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A Quick Introduction
What exactly is the ISO 14001?
A note on "City Government"


What is ISO 14001?
ISO 14001 is a voluntary international standard developed by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), based in Geneva, Switzerland. At its core, it sets the requirements for establishment of an environmental management system.

The ISO 14000 series addresses environmental management systems, environmental auditing, environmental labeling, environmental performance evaluation, and life cycle assessment. These International standards are voluntary standards for the establishment of a common worldwide approach to management systems that will lead to the protection of the earth's environment while spurring international trade and commerce. They serve as tools to manage environmental programs and provide an internationally recognized framework to measure, evaluate, and audit these programs. When implemented, these standards will ensure consistency in environmental management practice, harmonize national environmental standards within an international framework, simplify registrations, labeling and conflicting requirements, provide a single system for all transnational subsidiaries, and offer guidelines for environmental management excellence. Even though the standards do not prescribe performance levels, performance improvements will invariably be achieved by any entity if its commitment to environmental care is emphasized and employees are trained and are aware of the policies in place to protect the environment. The ISO 14001 voluntary environmental management standards and guidelines are intended to be practical, useful and usable for companies or organizations of all sizes.

- ANSI Online

The implementation of ISO 14001 is cyclical requiring the development of a comprehensive environmental policy, a planning process to operationalize the policy, its implementation and operation, checking and implementing corrective action if needed, and management review (see the step-by-step guide for further information).

For cities, there are several benefits of acquiring ISO 14001 certification. It provides leverage in emphasizing and replicating better environmental action. It enables and provides an integrated approach to environmental management. The ISO 14001 takes a comprehensive view of all of the processes of an organization - hence it is system dependent, and not person-dependent. It also promotes sound environmental management.

Briefly, some of the procedures required to be put in place in order to obtain ISO 14001 certification include:

  • identification of significant environmental aspects
  • identification of legal and other requirements
  • internal and external communication
  • document control
  • operational control
  • emergency preparedness and response
  • monitoring and measurement of key characteristics
  • equipment calibration
  • evaluating legal and regulatory compliance
  • maintaining records
  • EMS Audit

The Elements of ISO 14001

ISO 14001 Clause 4.1 An EMS is to be established and maintained according to the requirements of Clause 4 in whole.
ISO 14001 Clause 4.2 An effective EMS is driven by senior level commitment to the ENVIRONMENTAL POLICY.
ISO 14001 Clause 4.3

The EMS is developed in a PLANNING exercise that identifies:

  • Significant environmental impacts of the organizations; and
  • Legal and other requirements;
    and generates:
  • Objectives and targets for environmental performance; and
  • Environmental management programs/plans for delivering the environmental policy.
ISO 14001 Clause 4.4


  • Structure and responsibility;
  • Training, awareness, and competence;
  • External & internal communication;
  • EMS documentation;
  • Document control;
  • Operational control; and
  • Emergency preparedness and response.
ISO 14001 Clause 4.5

Performance is assured through CHECKING & CORRECTIVE ACTION, including:

  • Monitoring & measurement;
  • Correction of non-conformance, & preventative action;
  • Appropriate maintenance of records; and
  • EMS auditing.
ISO 14001 Clause 4.6 The ongoing relevance and continual improvement of the EMS is a function of the MANAGEMENT REVIEW.

See the list of online resources for further information on ISO 14001 and related issues.

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Contact: Hari Srinivas - hsrinivas@gdrc.org