Increased environmental activism in the 1980s created a greater consumer awareness of the environmental issues. More and more environmental regulations were enacted and companies began to use their adherence to these regulations as marketing tools. The Rio Conference on the Environment in 1992 reflected increased global concerns about the environment and called for a world commitment to the protection of the environment. These concerns, coupled with the GATT negotiations in Uruguay in 1986 which calle d for the removal of non-tariff trade barriers, were the impetus behind ISO 14000.
ISO Technical Committee 207 is responsible for the ISO 14000 series of standards. Just as the ISO 9000 standards are based on the British BS 5750 standard of 1979, the ISO 14000 series are based on the British standard BS 7750 which was instituted in 199 2. This standard also served as the basis for the European Union's Eco-Management and Audit Scheme (EMAS), a more stringent set of standards strongly influenced by the high environmental standards of German companies. EMAS differs from ISO 14000 in that it emphasizes public environmental reporting.
Many organizations had taken little interest in ISO 9000 when it was in development and were surprised by the overwhelming acceptance of ISO 9000. These organizations were wary of a new international standard in ISO 14000 and they took a more active inte rest in it's development. Subsequently the standards of BS 7750 were softened in order to be acceptable by countries outside of Europe. In particular, US companies who can be subjected to expensive civil suits, were very hesitant to endorse a stringent set of environmental management standards. The fear is that violation of these standards could result in litigation. Some organizations, for example, fear that the extensive documentation required by the ISO 14000 series could be used against them in an y legal action regarding violation of environmental regulations.
The actual environmental standards of ISO 14000 deal with how a company manages the environment inside it's facilities and the immediate outside environment. However, the standards also call for analysis of the entire life cycle of a product, from raw ma terial to eventual disposal. These standards do not mandate a particular level of pollution or performance, but focus on awareness of the processes and procedures that can effect the environment. It should be noted that adherence to the ISO 14000 standa rds does not in anyway release a company from any national or local regulations regarding specific performance issues regarding the environment.
Some of the standards in the ISO 14000 series are:
Although the ISO 14000 standards are similar to the ISO 9000 standards, the nature of the environmental standards creates a need for people who are technical environment professionals in addition to those required to maintain the documentation necessary f or certification.