How to extend your existing QMS to an IMS that addresses ISO 14001


All over the world, there are clearly rising concerns about climate change, sustainability and other environmental issues. The wider community is increasingly aware of how business activities affect the environment. In fact, some customers now specify environmental management requirements that their suppliers must meet.

Perhaps the most tangible evidence of an organization’s environmental commitment is that its management system is certified to the ISO 14001 standard.

While many thousands of organizations have already achieved this distinction, more than 5 times as many management systems have certified according to the ISO 9001 quality standard. Many thousands more have management systems in place, but have not yet applied for certification. For them, a logical progression may be to extend their existing quality management system to an integrated management system that also meets the requirements of ISO 14001. This article takes a brief look at the issues involved in doing just that. Before we go any further, let’s just clarify what the ISO 9000 and ISO 14000 series or family of standards are all about.

The ISO 9000 family addresses quality management. It means what the organization does to meet the customer’s quality requirements while meeting the needs and expectations of other stakeholders.

The ISO 14000 family addresses environmental management. This means what the organization does to eliminate or reduce harmful environmental impacts caused by its activities.

In both cases, an organization must maintain compliance with applicable legal and regulatory requirements and work to continuously improve performance.

The good news

You know the conversations where you are asked “Do you want the good news or the bad news?” In this case, there is not really bad news – just some extra activities and controls that need to be put in place. We’ll get to them in a moment, but the really good news is that if you have a management system that complies with ISO 9001, you ALWAYS comply with most of ISO 14001. The reason is that many of the requirements are very similar. It’s mostly just a matter of focus – on product / service quality OR the environment.

What are the similarities and differences?


The following list – although not exhaustive – indicates some key areas where the 2 standards have at least a broadly similar philosophy and requirements:

  • Based on the Plan-Do-Check-Act cycle
  • The purpose of achieving continuous improvement
  • State the overall policy
  • Set measurable goals
  • Assign responsibilities / authorities
  • Make sure people have been trained, competent and aware of their role
  • Document the system
  • Manage these documents
  • Manage activities
  • Handle exceptions
  • Manage records
  • Plan and perform internal audits
  • management Report


Apart from their focus on different compliance issues, there are also some practical differences between the requirements of the 2 standards. These include:

ISO 9001 is more prescriptive in its documentation requirements

For example, there is a requirement that you must have a “Quality Manual” and documented procedures for at least 6 clauses:

  • Checking documents
  • Checking records
  • Internal audits
  • Checking non-compliant product
  • Correction
  • Preventive action

While ISO 14001 DOES has similar clauses and requires procedures to manage these activities, they do NOT need to be documented. If you have already documented them for compliance with ISO 9001, these existing documented procedures can also be used for your environmental management activities. They just need to be reviewed and adjusted to fit both purposes.

ISO 14001 does not include a requirement for something similar to a quality manual. However, if you already have one, it can be expanded to include relevant information such as environmental policy, environmental responsibility information and authorities, and a table showing how the system addresses the various ISO 14001 clauses. In such cases, it is quite typical to rename Quality Manual to Business manual or Compliance manual.

Consideration of environmental aspects and impacts

For those who have only been subject to quality management, one of the key differences in ISO 14001 is found in section 4.3.1 ENVIRONMENTAL ASPECTS.

Certain aspects of an organization’s activities, products or services will have a certain impact on the environment. For your organization, identify what these aspects are, what effects they have and assess their importance. This can be considered a risk assessment activity. Then you need to put in place controls to manage those considered significant. At this point, it may be helpful to offer a definition of the terms ‘environmental aspect’ and ‘environmental impact’:

  • Environmental aspect An element of an activity, product or service that has an impact on the environment
  • Environmental impact A change made to the environment as a result of an environmental aspect

You can think of them simply in terms of cause and effect. Let’s look at some examples of environmental aspects:

  • Consumption of carton for packaging products
  • Consumption of fuel for delivery vehicles
  • Use of energy for office lighting

The following are examples of environmental impacts:

  • Noise nuisance to the local community
  • Depletion of non-renewable energy resource
  • Water pollution
  • Air pollution
  • Increased carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere

To tackle this element of the standard, an initial environmental review is needed to identify your aspects and impacts, assess their significance, and plan a hierarchy of controls to properly manage them.

External communication

While both standards require organizations to establish methods of internal communication about the management system, ISO 14001 also requires procedures for managing communication with external stakeholders, such as customers, regulators and the wider community.

What are the key challenges?

We asked some certification body representatives: What do you consider to be the number one challenge for an organization going from a QMS to an IMS that contains ISO 14001 requirements?

Given Scott Walker, Queensland Operations Support Manager for SAI Global:

The biggest challenge for a QMS moving to an IMS that contains ISO 14001 requirements has shifted its focus from product risks to those related to the environment and human health, and from consumer protection to environmental protection.

Garry Allan, senior environmental auditor with SAI Global comments:

Many IMSs have trouble focusing appropriately on the specific requirements of each area.

Ian White, senior quality and environmental auditor with Sci-Qual suggests:

An organization must define the EMS framework that addresses both the system requirements of the 14001 standard and the significant environmental aspects associated with their activities. The organization will ideally conduct an environmental audit of their activities to determine the environmental aspects associated with their operations. From a commercial viability perspective, the company then has to risk assess their significant environmental aspects to minimize the potential and / or real significant environmental impacts that may arise as a result of their activities. The main challenge is to include the significant environmental aspects, their impact and control in the operational procedures of the organization.

So how do you go from a QMS to an IMS with ISO 14001 requirements? The first step is to perform a gap analysis.

Gap analysis

A gap analysis is a study to compare a current situation with a desired situation. There are two key issues:

  • Where are we now?
  • Where do we want to go?

To answer these environmental management questions, prepare a table showing the ISO 14001 requirements (or at least a summary or interpretation of them). The ISO 14001 standard is available from your local standard association and other approved sources. For each clause, you can then note the current arrangements (if any) that are in place and the gaps between them and how to achieve compliance with the standard.

The GAB analysis can be performed internally or by a consultant or internally – perhaps using a commercially available planning tool. The choice of path to take can be determined by several factors – including the level of internal expertise, the complexity of the company and its environmental aspects / impacts. However, the gap analysis is the foundation stone on which to plan and develop the broader IMS.

As mentioned above, you must also make an initial environmental review.


Many certification bodies that audit and certify under ISO 9001 perform the same service for ISO 14001. The cost of certifying an integrated management system that addresses both standards should also be less than simply doubling the cost of a single certification. There may be reductions in administrative costs and audit time. Contact your certification body to discuss your combined certification options.


Concern for the environment is likely to increase only further. Having a management system certified to the ISO 14001 standard is perhaps the most tangible evidence of an organization’s environmental commitment.

For those with an existing quality management system, the step to an IMS that also complies with ISO 14001 may be better than first imagined. It is certainly worth considering on many levels. Much of the work required can usually be done internally. This can be assisted with consulting services, training and software for guidance, to save time and management efforts.


Thank you very much for the valuable input from: Scott Walker and Garry Allan from SAI Global, Ben White and Ian White from Sci-Qual International and Steve Keeling from JAS-ANZ.