Tim's Blog

Defining opportunities in ISO 14001


While the need for “risk” analysis was implied in past versions of ISO 14001 (eg. the need to determine “significant” aspects), formal identification of “opportunities” is new in the 2015 standard.


The new standard requires identification of the risks and opportunities, and planned actions to address them (Clause 6.1).  Risks and opportunities can stem from your environmental aspects, compliance obligations, and needs and expectations of interested parties (4.2, 6.1.1).


I think everyone knows about risks, but the “opportunities” requirements might be a little harder to visualise.



An “opportunity” is simply a potential benefit


Some examples of “opportunities”:


  • performing beyond compliance obligations: which can enhance the organisation’s reputation
  • engaging with neighbours and building relationships: which can have benefits down the track
  • reducing waste: which can reduce water use, usage of other resources and therefore costs
  • integration of management systems: which can streamline operations and reduce costs.


When identifying opportunities for improvement, consider the outcomes of: a) analysis and evaluation of environmental performance, b) evaluation of compliance, c) internal audits, and d) management review (A.10.1).





Documenting opportunities


ISO 14001:2015 does not specify how risks and opportunities should be recorded and managed, however it does require documented plans for addressing them (6.1.1, 6.1.4). Opportunities can be documented in the Environmental Aspects Register, or listed with your environmental objectives (or put anywhere you like!).


Unlike risks, they do not require formal risk management or a documented risk management process (A.6.1.1). You may, however, choose to prioritise them and action those that offer the most benefit to your organisation or the environment.


Changes in risks and opportunities need to be included in management reviews, documented, and any resulting actions adequately resourced (9.3).