The ISO 14000 family of International Standards on environmental management is a relative newcomer to ISO’s portfolio – but enviroment-related standardization is far from being a new departure for ISO.
In fact, ISO has two-pronged approach to meeting the needs of business, industry, governments, non-governmental organizations and consumers in the field of the environment.
On the one hand, it offers a wideranging portfolio of standardized sampling, testing and analytical methods to deal with specific environmental challenges. It has developed more than 350 International Standards (out of a total more
than 12000) for the monitoring of such aspects as the quality of air, water and soil. These standards are means of providing business and government with scientifically valid data on the environmental effects of economic activity.
They also serve in a number of countries as the technical basis for environmental regulations.
ISO is leading a strategic approach by developing environmental management system standards that can be implemented in any type of organization in either public or private sectors (companies, administration, public utilities). To spearhead this strategic approach, ISO establish a new technical commitee, ISO /TC 207, Environmental management, in
1993. This followed ISO’s successful pioneering experience in management system standardization with the ISO 9000 series for quality management.
ISO’s direct involvement in environmental management stemmed from an intensive consultation process, carried out within the framework of a Strategic Advisory Group on Environment (SAGE),set up in 1991, in which 20 countrie, 11 international organizations and more than 100 environmental experts participated in defining the basic requirements of a new approach to environment-related standards.
This pioneering work was consolidated with ISO’s commitment to support the objective of “sustainable development” dicussed at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro in 1992.
Today, delegations of business and government experts from 55 countries have participate actively within TC 207,
and another 16 countries have observer status. These delegations are chosen by the national standars institute concerned and they are required to bring to TC 207 a national consensus on issue being addressed by the commitee.
This national consensus is derived from a process of consultation with interested parties.
From its beginning, it was recognized that ISO/TC 207 should have close cooperation with ISO/TC 176, Quality management and quality assurance, in the areas of management systems, auditing and related terminology. Active efforts are under way to ensure compatibility of ISO environmental management and quality management standards, for the benefit of all organizations wishing to implement them.