5 Strategies for Success in ISO 14001:2015

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The transition to ISO 14001:2015 isn’t just about changing requirements — it’s about adopting a new philosophical outlook and shifting your mindset to be more outward-facing when engaging in the construction industry.

The new standards ask businesses to holistically understand the context in which they operate and the impacts they have on the three pillars of sustainability: the environment, society, and the economy they belong to.

Some businesses are hesitant about making the major changes necessary for compliance with the new standards. Some don’t know how to properly prioritize the actions, while others aren’t sure how to include their external partners in the transition.


Sure, there will be some pitfalls, but, overall, transitioning to ISO 14001:2015 is still a wise business decision. Below, we’ll cover five key strategies that will help you adopt the processes — and the mindset — that will ensure a successful transition to ISO 14001:2015.

1.  Change Your Mindset, Not Just Your Systems

To best incorporate the new standards into your construction practices, you need to really understand them and the reason behind their implementation.

To do that, your mindset and business philosophy may need to change. Adopting a top-down approach to quality is a good first step in shifting overall business philosophy. When high-level management emphasizes the importance of quality, those priorities will be passed down to all levels.

Revisions to ISO 14001:2015 follow a structure common to standards such as the ISO 9001 requirements for Quality Management Systems (QMS).  A shift in priorities towards quality will help you, as a construction business owner, have a better understanding of your business context and what role you play on a global scale.

Businesses should not be concerned with just on-site activities, but have a more strategic and outward looking mindset that emphasizes the products or services and their greater impacts.

This allows businesses to adopt the PDCA (plan, do, check, act) model. Under the new standards, the systems align with this model, requiring careful planning and effectiveness checks at more than one stage. Using PDCA ensures continual improvement, which should be a major goal of business leaders across all building industries.

2. Understand the Transition Timeline

You have until September 2018 to transition fully to the new standards.

I know. That sounds far away — far enough away to be able to procrastinate until 2018.

Of course, procrastination is hardly a good “plan” for a successful transition.

It may take a significant amount of time and effort to make all of the necessary changes for ISO 14001:2015. Plan accordingly and use your time efficiently.

Your next recertification audit is an ideal deadline to adopt the new standards, but if that is not feasible timing-wise, a special audit should be performed.

In the meantime, there are steps you can take to begin the process and lessen the burden of the transition:

  1. Obtain a copy of the standard and thoroughly review it. Make sure top management is briefed on the changes so they can determine if additional resources are needed for the transition.
  2. Conduct a gap analysis to see where your EMS (environmental management system) foundation differs from the new one. Then, you can develop a transition plan with strategic objectives and adjust your current documentation methods to fit the new needs.
  3. Determine who your interested parties are and what their compliance regulations will need to be. Define risk and opportunities in relation to interested parties and how they will be managed.

3. Pay Attention to Your Interested Parties

Interested parties, like suppliers and stakeholders, are important to your business and must be included in the transition process.

You should engage them during the planning stages by finding out what they want from your business partnership. You should also communicate what you need from them. These needs can be integrated with the new requirements to create a collaborative set of regulations.

When all top management — internal and external — has a centralized set of standards, they will be able to better understand the risks and opportunities associated with their specific roles as well as with quality operations as a whole.

4. Engage a Cross-functional Team

Another key strategy for successfully implementing ISO 14001:2015 is changing the mindset of the entire organization, not just top management.

Encourage team members of all areas and departments to adopt quality as a priority. Your sales team, marketing team, or anyone else involved in your company can provide specific insights and unique perspectives. Use their advice to integrate quality requirements into the organization’s total business process.

Engaging a cross-functional team leads to a better understanding of risks and opportunities across all departments. Having insight into all facets of your operations uncovers risks and opportunities that you would not have otherwise noticed. It also reinforces the need to have quality standards as a top priority across the entire organization.

5. Seize the Opportunity to Revitalize EMS

A transition to new standards is an excellent time to clean up the entire structure of your quality systems and business practices. The changes provide an opportunity for your EMS to evolve and align with changing global business practices, such as sustainability efforts. It’s an opportunity to revitalize environmental standards among the workforce, contractors and suppliers to make compliance a priority. It’s also an opportunity to make sure your construction management software is keeping your team on budget, on time, and operating efficiently.

Closing Thoughts

The major changes of ISO 14001:2015 will lead organizations toward a better understanding of their contexts and how their internal and external issues will affect intended outcomes and environmental responsibilities. Successfully complying with these standards will lead to healthier relationships with interested parties and the immediate community that they belong to. By thinking beyond just on-site operations and using these strategies as a guideline, you can have a smooth and meaningful transition into the set of standards that will help you achieve much more than just compliance.

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About the Author


Alexa Sussman

Alexa Sussman is a marketing content writer for EtQ. She is responsible for developing and writing content for EtQ, a leading enterprise quality and compliance management software vendor, as well as traqpath, EtQ’s compliance and event-tracking solution.


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