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ISO 14001: Environmental Management Systems and its impact on Sustainability

What is sustainability all about?

Sustainability is simply the risk-based forward strategic thinking where we plan on meeting the needs of the present without affecting the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

Three main themes have always been the focus of sustainability: people (social interaction), planet (solar energy, biodiversity and nutrient cycling) and economic profits. Therefore, environmental sustainability plans are implemented to ensure we conserve available natural resources and protect global ecosystems to support health and wellbeing, now and in the future. 

As stated by WHO (2021) the global population exposed to air pollution levels which puts them at increased risk for diseases not limited to heart disease, stroke, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, cancer, and pneumonia was put at 99%. Furthermore, according to the Vision 2030 of Sustainable Development Goals of UN, Going Green is an integral part of the sustainability action involving guiding principles to provide the deepest view on how businesses can impact our planet and build a better life for future generations. 

Environmental sustainability is geared towards impacting all key components affecting the air, water, and land management by engaging the relevant environmental regulatory compliance and risk reduction mechanisms to ensure the availability of Earth’s essentials. These essentials as defined in Sustainable Development Goals include renewable energy, clean water supply, and food security.


Using ISO 14001 as a framework to address environmental sustainability 

As discussed by Morelli (2011), if it can be agreed that a sustainable environment is a necessary prerequisite to a sustainable socio-economic system, then simultaneously the actions we implement to avoid threats to and foster environmental sustainability should affect this system. 

Environmental Management System (EMS) based on ISO 14001 which is a set of interacting processes and practices becomes a ready global tool that can be assessed by organizations to enable them to reduce their environmental impacts while addressing their need to increase operating efficiency. To meet the environmental sustainability plans, ISO 14001 can act as a viable tool to ensure any organization establishes, implements, monitors and continually improves by taking actions where necessary on environmental performances. Thus, striking an equilibrium between the needs of present people, planet, and making profits without compromising those of the future generations.

ISO 14001 provides needed framework based on the Plan-Do-Check-Act methodology, which an organization can use to protect the environment and respond to changing environmental conditions in balance with socio-economic needs. Organizations that have implemented an Environmental Management System based on ISO 14001 or other relevant environmental frameworks have put in place environmental policy that can ensure that they have an enhanced environmental performance, fulfilled compliance obligations, and achieve their own set environmental objectives. Areas related to energy conservation, operational control and accountability can be addressed by implementing an EMS based on ISO 14001:2015 in any organization.


How will ISO 14001 impact on environmental sustainability?

Organizations will continue to review and evaluate their EMS to identify opportunities for implementing and improving their set environmental objectives and targets. By addressing regulatory requirements, a systematic and cost-effective proactive bias is created to help organizations reduce the risk of non-compliance, reduce issues related to health and safety of their workers and public.

In addition, several other issues can be addressed by implementing ISO 14001, including but not limited to:

  • Adequate conservation of energy;
  • Availability of clean water;
  • Applicable use of resources;
  • Top notch operational control;
  • Monitoring of environmental pollution;
  • Improper waste management;
  • Global Climate change;
  • Degradation of ecosystems;
  • Loss of biodiversity.

Simple steps which will lead to improvement of an EMS

Implementing EMS based on ISO 14001, ensures an organization continuous improvement of its environmental performance by continual review of their set environmental goals. After setup of an environmental policy, some simple steps which are not exhaustive, can lead to continual improvement of the EMS. These include:

  • Carrying out risk assessment of their environmental impacts and compliance obligations;
  • Setting out environmental objectives and targets;
  • Putting in place plans to address these environmental impacts, compliance obligations, objectives, and targets;
  • Continued monitoring, measuring, reviewing, and evaluating the achievement of set objectives.

Benefits of a sustainable environment addressed by ISO 14001

Evidence of sustainable environment will become visible as a result of more organizations implementing an EMS based on ISO 14001. These benefits can translate to:

  • Improvement in environmental performance;
  • Meeting compliance obligations;
  • Reduced environmental impacts and risks;
  • Control of pollution, degradation, and other environmental menaces;
  • Opening of competitive markets;
  • Cost effectiveness and efficiency in doing business;
  • Profile and brand visibility;
  • Creation of environmental awareness.


In conclusion, implementing Environmental Management System (EMS) is one of the sustainability tools that can help conserve natural resources and further protect the planet’s ecosystems now and for the future generations. If more organizations decide to get certified with ISO 14001 then the environment will benefit from its application to ensure that it is protected.


About Author

ADEYEMI BUSAYO JOSEPH is currently a Senior Standards Officer with Standards Organisation of Nigeria. He possesses more than ten years experience coordinating and monitoring quality, environmental, and health and safety related issues. He is a certified ISO 9001, ISO 14001, ISO 22000, ISO 45001 & ISO 22301 Management Systems Lead Auditor, Trainer, and Implementer. He has delivered several audits, trainings and awareness sessions related to Quality, Environmental, Occupational Health and Safety, Business Continuity Management Systems standards, among others, for Standards Organisation of Nigeria, MSECB, QFS, DRI Nigeria and other clients. 

On behalf of MSECB he has delivered several audit mandates including ISO 9001, ISO 14001, ISO 22000, ISO 45001 & ISO 22301 both in Nigeria and Ghana.

Busayo has top notched communication skill and is able to thrive in a fast paced environment with his expertise, technical experiences, and analytical problem-solving skills.