Designing an Environmental Management System based on ISO 14001:2015 and 19011:2011

A well-structured, implemented and maintained Environmental Management System (EMS) will bring value to an organization. A focus on identification, ranking and structured reduction of environmental risks enables well managed, continual environmental improvements. It also enables preparedness for unexpected environmental incidents. More than that, it is a key to strong due diligence for Directors and Officers of organizations. It may even be a requirement for international trade.

ISO 14001 is accepted as the international standard for environmental management systems and well over 100,000 organizations have adopted it throughout the world.

Designing an Environmental Management System Based on ISO 14001 is a 40-hour hands-on course that leads to development by participants of an environmental management system. The class uses the latest (2015) version of ISO 14001: Environmental management systems - Requirements with guidance for use. The class materials also incorporate key elements of ISO 19011: Guidelines for auditing management systems. The course is structured with a careful balance of instruction and in-class exercises. Small teams will daily review intricacies of the ISO standard and assemble important elements of their EMS (e.g. what is expected in an environmental policy? How does one set up a matrix to rank environmental risks? What is required for document structure, content and management? How is senior management expected to be engaged in the EMS?) They will then discuss their results with the class.

At the conclusion of the project, participants will have developed the main elements of an environmental management system manual according to ISO 14001 criteria. The component parts of their manuals are directly applicable to the diverse workplace environments of class participants.

Understanding ISO 14001 is important for students who are interested in, or required to complete Auditing Environmental and OH&S Management Systems.

You will learn

  • The elements of a solid environmental management system (EMS) that conforms to international expectations;
  • How to interpret and understand the language of the Standard;
  • How to identify and manage environmental risks;
  • How to manage emergency preparedness;
  • How to evaluate strengths and weaknesses in an EMS;
  • How to involve Top Management in the EMS;
  • How to achieve continual environmental improvements;
  • How through team work, to compare and contrast different approaches to the same problems; and
  • Methods for applying the ISO principles to your own specific frame of reference.


Day 1 - registration/check-in will start at 8:00 a.m. with sessions to begin at 8:30 a.m. and adjourn at 4:00 p.m. Days 2-5 will commence at 8:30 a.m. and adjourn at 4:00 p.m. There will be 15 minute mid-morning and afternoon breaks. A light lunch is included.

Program outline

Overview of class exercises to develop an ISO 14001 Environmental Management System

Day 1

Teams must define desktop, fictional organizations for which they will develop environmental management systems (EMS). They have 3 tasks:
1. describe the activities, products and services of the organization (define what it does that can have environmental impacts);
2. list the federal, provincial and municipal regulations that apply; and
3. develop an environmental policy.

Day 2

Present Day 1 to whole class and discuss.

Then, knowing the nature of the business, Teams learn how to develop a risk ranking matrix on all the activities, products and services so they can develop a multi-year program to focus efforts and resources to manage environmental risks.

Day 3

Present Day 2 results for class discussion.

With the risk matrix developed, how does an organization develop its programs to manage selected risks? How do they establish and implement annual programs to achieve their goals? This involves development of standard operating procedures which have structured document control requirements. How can an organization develop procedures to get prepared for environmental emergencies?

Day 4

Present Day 3 for class discussion.

An environmental management system is a continuing cycle of Plan, Do, Check, Act. The “Check” component includes the very important roles as defined in ISO 14001, of Top Management to direct and support the process. Without this, there is no EMS. In actual reviews of an organization’s EMS, it useful to begin by scrutinizing documentation to understand how effectively Top Management has discharged their responsibilities. So there is a class exercise to help understand Top Management roles and responsibilities.

Day 5

Present Day 4 for class discussion.

Teams have now developed manuals containing key elements of an EMS according to ISO 14001. But in-total, how well do they match the precise requirements of 14001? Teams trade manuals and use prepared check lists to review another Team’s draft manual for adequacy (this is also a requirement of one section of ISO 14001). Results are discussed in class.


John Underwood, Ph.D., has over 40 years of environmental experience within academia, government and industry. He held national certification for 25 years to lead environmental management system and compliance audits. He developed, and then managed the environmental audit program across Emera for eighteen years. He also provided guidance as the organization developed its ISO 14001 environmental management systems in the mid 1990's. Dr. Underwood has taught many classes on management system development and environmental auditing to environmental officials/specialists from government and the private sector. He also continues to help large organizations with EMS implementation and their compliance audit programs.