The newly revised version of ISO 14001 (2015 version) relies heavily on risk based thinking. The focus is more on risk identification and managing risk, rather than on corrective- preventive philosophy of the previous version. The risk based approach requires that environmental risks be identified for processes as well as products and services, throughout the organization. The same thinking needs to be applied for the processes of external providers. The top management must create awareness of the need for risk based thinking.
Advantages of the risk based approach
This approach provides for a proactive, strategic response towards all real as well as potential environmental issues. The key advantages would result from the focus it provides towards identification of potential incidents and elimination or the minimization of root causes of the risks.. This philosophy can have positive influence on persons taking decisions regarding processes, products and services, who will also take responsibility for protecting the environment.
Compliance to the requirements of the standard along with legal/regulatory requirements can be ensured with the guidance of experts, such as ISO 14001 consultants. These consultants can also provide training on awareness of risk based approach for the entire organization. They can help the organizations to achieve ISO 14001 certification in a time bound manner.
Risk related clauses to be complied with for ISO 14001 certification
Following are the important ISO 14001 requirements regarding risk management. Clause 4.1 of ISO 14001: 2015 highlights need for understanding business environment (context), and external as well as internal issues that impact environmental performance. These concerns could relate to water, air quality, usage of land, legal as well as regulatory aspects, sociopolitical issues, organizations technology, products, services and processes. The company must plan to minimize or eliminate the undesired consequences of the risks.
Enterprise must determine risks applicable to its business, related to environment, along with legal compliance requirements. Example could be risk arising due to emissions, natural flooding, spillages or leaks, contamination as well as water scarcity.
Clause 5.2 prescribes that policy established, must include enterprise’s commitment to pollution control, environment protection along with improvement approach.
Clause 6.1 explains the need for action-plan to effectively address risks to environment. Clause 6.1.2 covers environmental aspects. It involves determination of part of processes and activities that adversely influence the environment. Aspect can include direct as well as indirect influence. impact is the extent the activity adversely affects the environment. Aspect will also depend on the technology used for the operations. Clause 6.1.3 explains voluntary obligation as well as legal/ regulatory compliance requirements.
Clause 6.2.1 stipulates the requirement for establishing environmental objectives based on policy framework already prescribed under clause 5.2. These objectives must include time bound plans, roles and responsibilities and other resources needed. The environmental objectives must be integrated into operational plans well as business processes. The risk based thinking should percolate to life cycle of the products.
Clause 8.3 prescribes the need for emergency response as well as preparedness response. Risk based thinking requires aspect identification as well as classification. Emergency can arise due to negative impact of various aspects. Likelihood of emergency situation needs to be assessed. In a petroleum installation, for instance fire may be an aspect that needs emergency response system. If a certain aspect is considered significant, preparing emergency response plan is a must.
Clause 8.4 requires the risk based monitoring and measurement of process, products, services of external providers. Clause 9.1.2 covers the stipulation for evaluation of the EMS for regulatory as well as legal compliance.
Thus we find that Risk based thinking is embedded in the entire ISO 14001 standard for the environment management system requirements.