implementations significantly differs from ISO 14001 in using a wider array of tools and techniques. Despite this, “green” adaptions of Lean Six Sigma are increasing in prevalence, including the “Lean Environmental Toolkit” offered by the US EPA.

Despite these risks, ISO 14001 is well worth implementing and has helped thousands of organisations reduce their environmental impact and improve their bottom line. It’s obvious there can be some challenges in achieving certification, and mistakes can be made which reduce the value of certification. With sufficient preparation however, these can be avoided and achieving ISO 14001 can be a very rewarding experience.


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Environmental management system , ISO 14001 , ISO 14001:2015 , ISO Implementation , ISO standards , Pegasus Legal Register
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ISO 14001 – Significant Environmental Aspects ISO 14001 – Clause 6.1.2 Environmental Aspects ISO 14001 – Clause 6.1.1 Actions to address risks and opportunities ISO 14001 – Assigning Responsibility and Authority ISO 14001 – Clause 5.3 Organizational roles, responsibilities and authorities ISO 14001 – What is an environmental policy? ISO 14001 – Clause 5.2: Environmental Policy ISO 14001 – Clause 5.1: Leadership & Commitment ISO 14001:2015 and the Process Approach ISO 14001 – Clause 4.4: Environmental Management System
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