ISO 14001 2015 updates: Lifecycle requirements

The updated ISO 14001 standard places an onus on organisations to consider life cycle impacts when planning their Environmental Management Standard (EMS). In the latest blog in the ISO 14001 changes series, Sonia Naran explores the requirement to take a life cycle perspective.

Unlike the 2004 edition, the revised ISO 14001 standard requires organisations to consider lifecycle risks and impacts when planning their EMS.

Taking a broader perspective: new life cycle requirements
Clause 6.1.2 specifies that organisations must take a life cycle perspective when determining its environmental impacts. This is a significant change from the previous standard and requires the organisation to think carefully about the different stages of the life cycle of its products and consider where it can exert influence and control.

The standard defines life cycle as:

“Consecutive and interlinked stages of a product (or service) system, from raw material acquisition or generation from natural resources to final disposal”

You don’t necessarily need to complete a life cycle assessment, although doing so can help provide a data driven approach to managing risks and impacts across the full value chain. 

It’s important to also note that you are not expected to develop controls for all parts of the life cycle but only where you can exert influence and control. As you complete your updates for the new standard, you may find that there are material risks that sit outside of your current scope of control which will need to be addressed.

Transition pain points
The addition of life cycle considerations will likely bring some pain points for organisations transitioning to the new standard. These might include:

Visibility and control of supply chains is often limited
Supply chains are often highly fragmented and can change frequently. It can be difficult to obtain reliable data about environmental impacts and risks, and an organisation may not always have control or influence over their suppliers.

Defining a clear scope of the EMS is more difficult
The inclusion of the life cycle requirement makes setting a clear scope for the EMS more difficult. The key determining factor is an organisation’s ability to exercise control and exert influence, but there are definitely some grey areas here. In addition to an organisation’s traditional control and influence methods (such a supplier codes of conduct, product specification etc), it may be helpful to also consider the importance of the risks and impacts, and determine how you might need to expand your scope of control and influence to manage and mitigate these issues.

Expanded scope means more work for EMS team
The new life cycle requirements will increase the workload of the EMS team and introduces new responsibilities for people within business (i.e. purchasing managers, designers).

So how can we help?
Brite Green is an award winning sustainability consultancy and we specialise in helping organisations develop a strategic approach to environmental management.

Our dedicated team of sustainability strategy and EMS specialists are here to provide whatever support you might need to transition to the new standard, whether it’s checking over your final documents or helping you from start to finish.

We offer a full support package to transition to the new standard, but here are a few things you might find helpful to meet the new lifecycle requirements.

Analyse your value chain
We can review your value chain and determine the key environmental impacts, risks and opportunities.

Product life cycle assessments
We can undertake product life cycle assessments to quantify your lifecycle risks and impacts in line with ISO 14040. You can read more about product lifecycle assessments in our introduction and guide.

Control and influence: review your current practices and identify any gaps
We can review your current control and influence approaches and develop documentation to demonstrate how you meet the requirements of the new 2015 ISO 14001 standard. We will also identify any areas where you have significant environmental risks or impacts in your value chain but don’t currently have effective control or influence mechanisms.

Our experienced team can help you develop sustainable procurement policies for your organisation and undertake training on sustainable procurement practices with relevant teams.

Outsourced and ongoing support
Our experienced sustainability team has experience providing dedicated support to organisations to develop, plan and implement their sustainability strategy. This is a great solution for organisations that do not have this in-house function or who want some support during transition.

To find out more about how we can help you transition to ISO 14001:2015, get in touch with the team:
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Telephone: 0118 900 6713

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