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ISO 14000 History:
The main thrust for ISO 14000 development came as a result of the Rio Summit on the Environment held in 1992.  The ISO 14000 family addresses various aspects of environmental management.  The very first two standards, published in 1996, ISO 14001:2004 and ISO 14004:2004 deal with environmental management systems (EMS).  ISO 14001:2004 provides the requirements for an EMS and ISO 14004:2004 gives general EMS guidelines.  ISO is leading a strategic approach by developing environmental management system standards that can be implemented in any type of organization in either public or private sector (companies, administrations, public utilities).

ISO launched the new technical committee, ISO/TC 207, Environmental management, in 1993.  However, this was preceded by an intensive consultation process, carried out within the framework of the ISO/IEC Strategic Advisory Group on Environment (SAGE), set up in 1991, in which 20 countries, 11 international organizations and more than 100 environmental experts participated in defining the basic requirements of a new approach to environment-related standards.  Today, delegations of business and government experts from 68 countries participate actively within TC 207, and another 18 countries have observer status.  These delegations are chosen by the national standards institute concerned and they are required to bring to TC 207 a national consensus on issues being addressed by the committee.  This national consensus is derived from a process of consultation with interested parties.

About ISO 14000:
The ISO 14000 are tools to help the organization realize its environmental policy, objectives and targets, and classify them by application; At the organizational level (implementing EMS, conducting environmental auditing and related investigations, and evaluating environmental performance) and to products and services (using environmental declarations and claims, conducting life cycle assessment), addressing environmental aspects in product standards, and understanding terms and definitions).

ISO 14000 is primarily concerned with "environmental management".  In plain language, this means what the organization does to minimize harmful effects on the environment caused by its activities.  In addition, ISO 14000 require organizations that implement them to improve their performance continually in, respectively, quality and environmental management.

ISO 14001:2004 specifies the requirements for such an environmental management system.  Fulfilling these requirements demands objective evidence which can be audited to demonstrate that the environmental management system is operating effectively in conformity to the standard.  ISO 14001:2004 is a tool that can be used to meet internal objectives:
- Provide assurance to management that it is in control of the organizational processes and activities having an impact on the environment
- Assure employees that they are working for an environmentally responsible organization
ISO 14001:2004 can also be used to meet external objectives:
- Provide assurance on environmental issues to external stakeholders, such as customers, the community and regulatory agencies
- Comply with environmental regulations
- Support the organization´s claims and communication about its own environmental policies, plans and actions
- Provide a framework for demonstrating conformity via suppliers´ declarations of conformity, assessment of conformity by an external stakeholder - such as a business client - and for certification of conformity by an independent certification body
ISO 14004:2004 provides guidelines on the elements of an environmental management system and its implementation, and discusses principal issues involved.

ISO 14000 Family:
The whole ISO 14000 family provides management tools for organizations to control their environmental aspects and to improve their environmental performance.  One of these standards in particular, ISO 14001, has assumed additional importance, because it is intended for registration by a third party.
- ISO 14001 Environmental management systems- Requirements with guidance for use
- ISO 14004 Environmental management systems- General guidelines on principles, systems and support techniques
- ISO 14015 Environmental assessment of sites and organizations
- ISO 14020 series (14020 to 14025) Environmental labels and declarations
- ISO 14031 Environmental performance evaluation- Guidelines
- ISO 14040 series (14040 to 14049), Life Cycle Assessment, LCA, discusses pre-production planning and environment goal setting
- ISO 14050 terms and definitions
- ISO 14062 discusses making improvements to environmental impact goals
- ISO 14063 Environmental communication- Guidelines and examples
- ISO 19011 which specifies one audit protocol for both 14000 and 9000 series standards together. This replaces ISO 14011 meta-evaluation- how to tell if your intended regulatory tools worked. 19011 is now the only recommended way to determine this

Implementing ISO 14000:
ISO 14001 does not specify levels of environmental performance.  If it specified levels of environmental performance, they would have to be specific to each business activity and this would require a specific EMS standard for each business.  That is not the intention.  ISO has many other standards dealing with specific environmental issues.  The intention of ISO 14001 is to provide a framework for a holistic, strategic approach to the organization´s environmental policy, plans and actions.

ISO 14001 gives the generic requirements for an environmental management system. The underlying philosophy is that whatever the organization´s activity, the requirements of an effective EMS are the same.

This has the effect of establishing a common reference for communicating about environmental management issues between organizations and their customers, regulators, the public and other stakeholders.

Because ISO 14001 does not lay down levels of environmental performance, the standard can to be implemented by a wide variety of organizations, whatever their current level of environmental maturity. However, a commitment to compliance with applicable environmental legislation and regulations is required, along with a commitment to continual improvement- for which the EMS provides the framework.

Areas that are covered by the ISO 14000 are:
- Environmental Management Systems (EMS)
- Environmental Auditing
- Environmental Labels and Declarations
- Environmental Performance Evaluation
- Life Cycle Assessment (LCA)
- Environmental Communication
- Greenhouse Gases (GHG) Monitoring

Maintaining the Benefits and Continual Improvement:
A Certified Environmental Management System proves that the business is taking active steps to fulfill social and environmental responsibilities.  Environmentally credible companies have a competitive edge in national and international markets.  An Environmental Management System helps the organization to be in control of and successfully manage the most significant environmental aspects, e.g. emissions, waste-handling, utilize natural resources and energy-efficiency together with compliance to environmental regulations.  Some of the benefits of the ISO14001 certification are in the following areas:
- Improved corporate image
- Strategic investment
- Significant demonstration of management responsibilities & commitment to environmental concerns towards employees, stakeholders & society
- Competitive advantage over international trade barriers
- Compliance with concerned statutory & regulatory requirements
- Tremendous increase in process yields
- Help in converting by products and other waste into commercially valuable forms
- Significantly reduced energy consumption, hazards and accidents
- Effectively manage the significant environmental aspects

Application and Benefits of ISO 14000:
ISO 14001 is part of a series of international standards applicable to any organization, anywhere, relating to environmental management.  Based on the Plan-Do-Check-Act cycle, ISO 14001 specifies the most important requirements to identify, control and monitor the environmental aspects of any organization, and also how to manage and improve the whole system.

Any manager will try to avoid pollution that could cost the company a fine for infringing environmental legislation.  But better managers will agree that doing only just enough to keep the company out of trouble with government inspectors is a rather weak and reactive approach to business in today´s increasingly environment-conscious world.  Implementing an ISO 14001-based environmental management system, and using other tools from the ISO 14000 family, will give the organization far more than just confidence that it is complying with legislation.  The ISO 14000 approach forces to take a hard look at all areas where the business has an environmental impact, and the systematic ISO 14001 approach leads to benefits like the following:
- Customer, investor, public, community assurance by demonstrating commitment
- Improving cost control through conserving input materials and energy
- Reducing incidents that result in liability therefore reduces insurance costs
- Assisting the attainment of permits and authorizations for local trade
- Enhancement compliance to legislation
- Materials savings from more complete processing, substitution, reuse or recycling of product inputs
- Less downtime through more careful monitoring and maintenance
- Conversion of waste into commercially valuable forms
- Reduced energy consumption
- Reduced materials storage, handling and packaging costs
- Reduced costs associated with emissions, waste handling, transport and disposal
- More efficient resources use
- Savings from safer workplace conditions
- Higher quality and safer products
- Lower product costs
- Enhanced company image

Together, these tools can provide significant tangible economic benefits, including:
- Reduced raw material/resource use
- Reduced energy consumption
- Improved process efficiency
- Reduced waste generation and disposal costs
- Utilization of recoverable resources
- Savings in consumption of energy and materials
- Lower distribution costs
- Improved corporate image among regulators, customers and the public
- Framework for continuous improvement of your environmental performance

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