ISO 14000

What Is ISO 14000?

ISO 14000 is a set of standards created to help companies around the world reduce their adverse impact on the environment. It’s a framework for improved and more environmentally-conscious quality management systems by organizations large and small.

The ISO 14000 series of standards was introduced in 1996 by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and most recently revised in 2015. (ISO is not an acronym. The short form of the organization's name is derived from the ancient Greek word ísos, meaning equal or equivalent.)

Adopting the standards is strictly optional. Companies can get ISO 14000 certified. More than 300,000 organizations around the world have obtained certification, according to the ISO.

Key Takeaways

  • ISO 14000 is a set of standards created to help organizations minimize the environmental impact of their operations.
  • The standards were developed by a non-governmental organization and are intended for use worldwide.
  • The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is among the many agencies that had input into the standards.
  • Adoption of ISO 14000 practices is voluntary.
  • Organizations that adopt ISO 14000 may obtain certification that proves their compliance with environmentally friendly practices.

Understanding ISO 14000

ISO 14000 is meant to be a step-by-step guide for establishing and then achieving environmentally-friendly objectives for business practices and products. The purpose is to help companies manage processes efficiently while minimizing environmental effects.

A separate set of standards, called ISO 9000 and introduced in 1987, focuses on the best management practices for quality assurance. The two systems can be implemented concurrently. 

ISO 14000 includes standards that cover aspects of management practices inside facilities, in the immediate environment around the facilities, and during the life cycle of the actual product. This includes understanding the impact of the raw materials used to create the product as well as the impact of its eventual disposal.  

A company's adoption of ISO 14000 standards does not guarantee that it meets all local environmental regulations. However, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency participated in the development of these international guidelines.

ISO 14000 Standards

The core of the ISO 14000 standards is contained in ISO 14001, which lays out the guidelines for putting an environmental management system (EMS) in place. Then there’s ISO 14004, which offers additional insight and specialized standards for implementing an EMS. 

Here are the key standards included in ISO 14000: 

  • ISO 14001: Specification of Environmental Management Systems
  • ISO 14004: Guideline Standard
  • ISO 14010 – ISO 14015: Environmental Auditing and Related Activities
  • ISO 14020 – ISO 14024: Environmental Labeling
  • ISO 14031 and ISO 14032: Environmental Performance Evaluation
  • ISO 14040 – ISO 14043: Life Cycle Assessment
  • ISO 14050: Terms and Definitions

More than 300,000 organizations around the world have obtained ISO 14000 certification.

How to Become ISO 14000 Certified

ISO 14000 certification can be achieved by having an accredited auditor verify that all the requirements are met.

Obtaining certification is a process that can take several years. Safety Culture, a software company that specializes in improving workplace safety & risk management, suggests companies conduct an internal audit to evaluate their compliance before undergoing the formal accreditation process.

Benefits of ISO 14000 

Obtaining ISO 14000 certification can be considered a sign of a commitment to the environment, which can be used as a marketing tool for companies. It may also help companies meet environmental regulations that are imposed by governments in which they do business.

ISO 14000 certification can open the doors to new business. Some companies prefer to use suppliers that are ISO 14000–certified suppliers.

Their customers may also pay more for products that are environmentally friendly

On the cost side, meeting the ISO 14000 standards can help reduce costs, as it stresses the efficient use of resources, limiting waste, recycling, and even finding new uses for previously disposed of byproducts.   

Following the guidelines in ISO 14000 does not guarantee that an organization is meeting all of the regulations that may be imposed by the government under whose jurisdiction it operates.

In the U.S., the Environmental Protect Agency and some state agencies participated in the creation of ISO 14001, the core piece of ISO 14000. It includes information about environmental management systems in general, and ISO 14000 in particular, on its website.

History of ISO 14000

The International Organization for Standardization, or ISO, is an international non-governmental body made up of representatives from 165 nations.

Headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland, its purpose is to develop and propose business practices and standards that are beneficial to business in all nations, particularly given the increasing globalization of economic activity.

The organization's interests include quality management, environmental impact management, health and safety, energy management, food safety, and information technology security.

What Are the ISO 14000 Requirements?

ISO 14000 is an environmental management system. It contains requirements for achieving and maintaining environmentally sound standards of doing business. The entire business process is considered, from product manufacturing to product performance and, ultimately, product disposal.

ISO 14001, often used interchangeably with ISO 14000, is the core component of ISO 14000.

What Is the Difference Between ISO 9000 and ISO 14000?

ISO has created a number of manuals for the implementation of sound business practices that are acceptable globally. Each of these manuals is updated regularly and sector-specific versions are available for industries with particular challenges.

The organization describes ISO 9000 as a family of standards for quality management systems. It can be seen as an overall guide to ethical management and leadership.

ISO 14000, of which ISO 14001 is a key piece, was created as a handbook for organizations that seek to minimize the environmental impact of their actions.

What Are the Costs of ISO 14000?

An environmental management system can cost anywhere from $100,000 to millions of dollars to implement, depending on the size and complexity of the organization and the type of business it is engaged in, according to Greenbiz, an environmental publication.

The managers of companies that have implemented ISO 14000 can and will argue forever about the costs versus the benefits.

Both costs and benefits will vary widely depending on the nature of the organization that is adopting the standards. An oil-drilling company, for example, may find the standards more onerous than a retail operation. Yet both have environmental issues to contend with, whether they concern the sourcing of their products, the maintenance of their facilities, or the disposal of their waste products.


Article Sources

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  1. ISO. "The ISO Survey of Management System Standard Certifications 2019." Accessed Jan. 9, 2022.

  2. ISO. "Certification." Accessed Dec. 12, 2021.

  3. SafetyCulture. "ISO 14000: A Beginner's Guide." Accessed Jan. 9, 2022.

  4. Environmental Protection Agency. "Frequent Questions about Environmental Management Systems." Accessed Jan. 9, 2022.

  5. ISO. "Standards." Accessed Dec. 12,2021.

  6. ISO. "Standards by ISO/TC 207." Accessed Jan. 9, 2022.

  7. ISO. "What Is the ISO 9000 Standards Series?" Accessed Jan. 9, 2022

  8. ISO. "ISO 14001." Accessed Jan. 9, 2022.

  9. Greenbiz. "Cost of an EMS." Accessed Jan. 9, 2022.

  10. ISO 140001 Blog. "Disadvantages of ISO 14001, and how to overcome them." Accessed Jan. 9, 2022.

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