Understanding the ISO 14000 Family of Standards

Understanding the ISO 14000 Family of Standards

Back in the year 1987, the International Organization for Standardization introduced a number of norms known as the ISO 9000 series. For the first time, there were internationally recognized quality management standards. The approach to these standards was voluntary. If you wanted the ISO 9000 certificate, you could obtain it by a third party.

The ISO 14000 family – Tools for environmental management

These quality management norms were later followed by various environmental standards that originated in the 1992 Rio conference, known as ISO 14000. As well as ISO 9000, ISO 14000 require an external verification by a third party, which is neither the organization that asks for the certification, nor ISO itself. For obtaining the ISO certificate, you need an external “certification body”.

“I want to get ISO 14000 certified”

Now, you want your facility to get certified as environmentally friendly. “Give me that ISO 14000?” Not as easy as that. Which norm exactly do you ask for? There is a whole family of standards. Each topic has its own. The variety of norms seems infinite: ISO 14001 can be described as general user’s guide for environmental management, whereas 14020 to 14025 include labels and declaration. ISO 14015 determines the environmental assessment of sites and organizations, 14062 the goals. Some norms even have multiple sub-norms, such as ISO 14064-1,-2,-3. The good news: ISO 14000 is generic. Any organization, no matter what size or branch, whether public or private, can apply. But what do all these numbers stand for?

ISO 14040 & ISO 14044: Life Cycle Assessment

Well, if you plan on releasing a completely new product, and you are concerned with its environmental impact, it might be a good idea to effect a complete life cycle assessment. The standard of your choice would be the ISO 14040 & 14044, in this case. It evaluates the product’s LCA framework:

ISO 14040 describes the principles and framework for life cycle assessment (LCA) including: definition of the goal and scope of the LCA, the life cycle inventory analysis (LCI) phase, the life cycle impact assessment (LCIA) phase, the life cycle interpretation phase, reporting and critical review of the LCA, limitations of the LCA, the relationship between the LCA phases, and conditions for use of value choices and optional elements.

ISO 14044 summarises the previous standards 14041 to 14043 and contains the precise requirements and instructions for carrying out a life cycle assessment in accordance with ISO 14040.

ISO 14025: Environmental Product Declaration

Once you developed your product and you wish to give it a neat label and prove the enviromental performance of your product, ISO 14025 will help you out. This standard is all about “type III environmental declarations”: The labels that include “quantified data”, namely factual numbers. Environmental product declaration (EPD), has become a synonyme for these type III declarations.

ISO 14015: Evaluate One Production Site

If you wish to analyze and certify your complete company or single sites, it is the “Environmental assessment of sites and organizations (EASO)” you have to look for. This EASO is included in the ISO 14015:

This International Standard provides guidance on how to conduct an EASO through a systematic process of identifying environmental aspects and environmental issues and determining, if appropriate, their business consequences.

Measuring Environmental Performance: ISO 14031

If you don’t need a certificate, but wish to know how to measure your comany’s environmental performance continuously, check out ISO 14031 and its Plan-Do-Check-Act system (PCDA).

The EPE tool is designed to provide management with reliable and verifiable information on an ongoing basis to determine whether or not its organization’s environmental performance is meeting criteria it has set for itself.

ISO 14064: Impact on Climate Change

When you wish to specifically assess the climate relevant emissions, evaluating and reducing greenhouse gases is your mission. How to measure these emissions is specified in the ISO 14064-1:

ISO 14064-1:2006 specifies principles and requirements at the organization level for quantification and reporting of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and removals.

Scaling the emissions down to one project, ISO 14064-2 will help you in “quantification, monitoring and reporting of greenhouse gas emission reductions or removal enhancements.” The third norm in the 64 group, ISO 14064-3, “provides guidance for those conducting the validation and/or verification of greenhouse gas (GHG) assertions”.

ISO 14067 Product Carbon Footprint

ISO 14067 is a standard specifically focused on quantifying the product carbon footprint. It provides guidelines for assessing and communicating the greenhouse gas emissions associated with goods and services throughout their life cycles. By following ISO 14067, organizations can accurately measure carbon emissions, identify hotspots in their production processes, and implement strategies to mitigate environmental impacts. This standard facilitates transparency and consistency in carbon footprinting methodologies, enabling consumers to make informed choices about the environmental impact of the products they purchase. By adopting ISO 14067, companies can demonstrate their commitment to addressing climate change and contribute to a more sustainable future.

ISO 14046: Water Footprint

The other norm under construction worth highlighting is ISO 14046. Its goal is establishing “internationally harmonized metrics for water footprints”. Two ISO authors illustrate, why this issue is so important:

In LCAs, water consumption is typically treated as an intermediate product to be used for the life cycle inventory, without further consideration of whether the water is used from limited resources in dry areas, or from abundant and renewable resources in wet areas. The resulting information is therefore of limited use in decision making.

What Is ISO 14000 Good For?

Why not only the environment, but also your organization, benefits from the measures you take during the ISO 14000 processes? Basically, you save energy and materials, you reduce waste management costs, you optimize your distribution and hence cut on spendings. Of course, you improve your image with customers and business partners. Image improvement for customers makes sense, but the certification effort is especially worthwhile for regulators and insurances – the latter may offer you better conditions, the former may visit you less often.

If you need support with the environmental assessment of your products or your organisation, please contact our expert team in sustainability consulting services, who will be happy to provide you with advice and assistance.



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