This informal CPD article Why the ISO 14001 Manual is important for Environmental Management Systems was provided by Punyam Academy, an industry leader in training of international compliance standards.
ISO 14001:2015 is now the world’s most established environmental framework, currently being used by nearly a million organizations across the world. It helps all kinds of organizations to succeed in this competitive world through improved environmental performance and continual improvement in their established environmental management system.
The environmental management system consists of a number of documents such as ISO 14001 manual, procedures, policies, SOPs, etc., and various types of records, which are collectively termed as ISO 14001 documented information. To ensure a suitable, adequate and effective environmental management system, an organization should create and maintain documented information. Documented information should be created, maintained and followed primarily for the implementation of the environmental management system (EMS) and improvement of the environmental performance.
Is the ISO 14001 Manual a requirement of the standard?
Though none of the clauses of ISO 14001: 2015 standard require an organization to create or have an ISO 14001 manual or environmental manual, it is still considered a vital document for implementation and maintenance of a successful EMS. In practice, almost none of ISO 14001 EMS is implemented without having an environmental manual. Now a question arises why the ISO 14001 manual is important? Why should an organization invest time and resources to prepare and maintain this document when the standard does not explicitly mention the need to prepare it? To some extent, you can get the answer by simply knowing about the ISO 14001 manual.
What is the ISO 14001 Manual?
Also called an environmental manual or EMS manual, this document is considered the backbone of ISO 14001 documented system. It states the Environmental Policy and describes the EMS of an organization. It may relate to all of an organization’s activities or to a selected part of it, e.g., specified requirements depending upon the nature of products or services, processes, contractual requirements, governing regulations, etc. EMS Manual is a typical form of the main document used in drawing up and implementing an EMS. It is expected to provide an adequate description of the management’s intention to fulfill system requirement while serving as a permanent reference for implementation and maintenance of the system.
The EMS Manual describes the totality of the environmental management system operated by an organization with regard to all its products, services and processes. An environmental manual gives macro level details of how each element of the ISO 14001 environmental management system is implemented. It provides the answer to interested parties, including customers and third-party auditors whether the implemented system is fulfilling all ISO 9001: 2015 requirements, and if yes then how?
Why is the ISO 14001 Manual important?
For a number of reasons, the ISO 14001 Environmental Manual is needed by organizations who want to establish and implement an environmental management system and/or who want to get ISO 14001: 2015 certification. Some important reasons are following:
- ISO 14001 Environmental Manual includes environmental policy, environmental objectives and scope of environmental management system of an organization; all these are among requirements of the ISO 14001:2015 standard.
- It describes the objectives of top management for different clauses of ISO 14001 standard applicable to different departments of the organization, and thus serves as guideline for planning and documenting the procedures.
- Change is a perpetual process in an organization. Unless there is a written description of each task function, it will be difficult to make any reasoned evaluation of any proposed change or its outcome.
- It can be used as an aid to train personnel, as it describes the functions of all departments in an orderly manner, although at a macro- level.
- It is used as a basic document for adequacy audit of Environmental System and also used for effective implementation of the environmental system.
- It can be useful for rationalizing one's own environmental management system.
- It can be used as a marketing aid to convince customers / interested parties about company's activities and capabilities to compliance environment performance and its compliance obligation, so that the customer / interested parties can visualize the services he/she will get from the company.
- Relevant contents of an Environmental Manual can be very useful to prospective suppliers. It can guide them in accordance with the requirements set out by the customer company.
Conclusively, we can say that ISO 14001 manual is a very relevant and important document for an environmental management system based on ISO 14001:2015, irrespective of the product, process or services of the organization. Having an ISO 14001 manual gives organization confidence in system implementation, supports in business development and achievement of ISO 14001: 2015 certification.
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