ISO 14000:
Title/definition: ISO 14000: Environmental management
The basics: The ISO 14000 family addresses "Environmental management": what the organization does to minimize harmful effects on the environment caused by its activities, 
and to  achieve continual improvement of its environmental performance.

Summary:
ISO 14000 is owned and maintained by ISO (International Organization for Standardization). It is a series of international, voluntary environmental management standards, guides and technical reports. The first two standards, ISO 14001:2004 andISO 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.The other standards and guidelines in the family address specific environmental aspects, including: labeling, performance evaluation, life cycle analysis, communication and auditing.ISO 14001:2004 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.
ISO has many other standards dealing with specific environmental issues. The intention of ISO 14001:2004 is to provide a framework for a holistic, strategic approach to the organization's environmental policy, plans and actions.
ISO 14001:2004 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.

The EMS standards
·         ISO 14004:2004 provides guidelines on the elements of an environmental management system and its implementation, and discusses principal issues involved.
·         ISO 14001:2004 specifies therequirements 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.
An EMS meeting the requirements of ISO 14001:2004 is a management tool enabling an organization of any size or type to:
·         identify and control the environmental impactof its activities, products or services, and to
·         improveits environmental performance continually, and to
·         implement a systematic approach to setting environmental objectives and targets, to achieving these and to demonstrating that they have been achieved.

Target group(s):
The target audience is any organization that needs to provide assurance on environmental issues tointernal and external stakeholders that it is in control of the organizational processes and activities having an impact on the environment and that it is an environmentally responsible organization.

Scope:
The ISO 14000 standards are voluntary. They address the needs of organizations worldwide by providing a common framework for managing environmental issues.
Strengths and pitfalls:
Strengths
·         The generic approach helps to establish a common reference for communicating about environmental management issues between organizations and their customers, regulators, the public and other stakeholders.
·         Because ISO 14001:2004 does not lay down levels of environmental performance, the standard can be implemented by a wide variety of organizations, whatever their current level of environmental maturity.

Pitfalls:
·    Implementation of ISO 14000 standards can be a tedious and expensiveprocess.

·    ISO 14000 standards can indirectly create a technical trade barrier to bothsmall businesses and developing countries due to limited knowledge andresources

·    ISO 14000 standards are voluntary. However, some countries may make ISO14000 standards a regulatory requirement that can potentially lead to a tradebarrier for foreign countries who cannot comply with the standards.

Relevant links (weblinks):

Official ISO website: www.iso.org/iso/iso_catalogue/management_standards/environmental_management.htm

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