Within an Environmental Management System (EMS), should compliance obligations be consider “documents of external origin”, this article gives the ISO TC207 SC1 interpretation on the issue.
With many compliance obligations (or legal requirements) being published by external organisations, such as Government and other public-sector bodies, how should organisations with an Environment Management System based on ISO 14001:2015 manage these documents from outside their organisation.
An ISO Interpretation could help you understand how compliance obligations should be treated within an EMS based on ISO 14001:2015.
This article looks at one of the interpretations given by the ISO Technical Committee, TC 207 Sub-Committee 1, which is the Sub-Committee responsible for ISO 14001:2015 and other associated environmental International Standards.
The interpretation process operates as an escalation of an interpretation enquiry from a National Member Body, such as BSI in the UK and ANSI in the United States, with all interpretation enquiries reviewed on an annual basis and their results published on the Sub-Committee 1 website.
It is important to note that its interpretations do not change the requirements in ISO 14001 but are intended to give users a better understanding on ISO 14001..
The question about the status of compliance obligations within an Environmental Management System was raised by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI).
The question asked was:
To help with understanding this interpretation request, it is important to remind yourselves of the definition of the term: compliance obligation.
Clause 3.2.9 defines the preferred term: compliance obligations and, also, makes reference to the previous term used in ISO 14001:2004, namely: legal requirements and other requirements as the admitted term.
The definition reads:
As we can see it covers both, legal requirements, such as Acts and Regulations, as well as other requirements, such as voluntary Code of Practice or Trade Body membership requirements.
The two Notes to this definition are, particularly helpful as they clarify in Note 1 that the compliance obligations must be related to the Environmental Management System as defined in Clause 3.1.2 & in Note 2, that compliance obligations can arise from mandatory requirements, such as applicable laws and regulations, as well as from voluntary commitments, such as organizational and industry standards, contractual relationships, codes of practice and agreements with community groups or non-governmental organizations.
The Interpretation Response given stated:
This Interpretation Response gives clarification that any document supporting compliance obligations, whether they relate to legal requirements or other requirements, such as voluntary commitments, is the responsibility of an external organisation then the documents must be considered as “documents of external origin” within the Environmental Management System.
For example, legal requirements determined by the national, regional or local government will be “documents of external origin”, whether they are accessed as a hardcopy or accessed through a Government portal, such as the www.legislation.gov.uk website in the UK, which provides access to all UK and devolved nation’s legislation.
Additionally, access to legislation using services provided by external contractors, such as Barbour EHS in the United Kingdom will be “documents of external origin”.
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So, to summarise:
The ISO TC 207 Sub-Committee 1 interpretation clarifies the source of the documented information that contains the compliance obligations is generated, documented, and controlled by an entity external to the organization. Therefore, any document supporting compliance obligations, whether they relate to legal requirements or other requirements, such as voluntary commitments, is the responsibility of an external organisation then the documents must be considered as “documents of external origin” within the Environmental Management System.
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You can download a copy of the ISO Interpretation document here, which includes this specific interpretation.
If this article has helped has helped to advance your understanding of ISO 14001:2015 in relation compliance obligations and their status as “documents of external origin”, please leave a comment in the box below, if this article has help you.
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