Tim's Blog

ISO 14001:2015 - The role of top management


The old 2004 version of the 14001 standard assigned three main responsibilities to top management: environmental policy, management review and appointment of a management representative. The new version of the standard details nine responsibilities.



Who is “top management”?


The standard defines it as “a person or group of people who directs and controls an organisation at the highest level”. Although top management may delegate the responsibilities, it nevertheless retains accountability for ensuring they are performed (Sections 3.1.5, A.5.1).


They must “demonstrate leadership and commitment”, as well as direct or be personally involved in nine specific responsibility areas (5.1-5.3):


  1. Take accountability for the effective operation of the environmental management system; this includes assigning responsibilities and authorities to relevant roles.
  2. Ensure the environmental policy and the environmental objectives are established, implemented and maintained, and are compatible with the strategic direction of the organisation.
  3. Ensure the EMS requirements are integrated into the organisation’s business processes.
  4. Ensure that the resources needed by those with environmental responsibilities are provided.
  5. Communicate the importance of (a) effective environmental management and (b) conforming with EMS requirements.
  6. Ensure the EMS achieves its intended outcomes and is suitable, adequate and effective. This will usually be achieved through regular formal reviews.
  7. Promote continuous improvement.
  8. Direct and support staff to contribute to the effectiveness of the EMS.
  9. Support other relevant management roles to demonstrate their leadership as it applies to their areas of responsibility


Certification auditors assure me they will be speaking to top management to test their knowledge, involvement and commitment in relation to each of these 9 requirements. The standard implies that they will be expected to monitor the performance of the EMS and personally take action if the EMS is underperforming.