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The ISO 14000 Series of Standards

By Cynthia J. Martincic

The ISO 14000 series of environmental management standards are intended to
assist organizations manage the environmental effect of their business
practices. The ISO 14000 series is similar to the ISO 9000 series published in
1987. The purpose of the ISO 9000 series is to encourage organizations to
institute quality assurance management programs. Although ISO 9000 deals
with the overall management of an organization and ISO 14000 deals with the
management of the environmental effects of an organization, both standards are
concerned with processes, and there is talk of combining the two series into

Both series of standards were published by ISO, the International Organization

for Standardization. The purpose of ISO is to facilitate international trade and
cooperation in commercial, intellectual, scientific and economic endeavors by
developing international standards. ISO originally focused on industrial and
mechanical engineering standards. Now, it has ventured into setting standards
for an organization's processes, policies, and practices.

Both series of standards stemmed from concerns about international trade. One
of the issues of the 1986 GATT negotiations in Uruguay was the removal of
non-tariff trade barriers. Standards fall into this category. The ISO 9000
standard was published about a year after the Uruguay GATT negotiations. The
ISO 14000 standards are a response to both the GATT negotiations and to the
growing global concern for the environment as evidenced by the 1992 Rio
Conference on the environment.

Both the ISO 9000 and the ISO 14000 series have critics and proponents. The
critics of the standards point out that quality management policies proposed by
ISO 9000 do not necessarily result in quality products. Critics also project that
the environmental management policies of ISO 14000 will not guarantee that
an organization is not damaging the environment. Both series require third-
party certification, and the certification business is booming, thanks in part to
these two standards. Questions have risen regarding the fairness of the
certification process. Both series are heavy in their documentation requirements
and demand a significant amount of time and personnel.
The proponents of the series point to the economic benefits that can be gained
by putting the standards into practice. These benefits include the opening of
new markets and the development of streamlined procedures, which can lead to
increased profits. There are also non-tangible benefits of ISO 14000
certification, such as improved employee morale, improved corporate image,
and the feeling of "doing the right thing".

Because of the strong similarities between the two standards, it is almost

impossible to discuss ISO 14000 without including a discussion of ISO 9000
and the ISO standards-setting process. In addition, the experiences that
organizations have had with the ISO 9000 series have raised questions that
many people want resolved before they wholeheartedly embrace the ISO 14000
series. The reader will gain the most information from this paper by reading the
following sections in the order in which they are listed below:

A Brief History of ISO

Standards are important in international trade because incongruent standards
can be barriers to trade, giving some organizations advantages in certain areas
of the world. Standards provide clear identifiable references that are
recognized internationally and encourage fair competition in free-market
economies. Standards facilitate trade through enhanced product quality and
reliability, greater interoperability and compatibility, greater ease of
maintenance and reduced costs. ISO covers a wide variety of standards with
the exception of electrical and electronic engineering standards covered by
the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC), telecommunication
standards covered by the International Telegraph Union (ITU) and information
technology cov ered by JTC 1 (a joint committee between ISO and IEC).

The organization which today is known as ISO began in 1926 as the

International Federation of the National Standardizing Associations (ISA). This
organization focused heavily on mechanical engineering. It was disbanded in
1942 during the second World War but was re-organized under the current
name, ISO, in 1946.

Even the name of the organization is standardized. The name, "ISO" is not an
acronym but was derived from the Greek word "isos" meaning "equal". (The
relation to standards is that if two objects meet the same standard, they should
be equal.) This name eliminates any confusion that could result from the
translation of "International Organization For Standardization" into different
languages which would lead to different acronyms.

ISO is a voluntary organization whose members are recognized standard

authorities, each one representing one country. The bulk of the work of ISO is
done by the 2700 technical committees, subcommittees and working groups.
Each committee and subcommittee is headed by a Secretariat from one of the
member organizations. The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) is
the United States representative to ISO. The ANSI ASC Z-1/ASQ Standards
Group coordinates the United States representation in the ISO Technical
Committees 176 and 207 which are concerned with the ISO 9000 and ISO
14000 standards respectively.

The ISO Standardization Process

Each member body who has an interest in the work of a committee is entitled
to be a member of that committee. Standards are reached by consensus with
each member organization representing the interests of the vendors,
manufacturers, consumers, profession als, and government of it's country.

Each standard goes through a six stage process before being published as an
ISO standard. The first stage is the proposal stage in which a need for a
standard is determined and members are identified who are willing to work on
it. The standards then ent ers the preparatory stage where a working draft of the
standard is developed. When the working draft is completed, it enters the
committee stage and is sent out for comments until a consensus is reached. The
output of this stage is the Draft Internation al Standard (DIS). The DIS then
enters the enquiry stage where it is circulated among all member bodies and
then voted upon. If a DIS does not receive 75% of the vote, it returns to lower
stages and work on it continues. If it passes the enquiry stage , it becomes a
Final Draft International Standard and enters the approval stage. During this
stage it will again circulate through all member bodies for a final vote and
again it must pass this stage with 75% of the vote. If the standard passes this sta
ge, it enters the publication stage and is sent to the ISO Central Secretariat for

Because certain technologies are changing so rapidly, ISO has instituted a Fast
Track procedure that allows a standard which has been proven in the market to
enter the approval process at the enquiry stage.

IV. ISO 14000 Overview

Many believe that environmental protection movements originated in the
1960s. However, the sentiments of environmentalism can be seen in the
conservation efforts that began in the late 1800s. The first environmental
protection law in the United States w as the Refuse Act of 1899. However, it
was not until the 1960s that the environment became a political and
consumer issue.

Increased environmental activism in the 1980s created a greater consumer

awareness of the environmental issues. More and more environmental
regulations were enacted and companies began to use their adherence to these
regulations as marketing tools. The Rio Conference on the Environment in
1992 reflected increased global concerns about the environment and called for
a world commitment to the protection of the environment. These concerns,
coupled with the GATT negotiations in Uruguay in 1986 which calle d for the
removal of non-tariff trade barriers, were the impetus behind ISO 14000.

ISO Technical Committee 207 is responsible for the ISO 14000 series of
standards. Just as the ISO 9000 standards are based on the British BS 5750
standard of 1979, the ISO 14000 series are based on the British standard BS
7750 which was instituted in 199 2. This standard also served as the basis for
the European Union's Eco-Management and Audit Scheme (EMAS), a more
stringent set of standards strongly influenced by the high environmental
standards of German companies. EMAS differs from ISO 14000 in that it
emphasizes public environmental reporting.

Many organizations had taken little interest in ISO 9000 when it was in
development and were surprised by the overwhelming acceptance of ISO 9000.
These organizations were wary of a new international standard in ISO 14000
and they took a more active inte rest in it's development. Subsequently the
standards of BS 7750 were softened in order to be acceptable by countries
outside of Europe. In particular, US companies who can be subjected to
expensive civil suits, were very hesitant to endorse a stringent set of
environmental management standards. The fear is that violation of these
standards could result in litigation. Some organizations, for example, fear that
the extensive documentation required by the ISO 14000 series could be used
against them in an y legal action regarding violation of environmental

The actual environmental standards of ISO 14000 deal with how a company
manages the environment inside it's facilities and the immediate outside
environment. However, the standards also call for analysis of the entire life
cycle of a product, from raw ma terial to eventual disposal. These standards do
not mandate a particular level of pollution or performance, but focus on
awareness of the processes and procedures that can effect the environment. It
should be noted that adherence to the ISO 14000 standa rds does not in anyway
release a company from any national or local regulations regarding specific
performance issues regarding the environment.

Some of the standards in the ISO 14000 series are:

 ISO 14001 - Specification of Environmental Management Systems

 ISO 14004 - Guideline Standard
 ISO 14010 through ISO 14015 - Environmental Auditing and Related
 ISO 14020 through ISO 14024 - Environmental Labeling
 ISO 14031 through ISO 14032 - Environmental Performance Evaluation
 ISO 14040 through ISO 14043 - Life Cycle Assessment
 ISO 14050 - Terms and Definitions

Although the ISO 14000 standards are similar to the ISO 9000 standards, the
nature of the environmental standards creates a need for people who are
technical environment professionals in addition to those required to maintain
the documentation necessary f or certification.

ISO 14000: Costs, Benefits and Other Issues.

The Benefits of ISO 14000 certification.
The benefits of acquiring ISO certification go beyond the satisfaction of doing
a good deed. Adhering to the standard may result in better conformance to
environmental regulations, greater marketability, better use of resources,
higher quality goods and services, increased levels of safety, improved image
and increased profits.

The environmental awareness and the documentation that are required by the
ISO 14000 standards assist a company in conforming to environmental
regulations. This means that a company, by diligently adhering to the standard,
is less likely to violate envir onmental regulations and is always ready for
inspection by a regulatory agency. In addition, the certification and
documentation may aid a company in acquiring capital, in defending itself
during environmental litigation and in receiving insurance or per mits.
A wider market for a company's goods and services may result from
certification. Many corporations and governments will be looking for suppliers
that are ISO 14000 certified in order to maintain their own certification and
environment-friendly image. Al though the European Union claims that ISO
9000 certification is not required to do business in Europe, that was the
message received by many non-European firms and lead to the amazing
success of that standard. If ISO 14000 is similarly successful, the co mpanies
who are already ISO 14000 certified will have an advantage in global markets.
Also, producers of consumer goods may find that many consumers not only try
to purchase goods from environment-friendly companies, but will spend a little
more if they feel they are helping the environment. In order to reap this benefit,
a company must make their environmental efforts known through advertising
and labeling.

The process analyses that go along with ISO 14000 certification may result in
streamlining processes and more efficient use of resources and raw materials
and subsequently reduce a company's costs. Finding ways to capture emissions
or recycle the product s may, in the long run, reduce the amount of raw
materials and utilities used. Reducing the amount of potentially dangerous
substances in an end product may result in less use of dangerous chemicals in a
plant. This leads to a safer internal environment for employees and the
possibility of reduced insurance premiums. Improved employee morale may
result when employees feel that the workplace is safer and they are contributing
to the environmental effort.

The Costs of ISO 14000 certification.

Critics of the ISO 9000 series complain that the certification was expensive and
ISO 14000 will prove to be no less expensive. Additional costs occur due to the
administrative costs, increased variable and fixed operating costs. A possible
non-tangible c ost is the negative publicity that could occur if undesirable or
hazardous situations are brought to light during the certification attempt.

Companies that have sought ISO 9000 certification have complained that the
extensive documentation introduces more bureaucracy into a company. Some
say that ISO 14000 will build on top of ISO 9000 registration, but others point
out that the ISO 14000 doc umentation requirements will only compound the
already burdensome task and that the extra administrative costs will reduce
profit margin. ISO 14000 requires not only additional personnel to take care of
the documentation, but requires knowledgeable perso nnel with expertise in the
technical processes of an organization and the effect they have on the
Investment in fixed capital may rise if a company must implement pollution
reduction equipment. Other costs may rise if more environmentally friendly
materials and processes lead to higher production costs. If a company passes
the increase on to custome rs, it could result in reducing it's share of the market
if competitors do not do the same.

A potential hazard of the certification process is the uncovering of potentially

harmful current practices. If the analysis of the company reveals environmental
risks, the ability of the company to attain capital, insurance and permits may be
compromise d.

Other issues.
It has been several years since ISO 9000 was published and in that time, some
concerns have come to light regarding international quality standards. These
have to do with the quality of process rather than product, multiple
registration schemes, the cost vs. the benefits of certification, and the
business of third party certification.

Implicit behind ISO 14000 and ISO 9000 is the assumption that a quality
process will lead to quality products and a clean environment. However, both
the ISO 9000 and the ISO 14000 standards focus on the management processes
behind the product. There is no guarantee that a quality process will yield a
quality product or a better environment. Additionally, despite the claims that
these standards will help to reduce costs, there is no guarantee that certification
in either or both will result in increased profits for a company.

The intent of an international standard is to avoid diverse and sometimes

replicating standards. But the publication of international standards for quality
assurance has not eliminated multiple standards. For example, the big three
auto makers have impo sed QS 9000 standards on their suppliers. QS 9000
standards use ISO 9000 as a starting point but require even more extensive
documentation on a wider set of processes. Now along comes ISO 14000 which
is stricter than ISO 9000 in not only it's documentati on requirements but the
number of people with technical and regulatory skills that will be required to
analyze and maintain certification. This is leading some to ask when this
onslaught of standardization will end. Bob Garvey, a chairman and CEO of Bi
rmingham Steel who has been through both ISO 9000 and QS 9000 has been
quoted as saying "I don't wish [QS 9000] on anyone." And Beryl Spiers of
Stelco Fasteners says that they are "getting fed up with the whole standards
process" and won't consider ISO 1 4000 certification "unless our customer base
says so." (Both in Mullin, Rick and Sissel, Kara "Merging business and
environment." Chemical Week. Oct 9, 1996 v158 n37 p52.)

The problem of multiple registration schemes is not limited to the United

States. Antonio Silva Mendes, quality chief of the European Union Directorate-
General III has also voiced concern over multiple registration schemes
(Zuckerman, Amy "Stanching the flow of new quality standards." New Steel.
Sep 1996 v12 n9 p82.). Despite this, there is already a movement underway for
the development of international occupational health and safety standards on
top of ISO 9000 and ISO 14000.

The whole question of third party certification does not sit well with many US
companies. Some are complaining that third party assessment does not
distinguish between barely meeting the standard and fully meeting or
surpassing it. Others note that ISO 1 4000 certification does not currently
reduce any customer or regulatory requirements. (However, the EPA is
investigating how ISO 14000 standards can be linked to environmental
regulations.) Then there is the question of who certifies the third party as
sessment auditors. Standard certification has become a big business and some
critics are now calling for standardization of the certification process.

Finally, many complain that the ISO standards do not reflect the variety of
businesses in the world. For example, small businesses have difficult time
dealing with the expense of certification and fear that they will not be able to
compete internationall y. On the other extreme, some multinational companies
which are highly decentralized and diverse complain that the standards do not
coincide with the realities of the ways these companies function. Under the ISO
9000 and ISO 14000 standards, multisite r egistration of subsidiaries is
permitted only if there is a common management and central control of each
site. This violates the autonomous and decentralized approach taken by many
multinational companies.

The general consensus is that organizations are being cautious before jumping
on the ISO 14000 bandwagon. Many already have environmental management
systems in place and, after experience with ISO 9000 certification, are adopting
a wait-and-see attitude towards ISO 14000.


2. ISO 14 000 OVERVIEW & ISO 14001 CESS
3. ISO 14004 & ISO 14010 THROUGH ISO 14015 NUR
4. ISO 14020 through ISO 14024 & ISO 14031 through ISO 14032 MONICA
5. ISO 14040 through ISO 14043 & ISO 14050 JL