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An Overview of ISO 14001:2015

ISO 14001 is an international standard that specifies the requirements to establish, implement, maintain, and continually improve an Environmental Management System (EMS). ISO 14001 also provides a framework for the assessment of environmental aspects, associated impacts, and implement required controls to prevent pollution and enhance environmental performance.

What is Documented Information?

The “documented information” is defined as the information required to be controlled and maintained by an organization and the medium on which it is contained. The example of documented information can be a record, specification, procedure, drawing, report, standard, etc.

The term “document” is defined as an information created in order for the organization to operate e.g. procedures, instructions, specifications, guidelines, and criteria, etc. The term “record” is defined as a document that provides evidence of results achieved or activities performed e.g. evidence of training, operational control, corrective action, internal audit and management review activities, etc. A set of documented information, for example, specifications and records, is frequently called “documentation”.

ISO 14001:2015 uses a standardized term “documented information” to refer both documents and record. ISO 14001 uses a term “retain documented information” to describe a record (e.g. retain the results of corrective actions) and “maintain documented information” to describe a document (e.g. maintain the scope of the Environmental Management System). Document is live information and need to be updated as required while a record is a history of an event, activity or action.

Clause 7.5 of ISO 14001:2015 describes the requirements of the documented information. Documented information can be in any format and media and from any source. The medium can be paper, magnetic, electronic or optical computer disc, photograph or master sample, or combination thereof.

What is the minimum documented information required by the ISO 14001:2015?

Every organization has to produce the minimum documented information required by ISO 14001 standard to demonstrate the conformance to the standard requirements. All the requirements of minimum documented information listed below might not be applicable to every organization depending on its operations and activities and shall be listed as an exclusion in the scope statement of environmental management system.


How to determine the requirement for ISO 14001 Documentation?

Clause 7.5 of ISO 14001 describes the requirements for documented information. To demonstrate the conformance to the requirements of ISO 14001, an organization may need to produce more documents and records than the minimum required by the standard because according to the Clause 7.5, an organization’s environmental management system shall include:

  1. documented information required by ISO 14001 Standard (as listed above)
  2. documented information determined by the organization as being necessary for an effective environmental management system e.g. policies, procedures, instructions, guidelines, and relevant records other than the minimum required. It is quite common that for an effective EMS, organizations establish procedures for identification of environmental aspects & impacts, environmental risk, operational control, compliance obligations, corrective actions and control of documented information, etc.

The extent of documented information for ISO 14001 may differ from one organization to another due to:

  • the size of the organization and its type of activities, processes, products, and services
  • the complexity of processes and their interactions
  • the competence of persons

The rule of thumb for an organization is to use a risk-based approach to determine the requirement for documented information other than the minimum documented information listed above e.g. an organization may decide that due to lack of documented procedures and work instructions, there might be a risk of an environmental accident. The organizations also establish procedures and other documented information to establish controls as a result of environmental risk assessment or to address a nonconformity.

G-Certi provides ISO registration/certification services in Canada and 50 other countries for a number of ISO Standards including but limited to ISO 9001, ISO 14001, ISO 45001, ISO 27001 and ISO 22301, etc. The auditors of G-Certi ensure that your organization is conforming to the requirements of ISO 14001. Please feel free to visit and contact one of our representatives for a complimentary pre-assessment to ensure that your organization is ready for ISO 14001 registration/certification.