ISO 14001 sets out the criteria for an environmental management system. It does not state requirements but maps out a framework that a company or organization can follow to set up an effective environmental management system. It can be used by any organization that wants to improve resource efficiency, reduce waste and costs. Using ISO 14001 can provide assurance to the company’s management and employees as well as external stakeholders that environmental impact is being measured and improved. ISO 14001 can also be integrated with other management functions and it assists companies in meeting their environmental and economic goals.

ISO 14001, as with other ISO 14000 standards, is voluntary (IISD 2010), with its main aim to assist companies in continually improving their environmental performance, whilst complying with any applicable legislation. Organizations are responsible for setting their own targets and performance measures, with the standard serving to assist them in meeting objectives and goals and the subsequent monitoring and measurement of these (IISD 2010).

The standard can be applied to a variety of levels in the business, from the organizational level right down to the product and service level (RMIT university). Rather than focusing on exact measures and goals for environmental performance, the standard highlights what an organization needs to do to meet these goals (IISD 2010).

ISO 14001 is known as a generic management system standard, meaning that it is relevant to any organization seeking to improve and manage resources more effectively. This includes:

  • single site to large multi-national companies;                                                                                                                                                                                                            
  • high-risk companies to low-risk service organisations;                                                                                                                                                                                         
  • manufacturing, process and service industries, including local governments;                                                                                                                                          
  • all industry sectors including public and private sectors;                                                                                                                                                                                      
  • original equipment manufacturers and their suppliers.