Today I received my introduction into ISO standard writing. It was a truly international meeting with all the continents represented and discussing a standard which has 250,000 certifications worldwide. It was interesting to hear all the different viewpoints of how it is used around the world. The UK is certainly a leading nation in ISO14001 and we are respected in our viewpoint.
Two of the clauses discussed today will be new to ISO14001. Earlier this year the ISO14001 Technical Committee decided that this revision of ISO14001 would adopt the new High Level Structure (HLS) and would become one of the first standards to align itself with it. This decision was taken in order to develop a harmonized, common framework for all management system standards, which include for example ISO 9001, on quality management systems, and ISO 27001, for IT security. This will mean that as each standard is revised, it will be brought under this new high level structure, making it easier for companies to integrate systems and for individuals to orientate themselves around unfamiliar system standards.
Two of the new clauses introduced by the HLS require organisations to understand the context to which they operate. However, this should not just look at one way interactions with the environment but also consider the influence the environment has on the organisation. The most obvious examples being climate change adaptation but also resource security. Both of these we consider to be important particularly in a manufacturing setting not only from a risk management perspective but because it should also look at opportunities such as new markets from low carbon technology. This clause should help ISO14001 become more aligned with the central strategy of the business.
The second clause which was discussed was determining the requirements of interested parties. We are not envisaging that this requires full stakeholder engagement (although for those that are busy in this area this would feed in very well) but rather listing the main groups of interested parties and considering at a general level what their requirements will be. Both the outcomes of the context of the organisation and the requirements of interested parties will feed into aspects identification. We didn't discuss this today, but theres always tomorrow!