ISO Survey shows reduction in ISO 14001 Certification

A recently published survey shows that ISO 14001 certification has declined… What does the data show and why has it happened?

Every year, the International Organisation for Standardization (ISO) performs a survey of certifications to their management system standards. The source data comes from accredited certification bodies from around the world. The ISO Survey can be accessed here.

The survey is designed to account for the total global number of valid certificates to ISO management standards, such as ISO 14001:2015 & 9001:2015, as well as reporting by country and sector.

As reported in an earlier post (How is the ISO 14001:2015 Transition going?), I raised a growing concern that the transition from ISO 14001:2004 to the new version, ISO 14001:2015 could result in a drop-off of interest in environmental management systems.

At the time of last year’s survey (2017), it showed that just over half of organisations (55.65%) had made the transition based on the number of certificates. There was a shortfall of 160,803 ISO 14001:2004 certificates belonging to organisations, which had not made the transition to ISO 14001:2015 as at 31 December 2017.

Now that we have the data for 2018, it has become clearer that they has been a 17% decline of ISO 14001:2015 certification against a former, healthy single digit growth between 3 – 7%.

A similar reduction has occurred in ISO 9001:2015 certification, where a reduction of 179,840 certificates is evidenced between the high-level data for 2017 and 2018. This represents a 17% decline upon the 4% decline evidenced between 2016 and 2017.

Total ISO 14001:2015 Certificates (by Year)
CountryCertificate Decline (2018 compared with 2017)
United Kingdom6,385

So what are the reasons for the decline…

Certified clients may have withdrawn or new organisations may not have taken up ISO 14001:2015 due to the perception that ISO 14001:2015 has introduced additional complex requirements, such as the context of the organisation and in placing emphasis on risk management and lifecycle perspective, which is not well understood within many organisation.

It is less likely that the decline in ISO 14001:2015 is due to a general lack of interest in environmental management systems as there is growing evidence of organisational and personal commitment to environmental issues, such as climate change and single-use plastics.

Looking at the analysis of the Industrial Sectors gives evidence of declines in Financial intermediation, real estate, renting (1,872) & Agriculture, Fishing and Forestry (1,116). However, the value of this data is limited as 25, 290 certificates were not able to be allocated to an Industrial Sector. Additionally, the data in this table (317,862) does not agree with the total of the global ISO 14001:2015 certificates (307,059).

Each of the above factors makes a dent in the lustre of ISO 14001:2015. It was introduced to enhance environmental protection and performance. It is clearly working for the 307,059 organisations globally that are using it.

However, the decline can not be ignored…

All parties, whether they be ISO, Certification Bodies, Accreditation Bodies, Environmental Managers or Environmental Consultants, have a role to play in making ISO 14001:2015 more accessible to organisations, so that they can better manage their interactions with the environment.

Ultimately, the outlook is positive with 307,059 organisations holding ISO 14001:2015 certification with each organisation being in a good position to better manage their environmental aspects and impacts, to drive environmental performance and secure compliance with environmental legal requirements.

Only time will tell whether this is a “small road bump” on the journey towards enhanced global environmental protection and performance by organisations using ISO 14001:2015.

If you have any comments on the analysis in this article or want to share your experiences of using ISO 14001:2015, please leave a comment.

Share this article on Social Media:

Leave a Reply