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ISO 14001

  UK & Japan lead ISO14001 uptake

Friday 24 August 2001
Uptake of the international environmental management standard ISO14001 soared further last year, with Japan and the UK taking the lead. Meanwhile, the forthcoming revision to the standard is set to be limited in scope, following a decision by national delegations.

By the end of 1999 a total of 14,106 ISO14001 certificates had been awarded worldwide reflecting 78% annual growth rate for the second year running.

Japan contributed most to last year's growth, with 1,473 new certificates awarded doubling the country's uptake. The UK followed with 571 new certificates, bringing its total to 1,492. Other countries exhibiting strong growth were Sweden and Spain

The electrical and electronics sector continues to lead in ISO14001 certification, accounting for around a fifth of the total, followed by the chemicals industry, machinery and equipment, construction and the basic and fabricated metals industries.

The data collected by ISO 1 are provided voluntarily by certification bodies in 84 countries and ISO concedes they are not exhaustive. There are accounting flaws including a small amount of double counting, and the inclusion of some certificates awarded by bodies which are not accredited.

The survey illustrates the popularity of ISO14001 since the standard was published in 1996. It also serves as a benchmark for the EC's Eco-Management and Audit Scheme (EMAS). This has registered 2,935 sites more than 2,000 of them in Germany since it began operation in 1995. However, more than three times as many ISO14001 certificates have been awarded in EC countries.

Meanwhile, members of the ISO committee responsible for developing ISO14001 voted in Stockholm in June to begin revising the standard. But in a tightly-worded statement they limited the changes to two areas: making it more compatible with the ISO9000 quality management series and minor clarifications to the text. There would be no additional requirements introduced, the statement said.

The terse mandate reflects what is reported to have been a long and tense process in which a few delegations, including the Dutch, argued for deeper changes to the standard to take account of evolving views on issues such as environmental reporting, legal compliance and product chain management. Others, however, including the US and many developing country delegations, felt that radical changes now would deter uptake.

According to the committee's chairman, Ossie Dodds, who also heads the UK delegation, there is still a chance that other issues may be taken on board during this revision. He told ENDS: "The starting point is the two areas described in the mandate. But if towards the end of the revision process [which could take three years] we become aware of an overwhelming need for further changes, we will have an opportunity to consider that."

The Stockholm meeting also resulted in a row between official delegations and NGOs over a resolution aimed at providing a funding mechanism and improved access to information for NGOs seeking to participate in the development of the ISO14000 series of standards. The meeting resolved to ballot committee members on the issue at a later date.

Jason Morrison of the Pacific Institute, a US think-tank, believes that senior ISO representatives recognise that the public credibility of ISO14001 and hence its value as a public policy tool depends on its acceptance by groups outside the business community, including environmental NGOs. But there was a perspective among delegates, primarily from the business community, against allowing NGOs too much influence, he said.

Just before the Stockholm meeting, the World Wide Fund for Nature pulled out, after six years of participating in ISO meetings, complaining of high costs and its lack of real influence. The European Environmental Bureau has also stopped attending meetings of CEN, the European standards body, saying it has insufficient resources.

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ISO 14001
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