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Podcast: ISO and climate change - why are many of the familiar ISO management system standards being amended, and what does this mean for standards users?

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The International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO), is amending many of the familiar management system standards to insert an additional requirement and a note related to climate change.

In this episode, we are joined by the Chair of the ISO Technical Committee 283 for Occupational Health & Safety Management (owner of the ISO 45000 series of standards), and a returning guest of the podcast, Martin Cottam, to discuss the actions ISO is taking in relation to climate change and how these changes impact standard users. Listen to find out more.

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LRQA: The Future in Focus

Hello everyone. To all of our listeners worldwide, welcome to LRQA's future in focus podcast. My name is Holly Plackett. I am a global marketing executive for LRQA, and it is my pleasure to host this podcast episode for you today. I'm joined by a returning guest of this podcast, Martin Cottam. Hi, Martin. It's great to have you back on the podcast. How are you doing?

Hi, Holly. I'm really well, thank you. And it's great to be back on the podcast.

I'm glad to hear. Would you mind quickly introducing yourself for our new listeners and explain a little bit about who you are and what you do?

Yes, of course. So, I'm the chair of ISO Technical Committee 283 for Occupational Health and Safety Management, the committee that owns the ISO 45000 series of standards and I've chaired that committee since its formation in 2018, and I've just been appointed for a further term as chair, but I've actually been involved in the development of standards first at national and then at international level for over 25 years, and that standards both for occupational health and safety. And also standards for asset management. Now standards have also played a huge role in my day job over the same period. Initially as an auditor of quality OH&S and asset management systems, and then later on becoming the person responsible for the organisational management system, and its effectiveness and its conformity to standards.

I worked for 31 years for Lloyds Register Group, which at the time included LRQA. Eventually, as the group technical assurance and quality director.

Thanks so much for that, Martin. So today we're discussing actions that ISO is taking in relation to climate change, and specifically how this is leading to the amendment of many of the familiar management system standards. But first, can you describe more broadly what is driving these changes?

Yes, sure. I mean, the starting point for all the actions we're discussing today was ISO's Uh, London Declaration, which was signed into force at the ISO General Assembly back in 2021, in which ISO committed to work with its members, that's the national standards bodies, and with other stakeholders and partners to ensure that international standards and publications Accelerate the successful achievement of the Paris agreement, the UN sustainable development goals, and the United Nations call for action on adaptation and resilience. And this really amounted to making action on climate change a strategic priority for the whole ISO organisation. And why did I sort of feel that this was so important? Well, I think because international standards play a crucial role. In underpinning the global economy, particularly by creating trust on all aspects of international trade.

I mean, in particular, ISO has a number of standards that are essential in supporting the climate agenda, helping us adapt to climate change, quantifying greenhouse gas emissions, promoting the dissemination of good practice and environmental management. But more generally, without up to date international standards, industry and other stakeholders really will struggle to achieve what's necessary.

Because for effective climate action to be taken across the globe, and for people like us to be able to understand and trust what we're being told about that action. We need common definitions. We need common metrics. We need to be able to verify processes and data. Otherwise, we're just in a world of smoke and mirrors and very much open to being deceived by greenwashing.

So that's the overall motivation for this set of actions. And the London declaration included three specific commitments. Firstly, to foster the active consideration of climate science and associated transitions in, in the development of all new and revised international standards and publications.

Secondly, to facilitate the involvement of civil society and those most vulnerable to climate change. In the development of international standards and publications, and then thirdly, to develop and publish an action plan and the measurement framework, detailing concrete actions and initiatives and a reporting mechanism to track progress.

And it's the first of these commitments, namely to address climate change in all new and revised standards, which has driven a review across all ISO standards. And one outcome of that is the decision to amend many of the familiar management system standards, our topic of discussion today. Well, it's certainly good to hear of an organisation such as ISO taking climate change action so seriously.

So is the review of standards being coordinated across the whole portfolio of standards? or being left to individual committees to decide what to do? Well, actually, there are elements of both. There has been a top down review covering the entire portfolio of, wait for it, 24,000 ISO standards. And this has identified all the standards which potentially need to be updated to address climate change and its effects.

And it's prioritised these. And the resulting review and updating of individual standards based on that prioritisation will then be undertaken by individual committees that own those relevant standards. So that's the top down element, but there isn't also a bottom up element in that individual technical committees have been encouraged to consider the effects of climate change in respect of their own area of responsibility and to take whatever action they consider necessary.

Now, the committee I chair, TC 283 for occupational health and safety management is an example of a committee that has taken action in this way, developing a guidance document specifically addressing the OHS impacts of climate change and perhaps I can talk a little bit more about that later on.

Thanks, Martin. 24,000. Wow, that's a lot of standards, but thank you for that explanation. And can you tell us more specifically about the upcoming amendment of some of the familiar management system standards? And firstly, which standards are affected?

Yes, sure. Now, now, this change in a way sits somewhere between those top down and bottom up changes that I was describing a moment ago, as this was an initiative by the committee, which provides coordination across all the management system standards.

It's the same committee, in fact, which owns the Annex SL. Harmonised approach, which provides that common structure and that identical core text, which is used in so many of the management system standards. So, the amendments represent consensus across the various committees, which own those different management system standards, such as TC 176 for quality management, TC 207 for environmental management. TC 283 for occupational health and safety management and so on. And those, amendments were then approved by a ballot of ISO members. Again, that's national standards bodies. So which standards then are actually affected? Well, we're talking about changes to the identical core text of Annex SL. So these changes affect all standards, which use that core text.

Now, the core text contains requirements or shall statements, and so, in fact, it's the standards which contain requirement standards, which are affected by these changes. Those are sometimes called type A management system standards that typically the best known, in fact, of the management system standards. So it's ISO 9001, it's ISO 14001, it's ISO 45001, and so on. Those standards, in fact, which are designed for conformity assessment, uh, including, independent third party certification. Now, I've mentioned just three standards so far, but in fact, there are over 30 such standards, which are being amended as part of this process and the only exception for standards, which use the core text, but which are not being amended is for standards, which are so close now to issuing a full revision that it doesn't make any sense to issue an amendment now, and then have it almost immediately followed by a full revision of the standard. So, in those cases, the changes are being put directly into the revision and there won't be an amendment made. In fact, one standard that was already undergoing revision has actually already reached publication now within the last few weeks. So the first standard to include these new requirements has actually already been issued. That's ISO 7101 on management systems for quality in healthcare organisations.

And perhaps I should clarify what we mean by an amendment as opposed to a revision. An amendment is simply a list of changes to a standard. So in this case, it's a single page document simply describing what additional words have been added and where they've been added. And the issuing of the amendment leaves the existing version of the standard in force, but with those additions, and that's really quite different from a revision, which is where the whole document is republished with changes incorporated into a new version and that supersedes the version that was previously in force.

I know our audience will find that information very useful, particularly the part around the exception for standards that will soon undergo a full revision, as I'm sure many people will be wondering how that works so thank you for that. So continuing, can you share more detail around what the changes are?

Yes, of course. It's actually quite straightforward. There are just two changes being introduced and they both occur in clause four of the standard, which is the section called context of the organisation. And in clause 4.1, that this, all the standards contain the requirement for the organisation to understand the context in which it's operating, the external and internal issues that are relevant to its, its ability to achieve the objectives of the management system, and then need to be taken into account in the design of the management system. And in that clause, the following extra words have been added. The organisation shall determine whether climate change is a relevant issue and then in the subsequent clause 4.2, now, that's the clause, which talks about the organisation needing to understand the needs and expectations of interested parties.

A note has been added at the end of the clause reading as follows relevant interested parties can have requirements related to climate change.

So the first of these changes reads like a new requirement. The organisation shall determine whether climate change is a relevant issue, but actually, it follows from an existing requirement that was always been there, that the organisation shall determine external and internal issues relevant to its purpose that affect its ability to achieve the intended results of the management system. Now, if you think about that, that original requirement, should have led any organisation for which climate change is a relevant issue, to have identified it as such, because that was the nature of that general requirement to identify everything that's relevant. So the new clause isn't really adding. It's simply reinforcing this message by specifically calling out climate change as an issue to be considered as part of this, so it can't possibly be ignored.

And then the second change, this statement that relevant interested parties can have requirements related to climate change, appears as a note. And notes are advisory by nature in standards. So, again, there's no new requirement here. It's simply a very explicit reminder to include climate change when you're thinking about and identifying the needs and expectations of your interested parties. So you might ask the question, why are these changes being made if they're just reminders to do something that the organisation should have been doing anyway?

Well, there has been some quite clear evidence that not all organisations are actually considering the impact of climate change. On all areas, uh, covered by their management systems, despite the fact that the requirements seem to be there pretty clearly from the start. And for example, I've, I've personally heard feedback indicating that there are many more organisations considering climate change in the context of their quality management systems than are yet considering it in relation to occupational health and safety management.

So, that's just one example, but there is some evidence now suggesting that, that reminders are needed, and of course that's reminders both for the organisations themselves, the owners of the management system, but I'm sure it will also serve as a useful reminder for certification bodies and accreditors. There's a real effort to help and encourage that all organisations become fully alert to and proactive about addressing the risks arising from climate change.

Okay, great. Thanks for explaining that. And do you know when we should expect these changes to take effect?

Well, we're expecting ISO to simultaneously release the amendment of all 30 odd affected standards during January 2024 or possibly early part of February. And once the amendments are issued, effectively, they take effect immediately. So that's rather different from the situation where a full revision of a standard occurs. And as people would be familiar, there's then normally a transition period for organisations to adopt the revised requirements. But that doesn't apply in this case, because with this amendment, firstly, the change is very small. And secondly, actually, the change doesn't introduce any new requirements. So there isn't a need for a sort of lengthy transition period. And incidentally, it's likely, but it's not yet certain, so don't hold me to it, that the amendments, the one page documents will be made available to standards users without charge.

Great. I think what you said there about there not being a lengthy transition period is something that's going to be really useful for our audience to know and really, good to note. So thanks for that. And moving on to what I think will be one of the most asked questions Can we talk a bit more about what this means for standard users, how these changes will affect them and how the changes are likely to be addressed under certification?

Yes, and I think some of the clues as to what we should expect lie in what we've already said so far, namely that these amendments don't introduce any new requirements.

But they aim to shine a spotlight onto the need to address climate change as part of conformity to the existing requirements. So, you know, that's the change, which, which means that ISO is more clearly signalling the importance of organisations considering risks related to climate change. And that signal, I think, will then flow through into some additional focus on this from certification bodies.

And what organisations are being asked to consider, of course, are, you know, risks, which may be due to climate change itself, whether in the form of extreme weather events, disrupting supply chains or disrupting operations or causing injury to workers. But also, we need to be considering the risks associated with climate adaptation. For example, in the world of OHS, in which I'm involved, increased nighttime working is occurring around the world in a number of sectors. This is for outdoor working, particularly in relation to agriculture as a response to excessive daytime temperatures. But, of course, there are new and different risks introduced if you switch the work to be nighttime work, occurring, in the hours of darkness. So there's risks associated with those adaptation measures, which we take. And of course, there are also risks associated with mitigation actions, climate mitigation actions, such as the switch to low carbon energy. But I guess I should just caveat my remarks here to note that there hasn't yet been any official guidance issued to certification bodies and accreditors since ISO announced its intention to amend these standards. So, I'm explaining the position as I see it, both as a standards user and then former quality director and owner of a certified management system, but I would expect the amendments will trigger certifiers to use routine surveillance activities. To check whether climate change has indeed been considered as part of the context of the organisation, and there's a topic on which interested parties may have requirements. And then I'd expect any weaknesses identified there to be addressed through the usual findings process, allowing time for the organisation to strengthen the coverage of climate change where necessary. But where a new assessment of a management system is taking place, I'd expect the requirement to consider climate change to be just an integral part of that initial assessment of the organisation's conformity to the requirements set out in clause 4.

Thank you for shedding some light on the effects on standard users. What I took from that is that it's unlikely certificates will be reissued and that this is something our listeners should expect to hear more about in the coming weeks. But from your perspective, do you expect to see a requirement for certificates to be reissued to reference the amendment?

Well, I can't really envisage it being necessary to reissue certificates given that there are no new requirements being added to the standards via these amendments.

Okay, thank you. And finally, Martin, you noted that these amendments may not be the only actions related to climate change. Can you give us an example of the sort of additional things that individual committees are doing?

Yes, and let me illustrate that by describing what's going on in TC 283, the Occupational Health and Safety Management Committee. In terms of committee level action, we set up a new task group at the start of 2023, specifically to focus on the OH& S impacts of climate change. That group has worked with support from our colleagues in our sister committee, TC 207 for environmental management, to develop the outline for a guidance document. In fact, a publicly available specification or PAS addressing the OHS impacts of climate change. We've just used this outline as part of a proposal approved by the full committee to establish a new working group that will develop this PAS, which will be published as ISO PAS 45007 with a target of publishing around the end of 2024 or the early months of 2025.

Now, alongside that, we're exploring whether we can develop an area on our committee website in which to provide examples of the OH&S risks related to climate change that organisations have identified and the sorts of actions that they have taken to address those risks.

And then beyond that, we've just successfully balloted a proposal to begin a revision of ISO 45001. So we're now in the planning phase for that revision. The 1st revision since the standard was published in 2018. And that will give us the opportunity to consider whether to make any additional references to climate change above and beyond those that are being introduced by the upcoming amendment of the standard. But that's quite a long term project as the revised version of ISO 45001 is only likely to be published around about 2027.

And so thinking about that, that kind of reinforces for me why ISO has taken the fast track approach that it has of simultaneously amending all the standards to really try and increase the focus on climate change right now. Rather than relying on actions which will only take effect through the publication of revisions of standards years in the future.

Wonderful. Thank you, Martin. It's been great having you back on the podcast. I certainly found your insights valuable and I'm sure our listeners will too.

Well, thank you, Holly. It's been a real pleasure to be involved again.

And finally, just a reminder to our listeners that you can visit our homepage on Spotify to listen to more episodes and stay up to date with new releases. And to find out more about LRQA services, please visit You've been listening to the LRQA Future in Focus podcast.

Thank you so much for giving us your time and we hope to see you soon.


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