An investigation of what the changes in ISO 14001:2015 mean from an organisational perspective

University essay from Uppsala universitet/Institutionen för geovetenskaper

Abstract: The implementation of an environmental management system such as the standard ISO 14001 is a common way to manage environmental responsibilities in an organisation. In 2015 ISO 14001 was updated with some major changes like Annex SL, management engagement, strategic engagement, risk-based thinking, life cycle perspective, improved environmental management and interested parties. The purpose of ISO 14001 is to improve the environmental performance of the organisation, but also to increase the degree of employee involvement and with that sustainable development can be supported through the implementation of the standard. The involvement of employees in an organisation with an environmental management system was studied at the Swedish University of Agricultural Science (SLU). By law a Swedish university must have an environmental management system. SLU has implemented ISO 14001 as their environmental management system and was chosen for the research. The applied methods were a literature review and case study where interviews and a survey were used. The changes in ISO 14001:2015 were investigated as a part of the literature review. In this method, review studies were investigated to see if any of the changes were discussed before the standard was updated. There was no found research that discussed if drawbacks of version 14001:2004 were actually taken into account when the newest version of the standard was produced. This subject therefore makes the study important to perform. Environmental coordinators were interviewed to find out if the changes in 14001:2015 supported increased participation in the standard. A survey was conducted with environmental coordinators at SLU to investigate how the changes in ISO 14001:2015 were viewed and if the results differed if performed from those obtained from a similar comparison at companies. The reason to study the effects of the changes in the standard at a university and to compare the results with companies is important since it is not optional for the university to adopt an environmental management system as it is for another type of organisation. Most of the discussed shortcomings from ISO 14001:2004 did match what was changed in the version from 2015. However, the review studies that were investigated did not discuss the life cycle perspective which was considered to be a major and important change. Therefore, this lack of discussion is viewed as a weakness in the review studies. It was also concluded that, even though employees did become involved to a greater extent in the environmental management system at SLU, it could not be made sure if it was because of the implementations of the changes in ISO 14001:2015. It was most likely because of the major work SLU had done the last three years when certifying the whole organisation. Instead, the conclusion was that it is important to work inclusively with the environmental management system and it seems that the more it is discussed in an organisation, the more employees will become involved. Lastly, it was seen in the thesis that a university and the studied companies viewed the environmental work both similarly and differently. Both thought that only small benefits would be the result of the implementation of the changes in ISO 14001:2015. What differed between the two groups of organisations was that SLU thought that the changes would not give any major difficulties while the companies on the other hand thought that it would create substantial extra work.

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