ISO 14001:2015 Clause 6 Planning


ISO 14001:2015 Clause 6 Planning ensures the organization has the building blocks in place to determine that the EMS can achieve its intended outcome(s) through the inclusion of specific requirements around risk identification and analysis. This builds on and extends much existing practice related to ISO 14001:2004’s requirements about the identification and evaluation of aspects and impacts. However, even here, the extent of the required working practice changes depends on the nature and extent of existing evaluation techniques. The new ISO 14001 standard are grouped around five key areas: leadership, strategic context, interested party analysis and communication, risks and opportunities, and life cycle perspective. These changes are designed to increase corporate resilience and competitive advantage. Risk management is vital for every organization in every sector. It is intrinsic to compliance, reputation, growth, and profitability, and its proper handling within the health, safety, and environmental arena can be a major contributor to overall success. Now, organizations not only need to think about the impact they have on the environment and people, but also consider the impact that a changing environment, for example, climate change and resource scarcity, will have on them. In addition, organizations will need to consider other internal and external issues that can help or hinder them from having successful management systems. These could be related to the organization’s own internal systems and processes, for example, finance or procurement, or external factors such as government policy and incentives.  While on the one hand it can be considered more onerous, this broader approach will help organizations better pinpoint the success (or otherwise) of their management systems and their impact on the business as a whole.

ISO 14001:2015 identifies three possible sources that present risks and opportunities to the business 1) environmental aspects, 2) compliance obligations, and 3) issues and requirements from the context review. One of these is the new requirement that the organization determines the risks and opportunities that need to be addressed to give assurance that the environmental management system can achieve its intended outcomes so as to prevent, or reduce, undesired effects, including the potential for environmental external conditions to affect the organization; and achieve continual improvement. These are all laid out with the aim of ensuring the EMS can meet its intended expectations, reducing the risk of any external conditions affecting the EMS, and ensuring continual improvement is seen and that any emergency situations are assessed and action is taken to address them.

  • Risks may turn into problems. We can reduce or avoid future problems by reducing their consequences or their probabilities. This can be done by changing the way we work to replace a high-risk activity with a low-risk activity and remove the risk if possible. Also, we can add remove the risk by adding risk avoidance activities to the way we work. It is defined by two parameters
    The consequences(C). What will happen if the risk becomes a problem?
    The probability( p). What is the probability that the risk will become a problem?
    The risk(R) is  R = C*p
  • Opportunities may turn into benefits. We can increase future benefits by increasing their probabilities. This can be done by changing the way we work i.e replace a low opportunity activity with a high opportunity activity and adding opportunity enabling activities to the way we work. It is defined by two parameters
    The value(V). What will happen if the opportunity becomes a reality?
    The probability(p). What is the probability that the opportunity will be realized?
    The opportunity(O) is  O = V*p
  • Both risk and opportunity are defined by probability. Experience and data are important for two reasons. They can be used to estimate values and probabilities. They serve as an anchor for assessment – e.g. “How bad can it get?”. Remember the “opportunity” element and give it due importance. Every risk presents an opportunity to improve and, in effect, if you can mitigate risk before it turns into an incident, then you will guarantee continual improvement for the EMS.
  • Examples of possible risks could be the threat of increasing energy prices due to carbon taxation, making a company uncompetitive – or an organization being noncompliant with legislation which could lead to a loss of custom due to negative publicity. A risk to the success of the management system could be presented from an organization’s own financial processes that do not allow easy investment in emerging technologies.
  • Examples of an opportunity might be an organization capitalizing on energy efficiency measures which cut production costs, leading to an increase in competitiveness – or positive publicity surrounding environmental initiatives which result in new customers. Stakeholder perceptions, financial impact or potential prosecution are all vital and the best systems truly get to the heart of what the business is and what it needs.
  • The standard now requires that documented information shall be kept of the risks and opportunities and the processes required to ensure that the process meets expectations; therefore, it may be good practice to create a formal Risk Register within the EMS where identification, discussion, actions, outcome, and monitoring can all be listed and results clearly evaluated.
  • Ensure there is both leadership commitment and employee involvement. Both parties may well have unique views of what constitutes environmental risk within the business, to ensure both are sought and considered and that the communication channel up and down exists.
  • Consider establishing a “risk and opportunity” forum or monthly meeting. Given that businesses change swiftly, it is important that focus is kept on the environmental risk and the resulting action required to mitigate that risk. Document the outcome as suggested above.
  • Ensure your monitoring, measuring, analysis, and evaluation are accurate and frequent. This process forms the basis for assigning values to the effectiveness of your risk and opportunity process and can provide you with the foundation for improving future performance.

“Risks and opportunities” is defined in ISO 14001:2015  as potential adverse effects (threats) and potential beneficial effects (opportunities). The rationale behind this definition is to have organizations primarily focus their attention on the results related to risk determinations, including both positive and negative effects, rather than simply the uncertainty related to the occurrence of events. The key thing to remember about these new requirements is that not every risk (that is, threat) and opportunity an organization faces is required to be included in this risk determination. First, there must be a nexus, or connection, to the environmental management system. For example, hazardous waste disposal risks would have a nexus to the EMS; credit card fraud risks would not. According to ISO 14001, the organization needs to consider the relationship a particular risk has to:

  • the organization’s important environmental issues that are its “context”.
  • the organization’s EMS requirements, including its compliance obligations
  • the defined scope of the organization’s environmental management system.

This determination of risk (threats and opportunities) is intended to be subjective. It is to be based on the opinions, interpretations, and judgment of those within the organization. It does not have to be an objective determination. It does not have to be based on numbers, calculations, or spreadsheets—although it can be if an organization so chooses. The determination of which risks and opportunities will be addressed in the EMS is the organization’s decision. It is not required to be based on what any particular interested party or management system auditor thinks the decision should be.

Planning process

The “Planning” clause has two sub-clauses i.e.

6.1 Actions to address risks and opportunities 

6.1.1 General 

The organization should establish, implement and maintain the processes needed to meet the requirements of Clause 6.1 (Actions to address risks and opportunities). When planning for the environmental management system, the organization shall consider issues referred to in Understanding the organization and its context (4.1), the requirements referred to in Understanding the needs and expectations of interested parties(4.2), and the scope of its environmental management system; The organization should also determine the risks and opportunities, related to its environmental aspects, compliance obligations, and other issues and requirements, issues referred to in Understanding the organization and its context (4.1), the requirements referred to in Understanding the needs and expectations of interested parties(4.2) so as to assure that the environmental management system can achieve its intended outcomes; It can prevent or reduce undesired effects, including the potential for external environmental conditions to affect the organization and achieve continual improvement.  Within the scope of the environmental management system, the organization shall determine potential emergency situations, including those that can have an environmental impact. The organization should maintain documented information about its risks and opportunities that need to be addressed. Documented information is also to be maintained to the extent necessary to have confidence that the process has been carried out as planned.

As per Annex A (Guidance on the use of ISO 14001:2015 standard) of ISO 14001:2015 standard it further explains:

The overall intent of the processes established in 6.1.1 is to ensure that the organization is able to achieve the intended outcomes of its environmental management system, to prevent or reduce undesired effects, and to achieve continual improvement. The organization can ensure this by determining its risks and opportunities that need to be addressed and planning action to address them These risks and opportunities can be related to environmental aspects, compliance obligations, other issues, or other needs and expectations of interested parties. Environmental aspects can create risks and opportunities associated with adverse environmental impacts, beneficial environmental impacts, and other effects on the organization. The risks and opportunities related to environmental aspects can be determined as part of the significance evaluation or determined separately. Compliance obligations can create risks and opportunities, such as failing to comply (which can damage the organization’s reputation or result in legal action) or performing beyond its compliance obligations (which can enhance the organization’s reputation). The organization can also have risks and opportunities related to other issues, including environmental conditions or needs and expectations of interested parties, which can affect the organization’s ability to achieve the intended outcomes of its environmental management system, e.g.
a) environmental spillage due to literacy or language barriers among workers who cannot understand local work procedures;
b) increased flooding due to climate change that could affect the organization’s premises;
c) lack of available resources to maintain an effective environmental management system due to economic constraints;
d) introducing new technology financed by governmental grants, which could improve air quality:
e) water scarcity during periods of drought that could affect the organization’s ability to operate its emission control equipment.
Emergency situations are unplanned or unexpected events that need the urgent application of specific competencies, resources, or processes to prevent or mitigate their actual or potential consequences. Emergency situations can result in adverse environmental impacts or other effects on the organization. when determining potential emergency situations (e.g. fire, chemical spill, severe weather), the organization should consider:

  • the nature of onsite hazards (e.g. flammable liquids, storage tanks, compressed gasses);
  • the most likely type and scale of an emergency situation;
  • the potential for emergency situations at a nearby facility (e.g. plant, road, railway line).

Although risks and opportunities need to be determined and addressed, there is no requirement for formal risk management or a documented risk management process. it is up to the organization to select the method it will use to determine, its. risks and opportunities. The method may involve a simple qualitative process or a full quantitative assessment depending on the context in which the organization operates. The risks and opportunities identified are inputs for planning actions and for establishing the environmental objectives.


To conform to the ISO 14001 standard, an organization simply needs to be able to show that it considered the nexus factors listed above when it made its EMS risk determinations.  Just as the determination of the organization’s context, its aspects, and its compliance obligations are inputs into its determination of risks and opportunities, the determination of risks and opportunities is input into other EMS processes. The requirements in clause 6.1.1 are expressly linked to the additional planning requirements in clause 6.1.4. The planning requirements are then linked to operational control requirements in clause 8.1. Taken together, these clauses require the organization to plan and then take action to address the risks and opportunities that have been identified. In other words, clause 6.1.1 requires a risk determination; clause 6.1.4 requires the development of risk action plans, and clause 8.1 requires that these risk action plans be implemented. ISO 14001:2015 also requires that organizations check whether the management system processes they have established to address risk are effective. Clause 6.1.4 requires the organization to plan how it will evaluate the effectiveness of the actions taken to address risk. Clause 8.1 requires the organization to establish operating criteria for its risk control processes. Clause 9.1.1 requires the organization to monitor, measure, analyze, and evaluate its environmental performance. In summary, the plan-do-check-act (PDCA) focuses on addressing significant aspects that were embedded in ISO 14001:2004 now apply to environmental risks and opportunities as well. Assessing risk and opportunity within an EMS is of crucial importance, with prevention being better than cure in environmental terms, where there is often no way of repairing the damage an incident does after the occurrence. Having a team that is focused on risk and prevention can go a long way towards mitigating environmental risk, but only supported by the correct processes within the EMS. Ensure compliance terms are always met and a great portion of risk will be reduced. Ensure that all risk assessments are recorded, actioned, measured, and improvement action is taken. Make risk and opportunity a staple of the mindset of the team. A team that is focused on risk and opportunity is a team that can preside over continual improvement, and that result will be of benefit to your organization and the EMS.

It’s tempting to want to capitalize on or mitigate all possible opportunities and risks identified, but by doing so the most important will lack the attention they require – a risk assessment process is therefore required. Under ISO 14001: 2015, organizations are free to choose the process used to assess the risks and opportunities that need to be addressed. The standard just requires that there is an approach in place to address risks and opportunities in order to ensure a successful EMS and that the intended outcomes of the EMS are achieved – with unintended effects either avoided or reduced.

6.1.2. Environmental aspects

Within the defined scope of the environmental management system, the organization should determine the environmental aspects and their associated environmental impact of its activities, products, and services that it can control and also those that it can influence.  While determining environmental aspects and their associated environmental impact the organization must take into consideration a life cycle perspective.
When determining environmental aspects, the organization should take into account:
a) change, including planned or new developments. and new or modified activities, products, and services;
b) abnormal conditions and reasonably foreseeable emergency situations.
The organization should determine those aspects that have or can have a significant environmental impact, i.e. significant environmental aspects. by using established criteria. The organization shall communicate its significant environmental aspects among the various level and functions of the organization. as appropriate. The organization should maintain documented information on its environmental aspects and associated environmental impacts. The organization also should maintain documented information of the criteria used to determine its significant environmental aspects and significant environmental aspects. Significant environmental aspects can result in risks and opportunities associated with either adverse environmental impacts (threats) or beneficial environmental impacts (opportunities).

As per Annex A (Guidance on the use of ISO 14001:2015 standard) of ISO 14001:2015 standard it further explains:

An organization determines its environmental aspects and associated environmental impacts and determines those that are significant and, therefore, need to be addressed by its environmental management system. Changes to the environment, either adverse or beneficial, that result wholly or partially from environmental aspects are called environmental impacts. The environmental impact can occur at local, regional and global scales, and also can be direct, indirect, or cumulative by nature. The relationship between environmental aspects and environmental impacts is one of cause and effect. When determining environmental aspects, the organization considers a life cycle perspective. This does not require a detailed life cycle assessment: thinking carefully about the life cycle stages that can be controlled or influenced by the organization is sufficient. Typical stages of a product (or service) life cycle include raw material acquisition, design. production, transportation/delivery, use, end-of-life treatment, and final disposal. The life cycle stages that are applicable will vary depending on the activity, product, or service.
An organization needs to determine the environmental aspects within the scope of its environmental management system. it takes into account the inputs and outputs (both intended and unintended) that are associated with its current and relevant past activities, products, and services; planned or new developments; and new or modified activities, products, and services. The method used should consider normal and abnormal operating conditions, shutdown and start-up conditions. as well as the reasonably foreseeable emergency situations identified in 6.1.1. Attention should be paid to prior occurrences of emergency situations.  An organization does not have to consider each product, component, or raw material individually to determine and evaluate their environmental aspects; it may group or categorize activities, products, and services when they have common characteristics. When determining its environmental aspects, the organization can consider: 

  • emissions to air
  • releases to water
  • releases to land
  • use of raw materials and natural resources
  • use of energy
  •  the energy emitted e.g. heat, radiation, vibration (noise), light),
  • generation of waste and/or by-products;
  • use of space.

In addition to the environmental aspects that it can control directly, an organization determines whether there are environmental aspects that it can influence. These can be related to products and services used by the organization which is provided by others, as well as products and services used by the organization which are provided by others, including those associated with outsourced processes. With respect to what the organization provides to others, it can have limited influence on the use and end-of-life treatment of the products and services. in all circumstances, However, it is the organization that determines the extent of control it is able to exercise, the environmental aspects it can influence, and the extent to which it chooses to exercise such influence. Consideration should be given to environmental aspects. related to the organization’s activities, products, and services, such as:

  • design and development of its facilities, processes, products, and services,
  • acquisition of raw materials, including extraction
  • operational or manufacturing processes, including warehousing
  • operation and maintenance of facilities, organizational assets, and infrastructure
  • environmental performance and practices of external providers,
  • product transportation and service delivery, including packaging,
  • storage, use and end-of-life treatment of products;
  • waste management, including reuse, refurbishing, recycling, and disposal.

There is no single method for determining significant environmental aspects, however, the method and criteria used should provide consistent results. The organization sets the criteria for determining its significant environmental aspects. Environmental criteria are the primary and minimum criteria for assessing environmental aspects. Criteria can relate to the environmental aspect (e.g. type, size, frequency, etc) or the environmental impact (e.g. scale, severity, duration, exposure). Other criteria may also be used. An environmental aspect might not be significant when only considering environmental criteria. It can, however, reach or exceed the threshold for determining significance when other criteria are considered. These other criteria can include organizational issues, such as legal requirements or interested party concerns. These other criteria are not intended to be used to downgrade an aspect that is significantly based on its environmental impact. A significant environmental aspect can result in one or more significant environmental impacts, and can, therefore, result in risks and opportunities that need to be addressed to ensure the organization can achieve the intended outcomes of its environmental management system.


Identification and evaluation of significant environmental aspects, especially in the planning phase, is the most fundamental part of ISO 14001. Understanding the environmental aspects and impacts is one of the key success factors of implementing an ISO 14001 EMS. In the language of ISO 14001, “an environmental aspect is an element of an organization’s activities, products, or services that has or may have an impact on the environment.”An environmental aspect is a way your activity, service, or product impacts the environment. The activity can be defined as “A Task or Operation general occurring within the Organization. Environment impact can be defined as “Any change to the  environment, whether adverse or beneficial, wholly or partially resulting from an  organization’s activities,  products, or services.” An environmental impact is a change in the environment. Environmental impacts are caused by environmental aspects. In the following steps, you will find a basic, systematic approach to identifying, evaluating, and managing environmental aspects.

1.Definition of the EMS scope

Before you start dealing with environmental aspects and impacts, you should first define the scope of the EMS. You can choose to apply ISO 14001 to the entire organization, or only to a specific unit, location, or product. Once you have made this decision you have defined the EMS scope. Henceforth, all activities, services, and products that fall within your defined scope have to be taken into consideration when you identify environmental aspects and impacts.

2. Identification of environmental aspects

First, let’s explain the terms activity, service, and product. An activity is a part of the core business (e.g., production process steps). Service means an auxiliary service that supports core activities (e.g., boilers, heating & cooling, maintenance). A product is the goods you offer for the market. An environmental aspect of the product could be, e.g., excessive packaging of the product, or the level of recyclability of the product at the end of its lifecycle. As ISO 14001 states, “The organization shall establish a procedure to identify environmental aspects and determine those aspects that have or can have a significant impact on the environment.” You should also keep a register of the environmental aspects, which is kept up to date and takes into account planned new or modified activities, products, or services. Aspects can be divided into direct and indirect. Direct environmental aspects are associated with activities, products, and services of the organization itself, over which it has direct management control (e.g., how you manage waste on your site). However, for non-industrial organizations, the focus will often be on indirect environmental aspects of their activities (e.g., how your subcontractor manages waste on your site, chain controlled aspects, customer-controlled aspects). In order to identify the environmental aspects, you need to study how your organization’s activities, products, and services affect the environment. The identification of environmental aspects often considers, e.g., emissions to air, releases to water and land, use of raw material, waste, and natural resources, impacts on biodiversity, etc. When identifying environmental aspects, all parts of the company’s operations in the defined scope have to be considered, not just the obvious core manufacturing or service activities. For example, most facilities have a maintenance department, offices, a canteen, heating and cooling systems, vehicle parking, and contractor and supplier activities – each of which may have an impact on the environment. Various techniques can be used to compile a comprehensive listing of environmental aspects and impacts at a facility – e.g., Value chain method, Process flow method, materials identification, method of compliance with legal requirements, etc. A good practice is to involve a cross-functional team from key areas of the operation. For each type of activity, product, or service, you need to list your unique environmental aspect – this will result in an overall list or matrix of aspects and impacts.

3. Evaluation of significant environmental aspects

The purpose of the evaluation of environmental aspects is to focus on what matters the most (e.g., 20-80 rule). You do not need to manage all environmental aspects – only the ones that are, according to your own criteria, declared significant. Significant environmental aspects are the main focus of your organization’s environmental management system. Depending on the type, nature, and complexity of an organization, there are many techniques available for conducting an evaluation to determine the significance of environmental aspects. In assessing the significance you should consider the potential to cause environmental harm, importance to the stakeholders of the organization, requirements of relevant environmental legislation, size, and frequency of the aspect. Each organization must establish its own criteria for significance based on a systematic review of its environmental aspects and their actual and potential impacts.

4. Managing significant environmental aspects

Every significant aspect should be brought under control by establishing one or more of the following controls:  responsible person, training plan, or procedure, checklist, and/or maintenance schedule. The level of control should be appropriate to the nature and risk of the significant aspect.  Each of the above is a part of the everyday work routine. An EMS can often be more complicated than needed. The key to any effective EMS is getting the environmental aspects right at the very beginning.  Identifying the environmental aspects properly will not only save you time but also enable you to achieve great benefits with your EMS once it is implemented.

Example of Relation between Activity, aspects, and Impact

Changing Oil
  • Air Emissions
  • Use of Oil, Absorbents
  • Recycling of Oil
  • Spills
  • Degrade Air Quality
  • Consumption of Natural Resources
  • Increase Landfill Space
  • Degrade Water Quality
Operation of Equipment
  • Dust Generations
  • Air Emissions
  • Use of Raw materials
  • Degradation of Air Quality
  • Degradation of Air Quality
  • Use of Natural resources.
Central Air ConditioningEnergy ConsumptionUse of Natural Resources
 LandfillingDisposal Contamination of land
 Storm Water ManagementWater Flow Erosion
 ExcavationSoil disturbanceErosion
 Generation of Solid Waste Land Usage Aesthetics and Community environment
 Toilet flushing and Hand Washing Water Usages Use of natural resources
 flaring air emissions Air degradation
Processing of composting Water quality Water degradation
 Farming Tillage
  • Erosion,
  • sediment Loading

To plan for and control its significant environmental impacts, an organization must first know what these impacts are. But knowing what the impacts are is only part of the challenge, you also should know where these impacts come from. The identification and management of environmental aspects can (1) have positive impacts on the bottom line and (2) provide significant environmental improvements. The relationship between aspects and impacts is one of cause and effect. The term “aspects” is neutral, so keep in mind that your environmental aspects could be either positive such as making a product out of recycled materials or negative such as discharge of toxic materials to a stream. Your organization is not expected to manage issues outside its sphere of influence. For example, while your organization probably has control over how much electricity it uses, it likely does not control the way in which the electricity is generated. Once you have identified the environmental aspects of your products, activities, and services, you should determine which aspects could have significant impacts on the environment. These environmental aspects should be considered when you set your environmental objectives and define your operational controls.

In identifying aspects and impacts, you should look at activities including activities controlled by applicable laws and regulations. But because many of your aspects/impacts may be addressed by legal requirements, your compliance program might yield some valuable information. Permits, audit reports, and other such documents can serve as useful inputs. Beyond regulations, look at issues such as land, energy, and other natural resource use. Once you have identified environmental aspects and related significant impacts, use this information in setting your objectives and targets. This does not mean that you need to address all of your impacts at once. There may be good reasons such as cost, availability of technology, and scientific uncertainty for addressing some impacts now and deferring action on others. Keep in mind that managing environmental aspects could have positive business impacts.  Remember to look at services as well as products.  While the need to examine your on-site operations might be obvious, you should also consider the potential impacts of what you do off-site such as servicing equipment at customer sites. Similarly, the environmental aspects of the products, vendors, and contractors you use may be less obvious, but should still be considered. Identifying significant environmental aspects is one of the most critical elements of the EMS and can be one of the most challenging. Decisions you make in this task can affect many other system elements such as setting objectives and targets, establishing operational controls, and defining monitoring needs. Careful planning and conduct of this activity will pay dividends in later steps.

Understanding your environmental aspects helps to understand the processes by which you generate products and services. A flow chart of your major processes might help you understand the inputs and outputs of your processes and how materials are used. You may also want to consider the views of interested parties — some organizations have found external parties to be a good resource to help you identify your organization’s environmental aspects. There are many readily-available sources of information to help you perform your assessment. For starters, look at your permits, various regulations that apply to your operations, audit reports, and monitoring records. Trade associations, regulatory agencies, your customers, and suppliers also might provide useful information to support your assessment.

Things to Consider in Evaluating Environmental Aspects:

  • Air Emissions
  • Water Effluents
  • Solid and Hazardous Wastes
  • Land Use
  • Contamination of Land Raw Material
  • Resource Use
  • Local Issues Normal and Abnormal Conditions such as noise, odor, dust, traffic, appearance, etc.

6.1.3 Compliance obligations

Compliance obligation is a separate article, For more on Compliance obligations click here

6.1.4 Planning action

The organization should plan to take action to address its significant environmental aspects, compliance obligations, and its identified risks and opportunities. The organization must integrate and implement the actions into its environmental management system processes, or other business processes. The organization evaluates the effectiveness of these actions. While planning these actions, the organization shall consider its technological options and its financials, operational, and business requirements. 

As per Annex A (Guidance on the use of ISO 14001:2015 standard) of ISO 14001:2015 standard it further explains:

“The organization plans, at a high level, the actions that have to be taken within the environmental management system to address its significant environmental aspects, its compliance obligations, and its identified risks and opportunities identified that are a priority for the organization to achieve the intended outcomes of its environmental management system. The actions planned may include establishing environmental objectives (see 6.2) or may be incorporated into other environmental management system processes, either individually or in combination. Some actions may be addressed through other management systems, such as those related to occupational health and safety or business continuity, or through other business processes related to risk, financial, or human resource management. When considering its technological options, an organization should consider the use of the best available techniques, where economically viable, cost-effective and judged appropriate. This is not intended to imply that organizations are obliged to use environmental cost-accounting methodologies.”


Approach to evaluate risk and opportunities:

Option 1: Single path Approach

This process begins by identifying the context of the organization, taking into account environmental conditions and issues (4.1), and needs and expectation of interested parties (4.2) according to the scope of the Environmental Management System (4.3). After this step, the criteria are applied to assess risks and opportunities associated with environmental aspects by considering the likelihood and severity of impacts, environmental conditions and issues, and requirements of interested parties. The results of the risks and opportunities assessments are significant environmental aspects that can be addressed by the organization through actions such as setting an objective and environmental improvement program, operational control, emergency plan or other plans as appropriate.

Option 2: Dual Aspect Approach

After applying the same process of addressing the context of the organization, option 2 uses the criteria to assess “organizational” aspects (aspects of environment interacting with the organization) and environmental aspects (aspects of organization interacting with the environment). From both these processes, a list of significant organizational aspects and significant environmental aspects will be created. From the identified significant “organizational” aspects and environmental aspects, the next process is to assess risks and opportunities that need to be addressed that are relevant to the EMS. These risks and opportunities are then followed up by the organization through actions such as setting an objective and environmental improvement program, operational control, emergency plan or other plans as appropriate as in option 1.

Option 3: Parallel process Approach

Option 3 utilizes information on business risks and opportunities identified through an enterprise risk management system/process. Depending on the organization this process may or may not exist. Business risks and opportunities relevant to EMS are then compiled with significant environmental aspects generated from the process similar to option 1 to determine actions that need to be planned by the organization in the EMS such as setting an objective and environmental improvement program, operational control, emergency plan or other plans as appropriate.

Example: A family-owned company, manufacturing wooden outbuildings for domestic and commercial use. The organization’s purpose is to provide both retail and bespoke sectional buildings to individuals and organizations. (same example as taken previously from Clause 4.1 Understanding the Organization and its context )

1. Risk /Opportunities for internal Issues

#Issues (Internal)Potential uncertainties (Risk)H/M/L (Risk)Potential uncertainties (Opportunities )H/M/L (Opportunities)
1Transport and site erection  costs/ serviceHabitat damage on siteMResource savingsL
2The culture within the Organization /governance and succession issuesFamily differences adversely affect environmental projectsLIncreased personal commitment to long term environmental projectsM
3Opportunities to move from product to service e.g. leasing and maintenance of buildingsAn opportunity not taken up (positive risks not realized)MDecreased use of natural resources/extended product life for the userM
4Relationship with supply chain (timber traceability etc.)Unsustainable timber usedHBigger market/ more sales opportunitiesL
5Potential sustainable material replacement program (products/ packaging)An opportunity not taken up (positive risks not realized)MGreater cooperation/ improved relationships in the supply chainM
6Material consumption (recycled, durable, reusable, recyclable, biodegradable)High waste disposal costs/lack of market growthMCost savings/new product development/market differentiationM
7Energy managementFailure to realize savingsHIncreased savings/less use of finite resourcesH
8Wastage of raw material/waste disposal/developing market for by-productsInefficient planning process leads to high waste levelsHMaterials cost recovery due to sales of wood by-products (sawdust, offcuts, etc.)H

2. Risk /Opportunities for External Issues

#Issues (External)Potential uncertainties (Risk)H/M/L (Risk)Potential uncertainties (Opportunities )H/M/L (Opportunities)
9Political, economic, social, technological, legal and regulatoryChange of government disrupts the economic recoveryLChange of government accelerates economic recoveryM
10Supply chain resilienceChain of custody initiatives reduces the number of potential new suppliersMChain of custody initiative promotes stronger partnershipsM
11Market sensitivity to habitat loss and biodiversity issuesChain of custody not effective; rare hardwoods discovered in storesHTraceability work provides more evidence of well-managed timber habitatsH
12Overall economic performance in the countrySlow market growthMAccelerating market growthM
13Economic plans for futureIncreased interest rates slow capital investment in energy saving plansHCost of servicing loans stays low and increases opportunities to put money into environmental projectsM
14Customer expectationMarket buys on price onlyMMarket willing to pay a higher price for premium/ethical productL
15Standardization and certification within the industryCompetitor get the certificate but do less (loss of differentiation)HSeen as industry sector leaders by being an early adopterH
16Impacts of climate volatilityUncertainty of supply levels/maintenance of raw material costsMMarket opportunity due to resilience and easy repair of productH

3. Risk /Opportunities for Compliance obligations

#Compliance obligationsPotential uncertainties (Risk)H/M/L (Risk)Potential uncertainties (Opportunities )H/M/L (Opportunities)
17Air emission legislationNoncompliance, fineMLess solvent used, cheaper alternatives sourcedL
18Waste legislationNoncompliance, fineM  
19Water legislationNoncompliance, fineH  
20Pressure groupsForest Standards Council has seen as ‘greenwash’ by pressure groupsHPotential to work with the group to come of up with a better solution/productM
21Neighbors/Local communityThe high number of complaints on noise and odorMThe greater level of understanding about company operations and more local
support for future growth plans on site
22ContractorsContractor-related environmental incidents lose customers/incur increased costsMImproved contractor partnerships and shared environmental initiatives help
increase sales
23Suppliers (1st, 2nd, and 3rd tier)Competitor get the certificate but do less (loss of differentiation)HSeen as industry sector leaders by being an early adopterM

4. Risk /Opportunities for Significant Aspect

#Significant AspectPotential uncertainties (Risk)H/M/L (Risk)Potential uncertainties (Opportunities )H/M/L (Opportunities)
24Spillage (Potential)Not sure where drainage goesMRemove harmful substance through process redesignL
25Sawing/millingComplaint from neighborMNot know at the time of review 
26Water usage (Cooling)Large water footprint/High costHNot know at the time of review 
27Timber sourcingChain of custody not established /contribution to biodiversity and habitat lossHMarketing and differentiation opportunity against competitorsH
28Electricity useAre we monitoring energy useHReduced utility costL
29Gas useAre we monitoring energy useMReduced utility costL
30Diesel storageLeak causes contaminated land/watercourseL  
31TransportAre we maximizing route planningMMore efficient logistical planning/better use of staff timeM

6.2 Environmental objectives and planning to achieve them

6.2.1 Environmental objectives

The organization should establish environmental objectives at relevant functions and levels, taking into account the organization’s significant environmental aspects and associated compliance obligations and considering its risks and opportunities. The environmental objectives should be consistent with the environmental policy, measurable (if practicable), and monitored. The environmental objectives should be communicated and updated as appropriate. The organization should maintain documented information on environmental objectives.

6.2.2 Planning actions to achieve environmental objectives

When planning how to achieve its environmental objectives, the organization should determine what will be done, what resources will be required,  who will be responsible, when it will be completed and how the results will be evaluated, including indicators for monitoring progress toward achievement of its measurable environmental objectives. The organization should consider how actions to achieve its environmental objectives can be integrated into the organization’s business processes.

As per Annex A (Guidance on the use of ISO 14001:2015 standard) of ISO 14001:2015 standard it further explains:

Top management may establish environmental objectives at the strategic level, the tactical level, or the operational level. The strategic level includes the highest levels of the organization and the environmental objectives can be applicable to the whole organization. The tactical and operational levels can include environmental objectives for specific units or functions within the organization and should be compatible with its strategic direction. Environmental objectives should be communicated to persons working under the organization’s control who have the ability to influence the achievement of environmental objectives. The requirement to “take into account significant environmental aspects” does not mean that an environmental objective has to be established for each significant environmental aspect, however, these have a high priority when establishing environmental objectives. “Consistent with the environmental policy” means that the environmental objectives are broadly aligned and harmonized with the commitments made by top management in the environmental policy, including the commitment to continual improvement.
Indicators are selected to evaluate the achievement of measurable environmental objectives. “Measurable” means it is possible to use either quantitative or qualitative methods in relation to a specified scale to determine if the environmental objective has been achieved. By specifying “if practicable”, it is acknowledged that there can be situations when it is not feasible to measure an environmental objective, however, it is important that the organization is able to determine whether or not an environmental objective has been achieved.


The Standard requires that the organization shall establish and maintain documented environmental objectives at each relevant function and level within the organization. Objectives help you translate purpose into action — they should be factored into your strategic plan and can facilitate the integration of environmental management with other business management processes. Objectives should be the longer-term goals derived naturally from the environmental policy. It should be understood that each identified significant aspect will have an associated objective or objectives in some cases. Quantification can take place through measurement in order to meet such goals. You determine what objectives and targets are appropriate for your organization. These goals can be organization-wide or applied to individual units or activities. Of course, all objectives should be realistic. Objectives should be related to significant environmental impacts and can be couched in fairly broad terms i.e. to reduce energy use. Each objective should have a measurable target to demonstrate that the objective is being attained. Targets are more specific, more easily measurable detailed performance requirements that evolve from the objectives and allow an organization to verify whether the stated objectives will be achieved. Early warning mechanisms for targets not being met should be in place. The process of regular reviews and audits should address this adequately. In setting objectives to consider your environmental policy, significant environmental aspects, from its compliance obligations including applicable legal and other requirements, the views of interested parties, your technological options, and financial, operational, and other business requirements. There are no “standard” environmental objectives that fit all organizations. Your objectives should reflect what your organization does and what it wants to achieve.

Objectives should be set by the people in the functional area involved — they will be best positioned to establish, plan for, and achieve these goals. Involving people in the area will help to build commitment. Objectives should be consistent with your overall business mission and plan and the key commitments established in your policy (pollution prevention, continual improvement, and compliance). Be flexible in your objectives. Define the desired result and let the people responsible determine how to achieve the result. Keep your objectives simple initially, gain some early successes, and then build on them. Communicate objectives (as well as your progress in achieving them) across the organization. Consider a regular report on progress at staff meetings. To obtain the views of interested parties, consider holding an open house or establishing a focus group with people in the community. These activities can have other payoffs as well. Make sure your objectives and targets are realistic. Determine how you will measure progress towards achieving them. Keep in mind that your supplier’s service or materials) can help you in meeting your objectives and targets (e.g., by providing more environmentally friendly products).

Setting of Objectives

Some objectives will be dictated by the requirements of its compliance obligations and therefore are set from outside of the organization. That apart if an organization has identified that solid waste to landfill is a significant impact, what should be the target to aim for to reduce this amount of waste? First and foremost, quantification of what is actually sent to the landfill needs to be obtained. As stated above this could probably be obtained from weighbridge tickets, waste transfer notes, and other records. If, from these records, it is discovered that in the previous year 100 tonnes were sent to landfill, how does the organization derive a meaningful figure for reduction? Is a 1%, 10%, or 50% reduction a reasonable figure? Upon examination of these options, an improvement of 1% is meaningless as far as environmental significance is concerned. It will probably be difficult to measure this ‘amount’ with confidence. There is also the fact that the costs of the controls for this small reduction may outweigh any financial considerations – always an issue in any organization. The improvement of 50% would appear at first glance to be commendable and worthy of environmental attention, however, on closer examination, it is probably somewhat unrealistic.  Thus 10% appears to be a starting point and an achievable target – with measurable associated cost savings. If, as the system matures, this proves to be too difficult, then it could be adjusted to 8% or 9% as appropriate. Obviously, only running a production line at 50% capacity, due to poor customer demand, will reduce waste by a roughly corresponding amount. Unless this is taken into consideration in the calculations, errors in the figures will occur.

Some Examples of Objectives

  • Reduce electricity use by 10%   Target date  March 2016
  • Reduce natural gas use by 10%  Target date March 2015
  • Eliminate the use of CFC’s by March 2015
  • Reduce use of high-VOC paints by 25% in 2015
  • Reduce chrome wastes in the plating area by 50% in 2015
  • Zero permit limit violations by March 2015
  • Train 100% of employees to improve employee awareness of environmental issues by end of year

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