ISO 14001:2015 under review as it marks its 5th anniversary

It has been five years since the environmental management systems Standard ISO 14001 was last revised; The Compliance People Consultant Hannah Williams takes a look at the review process it is currently going through. 

ISO 14001:2015 specifies the requirements for an environmental management system that organisations can use to enhance their environmental performance. The first edition of the standard was published back in 1996 and has since gone on to become one of the most popular and successful management system Standards. Hundreds of thousands of organisations across the world operate an environmental management system certified to ISO 14001:2015.

The second edition of ISO 14001 came in 2004, with the current third edition being published on 15th September 2015. The 2015 update incorporated a number of new concepts and requirements such as organisational context, more emphasis on leadership, and consideration of life cycle perspective.


As we pass the 5th anniversary of ISO 14001:2015, are there any potential changes on the horizon?

Why is the Standard being reviewed? 

All Standards are reviewed at least every 5 years after publication through the ‘systematic review process’ to ensure that they remain up-to-date and globally relevant. Through this process, national standards bodies review the document and its use in their country; in the UK this is BSI. The review is done in consultation with stakeholders and decides whether the Standard is still valid, should be updated or withdrawn. ISO 14001:2015 is currently going through this systematic review process.

What’s the review process?

Systematic reviews are administered electronically by ISO (International Organization for Standardization) and all national standards bodies are invited to respond. They have 20 weeks to consult their national stakeholders in order to assess the use and up-to-dateness of the Standard. A vote is submitted by the national standards body and the results are made available to the committee responsible for developing the Standard. The committee will review these votes from all national standards bodies and then decide what action they wish to take.

What are the potential outcomes? 

There are three potential outcomes following this review process:

  1. the Standard is confirmed without change; or
  2. the Standard is revised or amended; or
  3. the Standard is withdrawn.


  1. Confirmed without change 

When the review outcome shows that a Standard is used internationally and that no technical changes are needed, the Standard can be confirmed. This will be visible in the ISO catalogue and marked with the following: “This standard was reviewed and confirmed in YEAR.”

  1. Revised or amended 

When the review shows that a Standard is used but technical changes are needed, it is proposed for revision or amendment. This could be in the form of a ‘minor revision’, e.g. editorial changes that do not impact the technical content. Otherwise, the revision / amendment is proposed and the steps followed are the same as those for preparation of a new Standard.

  1. Withdrawal 

A Standard could be withdrawn because:

  • it does not reflect current practice or research;
  • it is not suitable for new and existing applications (products,
  • systems or processes);
  • it is not compatible with current views and expectations regarding quality, safety and the environment; or
  • it is not being adopted in at least five countries and is therefore no longer ‘international’.

What’s the likely outcome? 

Due to ISO 14001’s widespread popularity and the fact that it was updated in 2015 it is very unlikely to be withdrawn following the systematic review.

It is possible it could be amended or revised; however, it’s more likely at this stage that ISO 14001:2015 will be confirmed without change and organisations that are certified, or are working towards certification, can continue to improve their environmental performance without any alterations to the Standard.


Whatever the outcome, we’ll keep you informed via our newsletter and remember, if you need any help with your environmental management system, why not take a look at the different support our consultancy team can offer.