As a member of the US Technical Advisory Group to ISO 14001 I traveled to Washington DC recently to attend meetings of the US TAG (TC 207). Although TAG members are sworn to secrecy to help protect the US negotiating position on key issues I can say that the next version of the standard is likely to be unrecognizable in its form. This is due to a big change at ISO headquarters compelling all standards revisions to conform to a new format called the “High Level Structure” or HLS. What this means is that the ISO 14001 standard will be dramatically rearranged to fit neatly into a format that ISO believes will facilitate better understanding of the intent of each standards requirements.
ISO believes that all standards should have a uniform format so the current work of TC 207 is to disassemble the existing ISO 14001:2004 standard and reassemble it within this new structure. If you are interested you can see what the HLS looks like here.
The other changes to the standard are not expected to include new requirements. There are however areas where the US TAG is working to clarify the intent of the standard. These areas include revised language on how organizations decide what their EMS will manage (significant environmental aspects) and the need to continue to include preventive action as a separate activity in the EMS.
The international ISO 14001 group is meeting in Rochester NY later this month when the US TAG will present its ISO 14001 revision proposal. It will be interesting to see what comes out of Rochester and what the rest of the international community is thinking about how to align the current version of ISO 14001 with the MLS.