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How to Extend Your Existing QMS Into an IMS Addressing ISO 14001

Introduction

Throughout the world, there are clearly growing concerns about climate change, sustainability, and other environmental issues. The wider community is paying increasing attention to how business activities impact on the environment. In fact, some customers are now specifying environmental management requirements for their suppliers to meet.

Perhaps the most tangible evidence of an organisation’s environmental commitment is for its management system to be certified to the ISO 14001 standard.

While many thousands of organisations have already achieved that distinction, more than 5 times as many have management systems certified to the ISO 9001 Quality standard. Many thousands more have management systems in place but haven’t yet sought certification. For them, a logical progression might be to expand their existing Quality Management System into an Integrated Management System that also meets the requirements of ISO 14001. This article takes a brief look at the issues involved in doing just that. Before we move on, lets just clarify what the ISO 9000 and ISO 14000 series or family of standards are about.

The ISO 9000 family addresses Quality management. This means, what the organization does to fulfil the customer’s quality requirements, while also addressing the needs and expectations of other stakeholders.

The ISO 14000 family addresses Environmental management. This means what the organization does to eliminate or reduce harmful effects on the environment caused by its activities.

In both cases, an organization should maintain compliance with applicable legal and regulatory requirements, and work towards continual improvement of performance.

The good news

You know those conversations where you’re asked “Do you want the good news or the bad news?” Well, in this case, there isn’t really any bad news – just some extra activities and controls to be put in place. We will get to those in a moment, but the really good news is that if you have a management system that complies with ISO 9001, you ALREADY comply with most of ISO 14001. The reason is that many of the requirements are very similar. It is mostly just a question of focus – on product/service quality OR the environment.

What are the similarities and differences?

-Similarities

The following list – while not exhaustive – indicates some key areas where the 2 standards have at least a broadly similar philosophy and requirements:

  • Based on the Plan-Do-Check-Act cycle
  • Aims of achieving continuous improvement
  • Set out the overall policy
  • Set measurable objectives
  • Allocate responsibilities / authorities
  • Ensure that people have been trained, are competent, and aware of their role
  • Document the system
  • Manage those documents
  • Manage activities
  • Deal with exceptions
  • Manage records
  • Plan and conduct internal audits
  • Management review

Differences

Well, apart from their focus being on different compliance issues, there are also some practical differences between the requirements of the 2 standards. These include:

ISO 9001 is more prescriptive in its requirements for documentation

For example, there are requirements for you to have a “Quality manual” and documented procedures for at least 6 clauses:

  • Control of documents
  • Control of records
  • Internal audits
  • Control of non-conforming product
  • Corrective action
  • Preventive action

While ISO 14001 DOES have similar clauses, and does require procedures to manage those activities, they DO NOT have to be documented. However, if you have already documented them for the purpose of compliance with ISO 9001, those existing documented procedures can also be applied to your environmental management activities. They just need to be reviewed and adjusted to suit both purposes.

ISO 14001 does not include a requirement for something similar to a Quality manual. However, if you already have one, it could be expanded to include relevant information such as the environmental policy, information on environmental responsibilities and authorities, and a table indicating how the system addresses the various ISO 14001 clauses. In such cases, it is quite typical to rename the Quality Manual to Business manual or Compliance manual.

Consideration of environmental aspects and impacts

For those who have only had exposure to quality management, one of the key differences in ISO 14001 will be found in Clause 4.3.1 ENVIRONMENTAL ASPECTS.

Certain aspects of an organisation’s activities, products or services will have some impact on the environment. For your organisation, you should identify what those aspects are, what impacts they have, and assess their significance. This might be considered a risk assessment activity. You then need to put controls in place to manage those considered as significant. At this point, it might be helpful to offer a definition of the terms ‘environmental aspect’ and ‘environmental impact’:

  • Environmental aspect An element of an activity, product or service that has an impact on the environment
  • Environmental impact A change made to the environment as a result of an environmental aspect

You might think of them simply in terms of Cause and Effect. Let’s take a look at some examples of environmental aspects:

  • Consumption of cardboard for packaging products
  • Consumption of fuel for delivery vehicles
  • Use of energy for office lighting

The following are examples of environmental impacts:

  • Noise nuisance to local community
  • Depletion of non-renewable energy resource
  • Water pollution
  • Air pollution
  • Increased carbon dioxide levels in atmosphere

To address this element of the standard, an initial environmental review is needed to identify your aspects and impacts, assess their significance, and plan a hierarchy of controls to appropriately manage them.

External communications

While both standards require organisations to establish methods of internal communications about the management system, ISO 14001 also requires procedures for handling communications with external interested parties such as customers, regulators, and the wider community.

What are the key challenges?

We asked some representatives of certification bodies: What do you consider is the number 1 challenge for an organisation going from a QMS to an IMS incorporating ISO 14001 requirements?

In the view of Scott Walker, Queensland Operations Support Manager for SAI Global:

The greatest challenge for a QMS moving to an IMS incorporating ISO 14001 requirements is the shift in focus from product risks to those associated with the environment and human health, and from consumer protection to environmental protection.

Garry Allan, Senior Environmental Auditor also with SAI Global comments:

Many IMS have trouble focusing appropriately on the specific requirements of each area.

Ian White, Senior Quality and Environmental Auditor with Sci-Qual suggests:

An Organisation must define the EMS framework relating to both the system requirements of the 14001 standard and the significant environmental aspects linked to their activities. Ideally the Organisation will do an environmental audit of their operations to establish the environmental aspects associated with their operations. From a perspective of commercial viability, the Company must then risk-assess their significant environmental aspects to minimise the potential and/or real significant environmental impacts that may/do occur as a result of their activities. The number one challenge is including those significant environmental aspects, their impacts and controls into the operational procedures of the organisation.

So how do you go from a QMS to an IMS incorporating ISO 14001 requirements? The first step is to perform a gap analysis.

Gap analysis

A gap analysis is a study to compare a current situation with a desired situation. There are two key questions:

  • Where are we now?
  • Where do we want to go?

To answer those questions in the context of environmental management, prepare a table that lists the ISO 14001 requirements (or at least a summary or interpretation of them). The ISO 14001 standard can be obtained from your local standards association and other approved sources. For each clause, you may then note current arrangements (if any) that are in place, and the gaps between them, and how to achieve compliance to the standard.

The gap analysis can be performed in-house or by a consultant or in-house – perhaps using a commercially available planning tool. The choice of which path to take may be determined by several factors – including the level of in-house expertise, the complexity of the business, and its environmental aspects/impacts. However performed, the gap analysis provides the foundation stone on which to plan and develop the wider IMS.

As mentioned above, you will also need to perform an initial environmental review.

Certification

Many certification bodies that audit and certify to ISO 9001 will perform the same service for ISO 14001. The cost of certifying an integrated management system that addresses both standards should also be less than the simply doubling the price of a single certification. There can be reductions in administration costs and audit time. Contact your certification body to discuss your combined certification options.

Conclusion

Concern about the environment is only likely to increase still further. Having a management system certified to the ISO 14001 standard is perhaps the most tangible evidence of an organisation’s environmental commitment.

For those with an existing Quality Management System, the step to an IMS that also complies with ISO 14001 might be than first imagined. It’s certainly worth considering on many levels. Much of the necessary work can usually be done in-house. That can be assisted by consultancy services, training and software for guidance, to save time and administration effort.

Acknowledgments:

Many thanks for the valuable input from: Scott Walker and Garry Allan of SAI Global, Ben White and Ian White of Sci-Qual International, and Steve Keeling of JAS-ANZ.

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