Technical Note - Update on IS0 14000 EMS: Application to the mining industry

Szwilski, T. B. ; Begley, R. D.
Organization: Society for Mining, Metallurgy & Exploration
Pages: 3
Publication Date: Jan 1, 1999
Status of ISO 14000 standards. The ISO 14000 are voluntary international standards providing a frame-work that allows a company to integrate an effective environmental-management system (EMS) into its operations. The purpose of an EMS is to provide a systematic procedure to identify the environmental aspects of a company's activities, evaluate any significant impacts and use the information to set objectives and targets toward continuous improvement of the company's environmental compliance and performance. In addition to the specifications for certification, ISO 14000 can be used as a guide to develop an effective environmental-management system or for self-declaration. The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) is a worldwide federation founded in 1947 to promote the development of international manufacturing, trade and communication standards. The organization is now represented in 118 countries, with the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) representing the United States. The principal goals of the ISO is "to promote the development of standardization and related ac¬tivities in the world with a view toward facilitating the international exchange of goods and services and to develop cooperation in the sphere of intellectual, scientific, technological and economic activity." ISO develops standards with input from government and industry. Because the standards are voluntary, there are no legal requirements to pressure countries to adopt them. However, many governments, industries and US agencies are adopting the ISO standards as a requirement for business trans¬actions, thereby, compelling suppliers to adopt ISO standards. These business and market forces, which are likely to be strategic business issues in the 21st century global marketplace, are imposing the need to develop a systematic approach to environmental management. The ISO 14000 series evolved from a United Nations Conference on the Human Environment in 1972. It includes a broad range of elements: the basic environmental management system, environmental auditing criteria for internal and external auditors, criteria for environmental performance evaluation (EPE), environmental labeling criteria and life-cycle assessment methodologies. The standards comprise two categories: organization evaluation standards and product oriented standards (Table 1). The ISO 14001 specifications contain the requirements for developing an environmental-management system that may be objectively audited for certification. The ISO 14004 standard provides guidance on interpreting the ISO 14000 specifications for the development and implementation of the EMS and for coordination with the management system of the company. On Sept. 1, 1996, the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and the Registrar Accreditation Board (RAB) signed a formal agreement to create a new entity called the National Accreditation Program (NAP). To obtain certification, a company must fulfill the requirements outlined in ISO 14001. It is required that "a third party give written assurance that a company's EMS meets all the requirements of ISO 14001." Preparing for ISO 14000 can include subscribing to voluntary environmental initiatives; learning from ISO 9000 quality-management experiences; and utilizing information from recognized training courses, publications and numerous Internet resources. Once committed to an EMS, the management should provide sufficient resources to achieve continuous environmental-performance improvement, as outlined in an environmental policy. A thorny issue now being debated concerns the potential liabilities of documenting the environmental performance of a company. General impact of the ISO 14000 EMS standards. With increasing stakeholder awareness, costly end-of-pipe pollution-control approaches and the success of ISO 9000 quality-management standards, the ISO 14000 EMS standards are being adopted by companies and governments worldwide. The United States and Canada have well-established programs. In Europe, countries differ but are firmly committed toward environmental-management standards (BS 7750, EMAS and ISO 14000). The Department of Environmental Protec¬tion of the State of Pennsylvania is using ISO 14000 as a vehicle to develop a closer working relationship with industry, and it is anticipated that this policy will eventually lead to fewer environmental site inspections for those companies with ISO 14001 certification. The Depart-
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