Jump to Navigation
Jump to Content

The ISO 14001 Environmental Management Systems Standard: A Modest Perspective

December 1997

Citation: ELR 10622

Author: Christopher L. Bell

Since the final publication in late 1996 of the International Organization for Standardization's (ISO's) environmental management systems (EMSs) standard, ISO 14001, the cacophony of claims and counterclaims about the standard has grown louder. The commentary is wide-ranging, with some of the more noteworthy claims being that ISO 14001:

. is a "green passport" signifying environmental excellence;

. is a plot by industry to undercut more deserving international environmental initiatives;

. is a plot by consultants to make money off of industry;

. is a plot by governments and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) to push a "green agenda";

. is a basis for eliminating environmental regulations;

. is irrelevant to compliance assurance;

. is useless as a tool for improving environmental performance;

. does not represent the "leading edge" of thinking in the EMS area;

. represents a completely "new paradigm" for thinking about environmental issues;

. is too complicated and expensive for implementation by small and medium-sized enterprises;

. will be used as a nontariff trade barrier; and

. will facilitate trade.

But the range of opinion on ISO 14001 provides public and private organizations with little useful advice on fundamental questions such as why, whether, where, when, and how to implement ISO 14001, and what decisions about ISO 14001 might mean for purposes of environmental protection, public policy, and trade.

The author is a partner in the law firm of Sidley & Austin in Washington, D.C. He is one of the lead negotiators for the U.S. delegation on ISO 14001, and is assisting a number of clients in the United States, Asia, and South America on ISO 14001 implementation issues.

You must be a News & Analysis subscriber to download the full article.

You are not logged in. To access this content: