ISO 14001: 2015 Requirements Overview and Audit Checklist

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ISO 14001: 2015

The ISO 14001: 2015 and the Plan-Do-Check-Act Framework

There are seven parts to the ISO 14001: 2015 Environmental Management System (EMS), based on the Plan-Do-Check-Act cycle of continual improvement. They are:

  1. Context of the organization
  2. Leadership
  3. Planning
  4. Support
  5. Operation
  6. Performance evaluation
  7. Improvement

Below is a brief overview of the requirements for each section. Scroll to the bottom to access the audit checklist.

1. Context of the organization

This clause requires organizations to:
• have a complete understanding of the factors that affect and can affect the organization’s environmental management. For example factors like climate change, natural resources, regulatory framework, stakeholder expectations etc.
• identify all its stakeholders and determine which of their needs and expectations become its compliance obligations.

The context of the organization determines the actions the organization takes to control its environmental aspects.

2. Leadership

ISO 14001 holds the top management accountable for the effectiveness of the EMS and expects them to provide all necessary support to achieve the system’s intended outcomes.

The organization’s environmental policy is an evidence of top management commitment.

The environmental policy statement:
• should be general enough to be understood by all
• detailed enough to set the environmental objectives
• should contain commitments:
• to comply with the legal requirements
• to prevent pollution
• for continual improvement
• should be widely available to employees and suppliers

3. Planning

Planning requires organizations to:
• identify and evaluate environmental aspects
• identify applicable laws, regulations, industry standards and requirements arising from agreements with stakeholders

Environmental Aspects
These are risks to the environment posed by the organization’s activities.

ISO 14001 does not prescribe any methodology for identifying environmental aspects. There is no perfect approach either. A good identification requires the organization to comprehensively examine:

• its energy and material inputs
• its activities under normal, abnormal and emergency operations
• the impact of its operations (in all conditions) on the environment

Legal Compliance
ISO 14001 makes it mandatory for an organization to identify and track applicable:
• laws and regulations
• licenses and permits
• standards and codes

Organizations are required to maintain a list or register of the above along with the evidence of tracking and monitoring the requirements to ensure the list is up-to-date at all times.

Legal compliance is a critical element of an EMS audit as it directly determines EMS performance.

Due to its complexity, legal compliance has become a specialized field. We help organizations conform to this element of ISO 14001 by creating a list of laws and standards applicable to their operations and keeping the list up-to-date. Get in touch to learn how we can help your specific needs.

4. Support

This section lays out the resources required by the standard for the effective functioning of the management system. It includes ensuring:
• that all employees and suppliers are aware of the existence of the EMS
• that the responsible individuals are competent on the basis of education, training, and experience and also that they receive training for the tasks they are responsible for
• a document control system and procedures that ensure all necessary documents are up-to-date and available to relevant individuals
• proper record management, that includes but is not limited to management system audit results, training records, and management review minutes

5. Operation

This section requires organizations to:
• apply documented operational controls procedures to the identified significant environmental aspects so as to avoid environmental impact
• extend the controls to activities of suppliers and contractors even though the organization cannot have direct control over their personnel
• establish controls in the design and development process of products or services, considering each stage of the life-cycle
• to establish and test their emergency preparedness and response procedures

6. Performance Evaluation

This clause requires:
• continuous monitoring to ensure that the objectives are being attained. It involves monitoring legal compliance, as well as ensuring that the instruments or equipment used to monitor are in good working order
• the management to review the tracking more than once in the management cycle. It’s an opportunity to evaluate the adequacy of the system in light of changing circumstances as well as deciding if the system is supporting their commitment to continual improvement.

7. Improvement

This clause requires the organization to have a mechanism in place for observing and resolving non-conformances in the management system and to ensure that the corrective actions are indeed effective.


The primary goal of EMS is to identify and control the potential environmental impacts resulting from an organization’s activities so as to prevent pollution. ISO 14001 has standardized the structure of EMS and has made legislation compliance a requirement. But the vast number of applicable legislation and the convoluted legal language has made legal compliance a specialized field. We can help you identify the laws that are applicable to your operations and keep it up-to-date. We are happy to discuss your operations and your specific needs and how you can benefit from us.

We also help organizations with mobile audit tools with Nimonik App available on Android and iOS. On Nimonik App, you can access over 1500 free checklists covering a variety of industrial standards, best practices and regulations.

Here is the link to the complete ISO 14001: 2015 audit checklist on the app. Make its best use with a free 20-day trial.