The aim of an Environmental Management System is to achieve an equilibrium between the environment, society and the economy. Internationally and locally within South Africa, new and existing developments need to meet the needs of environmental sustainability and societal expectations, all while promoting economic growth. ISO 14001 compliance and certification is not a regulatory requirement, however, as voluntary standard it aids organisations in complying with legislative requirements. These include, but are not limited to the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa (Act No. 108 of 1996) [as amended] (CSA), which states that everyone has the right to an environment that is not harmful to their health or well-being and to have the environment protected, for the benefit of present and future generations, through reasonable legislative and other measures.

Recent times has indicated that societal expectations for transparency and culpability have shed the light on various developments and existing operations. Stakeholders are demanding feedback on compliance with legislation and authorisations granted in terms of legislation, accountability when it comes to environmental pollution and improper waste management, information on the insufficient use of resources, degradation of resources and a loss of biodiversity. This is evident in the trend in a number of groups advocating and gaining access to company information as per the case of the Centre for Environmental Rights and their full disclosure reports.

In 2014, the Minister of Environmental Affairs promulgated the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Regulations in terms of the National Environmental Management Act, 1998 (Act 107 of 1998) (NEMA). Regulation 34 of the EIA Regulations places an obligation on the Holder of an Environmental Authorisation or Environmental Management Programme to notify all potential registered interested and affected parties of the submission of audit reports. In addition, the Holder is required to make an audit report of the aforementioned documents available on a publicly accessible website. Expectation is that these requirements will be enforced on other environmental authorisations like Water Use Licences (WUL’s), Waste Management Licences (WML’s), Air Emissions Licences (AEL’s) in the near future. The expected outcome from this is a far greater and more in-depth scrutiny on activities undertaken by all stakeholders.

According to Maletic, Podpecan & Maletic (2015), external motives, like the mentioned stakeholder pressure, customer satisfaction, improved image are some reasons organizations implement ISO 14001 standards. In addition, Tari, Molina-Azorin & Heras (2012) cited Casadesus, Jimenez & Heras (2001), listing internal motives such as work satisfaction, safety at work, suggestions system, absence from work, salaries of workers, safety and reliability, on-time delivery, order processing, number of errors, stock rotation, quality costs and cost savings to motivate organizations to implement an ISO 14001 EMS. Whatever the reason for implementation, their contribution to a more sustainable environment is perceived as bigger than those not implementing the standard and often favoured.

One of the most prominent assumptions to not implement and ISO 14001 system, is that that availability of financial resources prevents organizations from implementing an ISO 14001 system as described by Turner & O’Neill (2007). Turner & O’Neill stated that a lack of knowledge and information and the objective to keep what works, staying away from the unknown, aided to these misperceptions, based on a study of 28 organizations within the Durban Automotive Cluster, using interviews, questionnaires and a literature review.


A major advantage for implementing a management system is the consistency it brings within the company, regionally and globally. Expectations, whether legal or organisational, and requirements within a company are aligned, documented and communicated to all stakeholders. Management systems aim to pull potentially disparate mini-systems into a single, integrated and functional one. The deliberate linking and sequencing of processes to create a repeatable and identifiable way of managing is one of the key characteristics of a management system.
Other drivers for the implementation of an EMS includes inter alia:
  • Improved environmental performance;
  • Improved internal control;
  • Competitiveness;
  • Market access;
  • New business opportunities;
  • Savings;
  • Reputation;
  • Statutory requirements; and
  • Risk and liability reduction.
The ISO 14001 Environmental Management System is neutral to certification, however can be used as an informal and internal best practice guideline, for self-declaration, second party recognition or third-party certification. The 2015 revision of the ISO 14001 management system aims to enhance consistency and alignment with the high-level structure of ISO management system standards, simplifying integrated use with other systems like ISO 50001, ISO 45001 and ISO 9001.

Lastly, it should also be noted that an ISO 14001 EMS does not only address environmental issues as can be seen in the list of drivers above, similarly and ISO 50001 Energy Management System is not restricted to matters related to Energy, ISO 45001 to health and safety and 9001 to quality. Each of these management systems provide a golden thread to manage and centralise all documented evidence with an emphasis on the purpose for which the management system is implemented as can be seen in the figure below:

Figure 1: Model and structure for a Management System

With the ever-increasing scrutiny and focussing on company specific environmental performance, it is crucial for organisations to take measurable steps for ensuring compliance with commitments and proving their accountability and transparency.
With extensive experience in the field of management systems, ENVASS has the ability to support these initiatives by fulfilling roles related to the implementation of an EMS, including but not limited to the following:
  • Development;
  • Implementation;
  • Maintenance;
  • Internal Audits;
  • Legal Registers;
  • GAP Audits;
  • Environmental and Systems Training;
  • Risk assessments (inclusive of Aspect and Impact assessments); and
  • Compliance audits.
In addition to the above, ENVASS has partnered with Certification Bodies to assist with the certification of an ISO 14001 EMS, should an organisation wish to certify their EMS.

Maletic, M., Podpecan, M., Maletic, D. (2015). ISO 14001 in a corporate sustainability context: a multiple case study approach. Management of Environmental Quality: An International Journal. 26(6), pp. 872-890.

Tari, J.J, Molina-Azorin & Heras, I. (2012). Benefits of the ISO 9001 and ISO 14001 standards: A literature review. Journal of Industrial Engineering and Management. 5(2), pp. 297-322.

Turner, A & O’Neill, C. 2007. Confronting the inevitable: ISO 14001: Implementation and the Durban Automotive Cluster. South African Journal of Industrial Engineering. 18(2), pp 1-19

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