ISO 14001 is a family of standards related to environmental management that exists to help organizations (a) minimize how their operations (processes, etc.) negatively affect the environment (i.e., cause adverse changes to air, water, or land); (b) comply with applicable laws, regulations, and other environmentally oriented requirements, and (c) continually improve in the above.

ISO 14000 is similar to ISO 9000 quality management in that both pertain to the process of how a product is produced, rather than to the product itself. As with ISO 9000, certification is performed by third-party organizations rather than being awarded by ISO directly. The ISO 19011 audit standard applies when auditing for both 9000 and 14000 compliance at once.

Development of the ISO 14000 series

The ISO 14000 family includes most notably the ISO 14001 standard, which represents the core set of standards used by organizations for designing and implementing an effective environmental management system. Other standards included in this series are ISO 14004, which gives additional guidelines for a good environmental management system, and more specialized standards dealing with specific aspects of environmental management. The major objective of the ISO 14000 series of norms is "to promote more effective and efficient environmental management in organizations and to provide useful and usable tools--ones that are cost-effective, system-based, [and] flexible, and reflect the best organizations and the best organizational practices available for gathering, interpreting, and communicating environmentally relevant information".

Unlike previous environmental regulations, which began with command-and-control approaches, and later were replaced with ones based on market mechanisms, ISO 14000 was based on a voluntary approach to environmental regulation (Szymanski & Tiwari 2015). The series includes the ISO 14001 standard, which provides guidelines for the establishment or improvement of an EMS. The standard shares many common traits with its predecessor, ISO 9000, the international standard of quality management (Jackson 1997), which served as a model for its internal structure (National Academy Press 1999), and both can be implemented side by side. As with ISO 9000, ISO 14000 acts both as an internal management tool and as a way of demonstrating a company’s environmental commitment to its customers and clients (Boiral 2007).

Prior to the development of the ISO 14000 series, organizations voluntarily constructed their own EMS systems, but this made comparisons of environmental effects between companies difficult; therefore, the universal ISO 14000 series was developed. An EMS is defined by ISO as: “part of the overall management system, that includes organizational structure, planning activities, responsibilities, practices, procedures, processes, and resources for developing, implementing, achieving, and maintaining the environmental policy’ (ISO 1996 cited in Federal Facilities Council Report 1999).

ISO 14001 Use in Supply Chains

There are many reasons that ISO 14001 should be potentially attractive to supply chain managers, including the use of the voluntary standard to guide the development of integrated systems, its requirement for supply chain members in industries such as automotive and aerospace, the potential of pollution prevention leading to reduced costs of production and higher profits, its alignment with the growing importance of corporate social responsibility, and the possibility that an ISO-registered system may provide firms with a unique environmental resource, capabilities, and benefits that lead to competitive advantage.

Emerging areas of research are starting to address the use of this standard to show that ISO 14001 registration can be leveraged across the supply chain for competitive advantage. By looking at ISO 14001 registered firms, information from the study compared different amounts of integration and sustainability in the supply chain. Several research propositions and an empirical framework posit the impacts of ISO 14001 on supply chain design.

The propositions include:

  1. 1. ISO registration leading to more proactive environmental management including process and performance measurement related to sustainability across a supply chain;
  2. 2. That ISO-registered plants with formal environmental management systems will have higher levels of communication required between OEMs and Tier I suppliers;
  3. 3. ISO-registered plants with direct relationships to other registered plants in their supply chain will have higher levels of waste reduction and cost efficiency than nonregistered plants;
  4. 4. ISO-registered plants with direct relationships to other registered plants in the supply chain will have sustainable practices and projects with better ROI than nonregistered firms;
  5. 5. ISO-registered plants with direct relationships to other registered plants will have higher levels of customer relationship management and will be positively associated with greater expansion opportunities and image than nonregistered plants;
  6. 6. ISO-registered plants with direct relationships to other registered plants will have fewer issues with employee health and reduced numbers of safety incidents than nonregistered plants;
  7. 7. ISO-registered plants with a direct relationship to other registered plants will have a strong positive relationship between formal communication, training, monitoring/control systems, and firm performance; and
  8. 8. ISO-registered plants with a direct relationship to other registered plants will have higher levels of involvement and communication, which will be positively related to more internal and external integration with supply chain members. 

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