IEMA EMS National Forum 2015: Past, Present and the Future

Opening Presenttaion - Martin Baxter on the development and benefits of ISO 14001:2015
Opening Presentation – Martin Baxter on the development and benefits of ISO 14001:2015

In early December 2015, I attended the Institute of Environmental Management & Assessment EMS National Forum as I have done since their inception over a decade ago.

The original EMS National Forum voiced a concern that operating an Environmental Management System (EMS) was no living up to its promise, when organisations were failing to meet their legal obligations and being fined by the Environment Agency

I remember the events leading up to the first EMS National Forum as I had just joined UKAS (United Kingdom Accreditation Service) to provide enhanced environment competence to its Certification Body Assessment Team, & was developing a number of strategic initiatives to improve the delivery of EMS assessment and accreditation.

At that time, there was a real “buzz” about wanting to correct perceived wrongs with the then current version of ISO 14001:1996 and with its implementation as well as the roles of certification and accreditation bodies in the process.

Over the years, this “buzz” as waned maybe naturally, maybe due to other demands in response to economic crisis and maybe due to the periodic refresh of ISO 14001 to the 2004 and, now, the 2015 version. So too has the negativity that was critical of EMS’s without firm evidence, which was put to rest due to the publication of the remas project.

So it was on a high following the publication of ISO 14001:2015 that environmental professionals met in Manchester to bring together the latest and fresh thinking about the opportunities and future benefits that the new version could bring.

What I heard from the Forum were clear messages, both from the presenters but more, importantly from the delegates, that the ISO Committee had got it right and that this new version was fit for purpose for the next decade. Indeed it is important to reflect on the leadership that the IEMA have taken in providing opportunities for its membership to contribute evidence-based input into the ISO drafting process & for the personal commitment from Martin Baxter (IEMA) and Nigel Leehane (GHD) during the sustained development of the International Standard over the past three years

Presentation on the focus of external auditors on the auditing of ISO 14001:2015
Presentation on the focus of external auditors on the auditing of ISO 14001:2015

The mix of presenters embraced the full EMS spectrum from leading organisations and their view on how they are tackling the transition to insights on the implementation of the new requirements for leadership and commitment, communications, risk and opportunity management & the approach that certification auditors who will take when assessing the new requirements.

In the final panel session drawing upon the perspectives from an organisation using an EMS, a certification body and a consultant, I was drawn to the great sense of a common and consistent view for the way forward.

There will, I am sure, be a few rocky patches in the journey with ISO 14001:2015 over the coming years but it is with a sense of positivity that we can leave the negativity of the past behind. The future can be about the real environmental outcomes of effective processes to deliver environmental performance and compliance within a shared vision of leadership and commitment, strategic management of risks and opportunities and a thirst for continual improvement.

Now, that is the future that I want to be a part of – Will you share that journey?

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