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What MUST be Documented
for an ISO 14001 EMS?

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Not every part of your environmental management system (EMS) must be documented; however, to conform to the standard, there are some items that must be maintained in a print or electronic format.  These are described as “documented information”, which is defined as “information required to be controlled and maintained by an organization…”  This can be systems, processes, forms and completed forms or other records.  There are sixteen places, grouped below by the stage in the system cycle, where the standard requires documented information.


Many aspects of the planning process must be documented:

  • EMS scope (4.3)

  • Environmental policy (5.2)

  • Risk and opportunities,  and planning processes required to address them (6.1.1)

  • Environmental aspects and impacts, significant aspects and criteria (6.1.2)

  • Compliance obligations (6.1.3)

  • Environmental objectives (6.2.1)

  • Competence evidence (7.2)



How the plans are communicated and implemented require documentation as well:

  • Communications evidence (7.4.1)

  • Operational planning and control processes (8.1)

  • Emergency preparedness and response (8.2)


Assessing Effectiveness


Self-assessments are a key element in an effective EMS, and must be documented:

  • Monitoring, measurement, analysis and evaluation results (9.1.1)

  • Compliance evaluation results (9.1.2)

  • Internal audit program (9.2.2)

  • Internal audit results (9.2.2)


Correcting Deficiencies


Corrective and preventive actions taken to resolve concerns identified during the self-assessments must be documented:

  • Management review results (9.3)

  • Nonconformities, actions taken and results of corrective actions (10.2)

Defining “Documented Information”

Clause 7.5 tells us that documented information is not only what is required by the standard, but also what is “determined by the organization as being necessary for the effectiveness” of the EMS.  So a company can stipulate that additional items be documented.

If you are challenged to achieve the desired results as evidenced by nonconformances, notices of violation, audit findings or incidents, including spills or leaks, you may need to consider documenting additional processes.


You need not use the term “documented information” in your system; you are free to use the terms that best suit your business, such as “procedures”, “work instructions”,   “records”, or other terms (A.2).

For information on ISO 45001 Documented Information requirements, check out our article here.




It’s all in the details.  Make sure you have a copy of the standard and are using it to build and check your system.  That way, there won’t be any surprises at your next surveillance or re-certification audit.

Need help? Check out our EMS forms and templates in our ISO Help Store, or schedule time for a one-on-one phone call with an ISO Auditor at our ISO Help Consult page.

Interested in more information on our comprehensive suite of environmental services? E-mail us to request a copy of our Statement of Qualifications.

About the Author

Joyce Kristiansson, M.S., is a Certified Environmental Professional Auditor and part-time registrar auditor for an ISO certification body.  With more than 35 years of environmental experience, including twelve years in ISO 14001 Environmental Management Systems, Joyce has experienced EMS systems and processes from all perspectives:  developing, maintaining, sustaining and auditing (both internal and certification).  Recognizing the improved environmental performance and positive financial results that can result from an effective EMS, Joyce wants to make the process as simple and inexpensive as possible so that small and medium-sized businesses can have the same competitive advantages as larger companies - without using a consultant.

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