Legal requirements form the foundation of ISO 14001:2015. However, what does legal requirements compliance in terms of ISO 14001:2015 entail?
Clause 3 Terms and Definitions lists the preferred term as ‘compliance obligations’ with ‘legal requirements’ and other requirements as an admitted term. It describes compliance obligations as legal requirements that an organisation must comply with and other requirements that an organisation must or chooses to comply with. In terms of Note 2, compliance obligations may arise from mandatory requirements such as laws and regulations, voluntary commitments such as the organisation’s own rules and industry standards, contractual relationships, codes of practice, and agreements with communities or NGOs.
In terms of clause 6.1.3, an organisation is required to determine and have access to environmental compliance obligations. These compliance obligations must be considered when the organisation establishes, implements, and maintains its Environmental Management System (EMS).
Based on this, what are the steps for ensuring compliance obligations are met?
The Environmental Policy should reflect the commitment of top management to fulfil its compliance obligations as required by clause 5.2(d). The compliance obligations will include applicable laws and regulations, contractual relationships and codes of practice, and industry standards that the organisation is committed to.
Clause 4.3(b) of ISO 14001:2015 states that the organisation should determine its compliance obligations related to its activities, products, and services. Hundreds of laws and regulations may apply to the organisation’s activities, products, and services and it may be necessary to appoint a specialist external service provider to determine which laws and regulations the organisation, by law, must comply with.
An organisation must also determine interested parties relevant to the EMS, what their requirements are and which of these requirements constitute compliance obligations (see clause 4.2(c).
The organisation should plan how it intends fulfilling its compliance obligations. It should determine if there is full or partial compliance or no compliance at all. Where there is no compliance or partial compliance, it should set a target date for achieving full compliance which can be measured and monitored.
The organisation should have tools in place for dealing with compliance obligations such as documentary evidence to demonstrate compliance, responsibilities, assignments, and authorisations for compliance-related requirements, a compliance-related communication process as well as training and awareness of its compliance obligations.
Clause 7.2 requires the organisation to determine the necessary competence of person(s) working under its control that affects its ability to fulfil its compliance obligations. This means that all people working for the organisation, be they full-time or part-time employees or subcontractors must be competent based on education, training, or experience.
ISO 14001:2015 requires an organisation to establish, implement and maintain processes required to evaluate fulfilment of its compliance obligations (see clause 9.1.2). It must also maintain knowledge of its compliance status (see clause 9.2(c)). This usually involves establishing a legal register.
Periodic and systematic evaluation of compliance is vitally important, because even if the organisation is compliant today, it may not be compliant in six months. Where any non-compliance with legal requirements is discovered, the organisation is required to take immediate corrective action which may include notification of regulatory authorities of non-compliance.
Clause 9.3(d)(3) requires top management to review the EMS and consider information on the organisation’s environmental performance including trends in fulfilment of its compliance obligations. This requires the environmental management representative to inform top management through the management review process about the results of the evaluation of compliance and possible changes in legal requirements. This is done to ensure that top management is aware of the risks of potential or actual non-compliance and has taken appropriate steps to meet the commitment to compliance obligations.
While certification of an EMS against the requirements of ISO 14001:2015 is not a guarantee of legal compliance, it is a proven and efficient tool to achieve and maintain such compliance obligations.
WWISE can assist in performing a gap analysis for the implementation of ISO 14001:2015, provide professional consulting or implementation services, conduct legal compliance assessments, draft legal registers, and provide ISO 14001:2015 related training. Contact us for more information on 0861 099 473, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit our website at www.wwise.co.za