Addition of climate change to the ISO management system standards

On 29 February ISO published an amendment to many of its existing and new management system standards. It includes text that requires companies to consider relevance of climate change risks in their analysis of the organizations context and needs of interested parties.

The change follows the ISO London Declaration where ISO commits to combat climate change and contribute to the climate agenda.

For some standards, climate change risks may not be what first comes to mind. ISO’s intention is not to force a connection but to ensure that every organization includes climate change as part of their contextual analysis and if deemed relevant considers it into the design and implementation of the management system.

Understanding the context of the organization and the needs and demands of interested parties is already mandatory and outlined in Chapter 4 of the ISO standard’s Harmonized Structure. The only new action required, as such, is that climate change as a topic must always be considered as part of this analysis.

What standards?

The climate change amendment applies to all Type A ISO management system standards, i.e. those that specify requirements and to which companies can be certified.  This includes the following standards:  ISO 14001, ISO 15378, ISO 19443, ISO 21001, ISO 22000, ISO 22301, ISO 28000, ISO 29001, ISO 37001, ISO 45001, ISO 50001, ISO 9001, ISO/IEC 20000 and ISO/IEC 27001. (See full list of standards in joint Communiqué from IAF and ISO.)

The inherent relevance of climate change will largely differ for the various standards due to their different scopes and intended purpose. Relevance will also depend on factors such as the location and nature of the organization, e.g. business sector, type of processes, products and services, etc.

What is the requirement?

The amendment is included in Chapter 4 of the Harmonized Structure (Appendix 2 of the Annex SL in the ISO/IEC Directives Part 1 Consolidated ISO Supplement):

  • 4.1 Understanding the organization and its context where the following sentence is added: “The organization shall determine whether climate change is a relevant issue”.
  • 4.2 Understanding the needs and expectations of interested parties where the following sentence is added: “NOTE: Relevant interested parties can have requirements related to climate change”.

In short, the new requirement stipulates that organizations shall determine whether climate change is a relevant issue and whether relevant interested parties have requirements related to climate change. If found to be a relevant issue, climate change needs to be considered in the development and implementation of the management system. If you already have a management system certified to an ISO standard, you are already conducting this type of contextual analysis.  The only difference is that climate change must always be a topic that is considered in your analysis and if found relevant be part of your management system.

Greenhouse gases, global warming and climate change have been on the agenda for more than 30 years, involving governments, authorities, businesses, NGOs and society at large. The negative effects from emissions are evident and contributions from all are essential.

Many organizations have already determined how climate change affects their businesses. For those who have yet to do so, this may be an opportunity to start assessing climate change risks and equip the management system to help tackle challenges.

The DNV auditor will include these add-ons in future audit activities when assessing these parts of the management system.