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ISO heightens focus on climate change in changes to management system standards

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The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) has announced the inclusion of climate change requirements to a number of its management system standards.

The development, aligned with the ISO London Declaration on Climate Change, signifies the growing commitment from the assurance industry to global sustainability and is set to bring positive change for both clients and the planet.

Changes for clients 

The adjustments are set to be implemented through amendments to existing standards in the first instance – exact standards to be confirmed – and will emphasise the importance of considering climate change as a relevant issue in the design and implementation of management systems. 

New requirements will be added to sections 4.1 and 4.2 of the standards, requiring organizations to consider the impact of climate change in relation to the overall effectiveness of the management system, and will be reviewed periodically during surveillance activities. Existing certification remains unaffected at this time. 

It should be noted that climate change may have a different effect on each management system type. For example, the effect on a quality management system could be very different to a health and safety management system.  

Expectations for certified organizations 

Certified organizations will be required to consider climate change aspects within their management systems, integrating them into the evaluation of risks and opportunities. ISO emphasises that the intention is not to disproportionately shift the focus of audits, but to ensure climate change is appropriately considered within the context of each management system type.  

Expectations for certification bodies 

Certification bodies are expected to adapt their audit processes to include a specific focus on climate change aspects. Auditors will ensure that organizations have considered and included climate change in their objectives and mitigation activities, in line with the updated standards. 

Timing and implementation  

The changes are expected to be integrated into existing standards by early 2024, and certification bodies will incorporate climate change considerations into their audits immediately upon publication. Recognizing the potential need for organizations to adjust, auditors will treat issues related to climate change as opportunities for improvement during the initial 12 months following the amendments. 

Positive development for the industry and planet 

ISO's decision reflects a proactive approach to addressing the challenges posed by climate change, aiming to encourage organizations to think more deeply about its impact on their operations. The move aligns with the global push for sustainable practices and is a testament to the industry's growing commitment to environmental responsibility and ISO's commitment to creating a more resilient and sustainable future.  

Martin Cottam, Chair of the ISO Technical Committee for Occupational Health & Safety, said: 

“For effective climate action to be taken across the globe, and for people to be able to understand and trust what they’re being told about such action, there is a need for common definitions and common metrics, and a need to be able to verify processes and data, all of which are facilitated by international standards.”

Ian Spaulding, CEO for LRQA, said:  

“LRQA welcomes the decision by ISO to make environmental factors a stronger focus of current management systems, and we look forward to supporting businesses with this change. By integrating climate change considerations, organizations will be better equipped to navigate the risk landscape, which is rapidly evolving, and most crucially, together we’ll be contributing to combating climate change through strategic and collective action.” 

Clients are encouraged to watch for any future guidance issued by ISO or other involved parties. LRQA is happy to support with queries and next steps via clients’ usual points of contact.  

For more information on the changes ISO is making to address climate change, check out our related content.

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