Environmental Objectives for ISO 14001

ISO 14001 requires that organisations develop environmental objectives. Objectives and targets tend to be set after the environmental policy is completed. In fact it is very important they are completed at this stage as they must be based on policy commitments.

In practice,  environmental objectives can be at many levels, they can be:

  • High level objectives – these directly link to a policy commitment and are broad goals that usually do not consist of a quantity or a timescale.
  • Low level objectives (sometimes known as targets) – these directly link to an high level objectives and are commonly SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timebound).

Each policy commitment is generally supported by at least one environmental objective. There is no specific number of objectives and targets required for an organisation to be successfully certified to ISO 14001.

ISO 14001 Objectives Requirements

It is a requirement of ISO 14001 that environmental objectives:

  • Align with the environmental policy
  • Are measurable (if practicable)
  • must be able to be monitored
  • are communicated, and
  • reviewed and updated as necessary.

There must also be plans in place to achieve objectives that cover what needs to be undertaken, resources required, responsibilities, completion dates and evaluation of results.

Although there is no set requirements on the areas with which objectives should be set it, they are commonly developed for:

  • Environmental compliance obligations
  • Significant environmental aspects
  • Technological option
  • Financial operational and business requirements
  • Views of interested parties (stakeholders).

Types of Objectives

Objectives can be broadly classed as one of the following:

Monitoring objective – these are set where the management of a significant environmental impact could be improved and financial resources are limited or where not enough information is known about the impact. Environmental objectives can therefore be set to monitor (so enabling quantification).

Management objective – where a significant environmental impact is being well managed  management objectives will be set so as to continue the effective management, for example ensuring that an environmental training programme is continued.

Improvement objectives – these are associated directly with improvement and will always be required if the organisation is to demonstrate continual improvement.

General Rules

The following can be applied when an organisation is developing objectives and targets:

  • If a significant environmental impact is well managed then it can be linked to a management objective.
  • If a significant environmental impact is poorly controlled then an improvement objective should be set.
  • If an environmental impact could be better controlled then an improvement or monitoring objective should be set depending on resources and ability to control.
  • If an environmental impact results in unnecessary financial cost (e.g. energy use, waste production) then an improvement or monitoring objective would be appropriate.

Action plans

Environmental action plans provides a great deal of detail on how an organisation is going to improve. They are developed to achieve stated high level environmental objectives and as a minimum will usually identify:

  • task to be carried out,
  • who is responsible for carrying out the task and
  • time frame for carrying out the task.

Take a look at the following basic environmental action plan sample to give you an idea.

TaskResponsibilityCompletion Date
Monitor electricity consumption to determine baseline.Facilities ManagerMonthly (on-going)
Change lighting in office to compact fluorescent (energy saving) typesFacilities ManagerJan 2021
Promote switch off programme for computer monitors.Office ManagerMarch 2021
Implement purchasing system that takes into account energy consumption of computer equipment.Human ResourcesSeptember 2021

Action plans are key elements for the successful implementation of an EMS providing specific information on how improvements are to be achieved. It is important that an action plan is:

  • dynamic
  • monitored for progress
  • revised on a regular basis to reflect change.

It should be noted that an environmental action plans can be divided into more detailed programmes if required.