Last reviewed 4 November 2014

The year 2015 promises to be a highly significant one for management system standards, as the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) plans to publish the revised versions of ISO 14001 and ISO 9001. Rick Gould tells us what to expect.

The revised standards

The standards being revised, ISO/DIS 14001 Environmental Management Systems — Requirements, and ISO/DIS 9001 Quality Management Systems — Requirements, can be found at They are, respectively, the specification for environmental management systems (EMS) and for quality management systems (QMS).

There have been many reports on the progress of the two standards, since both are going through major revisions; indeed, ISO is making such significant changes that the standards body intends that both new standards will not need further revisions for at least two decades.

The year of publication is not the only thing that the two new standards will have in common; both standards, for example, require organisations to consider their context, which means that an organisation has to consider the needs of all of its stakeholders, together with the organisation’s wider effects and influences both upstream and downstream of its activities. Furthermore, both new standards require a greater degree of leadership and specify clear requirements for applying the process-based approach.

Both also emphasise the importance of risk management and improving performance. Indeed, the revised draft of ISO 9001 prescribes that users of the standard must identify and manage risks in order to improve business performance in the context of the organisation, whilst the revised version of ISO 14001 emphasises the management of environmental risks and the subsequent improvement of environmental performance. These changes to both standards dispel a current, common view that the concept of continual improvement applies to the management system itself, rather than directly to the performance that the system is designed to manage.

These new and parallel changes are not coincidental, as both the revised versions of ISO 9001 and ISO 14001 —— along with all other new management systems standards and revisions of existing ones — will be based on a new ISO high-level structure (HLS) which ensures that all such standards will share a common framework.

This article therefore goes on to describe the main features of the new HLS, and how the structure will have a major impact on integrated management systems.

The high-level structure

Existing management system standards all have common areas, such as the Plan-Do-Check-Act (PDCA) cycle, but this is not always obvious as few look especially similar. In theory, all new management systems standards should have followed a common vein and therefore look very comparable, since all were based on the ISO Guide 83. Ironically, however, this guide was not prescriptive enough to provide a strong degree of uniformity and harmonisation in management system standards; for example, the current versions of ISO 9001 and ISO 14001 include tables in their annexes which state how each clause in one standard relates to another.

Although both standards apply the PDCA cycle and include parallel requirements, it is not intuitively clear to readers how these standards relate to each other; for example, in the core requirements of these standards, ISO 9001 has 5 main sections and 23 sub-sections, whereas ISO 14001 has 6 main sections and 15 sub-sections. Hence the necessity of the tables comparing the two standards. Fortunately, though, for both current and future users of the standards, the new versions will not need tables to show how these two standards are connected, since they will share a common framework known as the high-level standard (HLS) or Annex SL.

Following a review of ISO Guide 83 and a clear need for a much stronger harmonisation of management systems standards, ISO revised its guidance and published (in 2012) a revised set of Directives for standards developers. (Appendix 2, Annex SL, within ISO/IEC Directives, Part 1, Consolidated ISO Supplement — Procedures Specific to ISO, is available from the ISO.) Annex SL within these Directives specifies firm and binding requirements for the structure of all new management systems standards and revisions to existing ones.

In effect, Annex SL provides a foundation with clearly defined sections, headings and sub-sections. The Annex also contains paragraphs of compulsory text, together with common terms and definitions. This means that the revised versions of ISO 9001 and ISO 14001 have ten sections in common, several shared definitions, and much of the same text. Table 1 (further below) shows the common headings, whilst each type of management system standard adds its own specific text and requirement within the applicable sections.

Seamless integration

Although organisations with an EMS and QMS based on ISO 14001 and ISO 9001 respectively will have to apply some significant changes from next year, the task of creating a true, integrated system will be much easier. Moreover, if an organisation creates a core management-system based on Annex SL, it will be much simpler to add the requirements of specific standards. In effect, Annex SL provides the template for a truly integrated system.

Although the working groups which have developed standards have previously tried to make standards converge, the lack of a common structure has not made this task straightforward. The British Standards Institution has even published a guidance document, PAS 99, which describes how organisations can meld common, existing management system standards. However, from 2015, Annex SL will make this a lot easier as it sets out the common structure. Furthermore, many organisations operate health and safety management systems based on another standard: OHSAS 18001.

Currently ISO is also developing a similar standard based on this, albeit built around Annex SL as well. Therefore the new health and safety management systems standard, draft ISO 45001 (ISO/CD 45001 (2014), Health and Safety Management Systems — Requirements, is available from will readily blend with the new versions of ISO 9001 and ISO 14001, as it too will consist of ten sections, together with the common, shared text, terms and definitions.

So when will ISO publish all these standards?

Publication schedule

The revisions to ISO 14001 and ISO 9001 have progressed to the Draft International Standard (DIS) stage, which means that the drafts have one more stage to go before progressing to the final editing and subsequent publication. If everything progresses to plan, then ISO will publish both standards in 2015, most likely in the second half of the year. The draft ISO 45001 is still at the Committee Draft stage, which is one stage before the DIS stage. Ordinarily, such drafts are rarely available outside the ISO technical committees and their mirror groups in national standards bodies. However, considering the widespread and global use of ISO 9001, ISO 14001 and OHSAS 18001, ISO has made the drafts available for purchase.






Normative References


Terms and Definition


Context of the Organisation


Understanding the organisation and its context


Understanding the needs and expectations of interested parties


Determining the scope of the management system


Management system




Leadership and commitment




Organisation roles, responsibilities and authorities




Actions to address risks and opportunities


Quality objectives and planning to achieve them












Documented information




Creating and updating


Control of documented information




Operational planning and control


Performance Evaluation


Monitoring, measurement, analysis and evaluation


Internal audit


Management review




Nonconformity and corrective action


Continual improvement