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ISO 14001:2004 to ISO 14001:2015 EMS Transition Checklist

ISO 14001:2004 to ISO 14001:2015 EMS Transition Checklist

Run this checklist to transition your EMS from ISO 14001:2004 to ISO 14001:2015.
Enter checklist details
Define context of the organization
List all interested parties
Review the scope of the EMS
Environmental policy:
Review the environmental policy
Align EMS objectives with the company’s strategy
Assess risks and opportunities
Identify and evaluate environmental aspects
Determine the compliance obligations
Control documented information
Operational control
Environmental performance
Measurement and reporting
View the transition report
Related checklists:


Since the 2015 version of ISO 14001 was published, many companies are asking themselves whether or not they need to implement the whole standard all over again.

Thankfully for them, that’s not at all necessary.

Whereas the 2015 updates did bring some changes, they are not so drastic that updating your EMS should be an off-putting task.

If your organization was certified before September 15, 2015, you will have a certification according to the 2004 version, and as such you will need to take the time to update your EMS.

This checklist runs you through the entire process, helping you find the common ground between the two versions and easing the burden as much as possible.

It should be noted that this template is simply a guide through the process of transitioning from the 2004 to the 2015 standard.

For complete guidance on how to structure your EMS and build an ISO 14001:2015 compliant mini-manual of your standard operating procedures, see the ISO 14001 EMS Structure Template.

In any case, let’s get started.

Enter checklist details

Before diving in, take the time to record some basic details about the checklist, and who’s running it.

This will be useful as part of the documentation of your EMS in the future.


Define context of the organization

This is a new requirement, and it should be thoroughly considered because it represents the foundation of your new EMS (Environmental Management System).

In considering the context of your organization, think of all the direct and indirect consequences, legal requirements, and all effects on your stakeholders that your EMS performance will have.

Defining context of the organization requires taking a high-level view of the organization’s environmental performance, and determining exactly who is affected by it.

It also involves considering how environmental impact can be reduced, and procedures regarding implementation of environmental policy improved.

Context of the organization should include:

  • Internal context (actions or products and services that may affect your environmental performance)
  • External context (legal, economic, social, or political issues)
  • Environmental context (all other environmental aspects that may be susceptible to damage by your organization’s environmental performance)

Using the form fields below, record the context of the organisation.

List all interested parties

Using the form fields below, list all of the organization’s stakeholders and their requirements.

Here, “stakeholders” are all persons and companies that can influence your EMS or can be influenced by it.

If you’ve already listed all the statutory, regulatory, and contractual requirements according to the old clause 4.3.2, then you’re already half-way there!

Review the scope of the EMS

The credibility of your EMS depends on how clearly your scope is defined.

Transitioning from ISO 14001:2004 to ISO 14001:2015 is a great opportunity to reconsider the scope of your system and to define its boundaries more precisely.

Section 4.3 requires that you take into consideration the following factors:

  • External and internal issues as mentioned in “context of the organization”
  • Compliance factors
  • Organizational functions and physical boundaries
  • All organizational activities, products, and services
  • Control and influence of the organization, and how this impacts the EMS (and vice versa)

Using the form field below, record changes to the scope of the EMS.

Environmental policy:

Review the environmental policy

Requirements for the environmental policy are largely the same between both versions, although there is a greater emphasis on how the EMS is incorporated into the strategic direction of the company, and as such this should be clearly outlined in the environmental policy.

Use the form field below to record changes to the environmental policy.


Align EMS objectives with the company’s strategy

The only change to the 2015 update is the requirement that the EMS include assessment as to whether or not environmental objectives are compatible with the strategic direction of the company.

Use the form field below to record recommendations on how environmental objectives could better align with strategic direction.

Assess risks and opportunities

This requirement is new to the 2015 update.

It refers to the risks and opportunities relating to the EMS. This is not limited to environmental aspects, but all other parts of the system including context of the organization and compliance obligations. 

Assessment of risks and opportunities should also include plans for addressing them.

Use the form field below to record assessment of risks and opportunities.

Identify and evaluate environmental aspects

If you are transitioning from the 2004 version, you will have already established your environmental aspects.

However, this poses a great opportunity for you to re-assess those environmental aspects in line with principles of continuous improvement central to the implementation and maintenance of the EMS.

Use the form field below to record any/all changes to environmental aspects.

Determine the compliance obligations

As with environmental aspects in the previous task, you will have already outlined compliance obligations in the 2004 version.

However, with ISO 14001:2015 there is the additional requirement to include the needs and compliance obligations of all relevant interested parties.

Use the form field below to record new compliance obligations as they relate to the needs of relevant interested parties.

Control documented information

You may not be familiar with the term “documented information”, as it is relatively new to the 2015 version. 

It refers to both how procedures are documented, and how records of company activity are kept. You may wish to consider how you could improve existing procedures for documentation.

Use the form field below to record changes to existing procedures for documentation.


Operational control

The main difference between the 2004 and 2015 versions is that the newer version requires more extensively documented process control. 

This includes specific and standardized operating criteria, and implementing controls for all processes based on this criteria.

Use the form field below to record top-level procedures in your organization, and changes to the procedure of operational control (if any).


Environmental performance

ISO 14001:2015 places a lot of emphasis on establishing environmental performance indicators, in order to facilitate better measuring and monitoring of EMS performance.

If this is done correctly, you will have a clear understanding of what needs to be improved.

Use the form field below to record key environmental performance indicators, as well as methods for measurement and monitoring of EMS performance.


Measurement and reporting

The requirements for measurement and reporting of EMS outputs became much stricter in the 2015 version, especially regarding the quantification of environmental performance.

It is also the case that internal audits and management reviews must be firmly aligned with the new standards for assessing environmental performance.

As such, various input elements of the management review and internal audit requirements have been changed.

Use the form field below to record changes to the procedures for measurement and reporting of EMS performance.

View the transition report

Congratulations, you’ve successfully covered all of the major components for an ISO 14001:2004 to ISO 14001:2015 transition.

I’d still recommend going over the finer requirements of the standard to make sure you haven’t missed anything; perhaps take a look at the ISO 14001 EMS Structure Template for ideas how you could streamline your EMS with a software like Process Street.

With the 2015 updates to the standard (and many other ISO standards) ISO compliance has never been easier. You can now use software like Process Street to build and maintain your entire environmental management system.

Here’s an overview of the transition report, using information you submitted in this checklist:

Checklist completed by: {{form.Environmental_manager_first_name}} {{form.Environmental_manager_last_name}}

Transition started: {{form.Date_of_transition_start}}


Context of the organization

Internal context: {{form.Internal_context}}

External context: {{form.External_context}}

Environmental context: {{form.Environmental_context}}

Relevant interested parties

List of stakeholders: {{form.List_of_stakeholders}}

Stakeholder requirements: {{form.Stakeholder_requirements}}

EMS scope

Changes to EMS scope: {{form.Changes_to_EMS_scope}}

Environmental policy

Changes to environmental policy: {{form.Changes_to_environmental_po}}


EMS objectives

Recommendations for aligning environmental objectives with strategic direction: {{form.Recommendations_for_aligning_environmental_objectives_with_strategic_direction}}

Risks and opportunities

EMS risks: {{form.EMS_risks}}

EMS opportunities: {{form.EMS_opportunities}}

Environmental aspects

Environmental aspects changes: {{form.Environmental_aspects_changes}}


New compliance obligations: {{form.New_compliance_obligations}}

Documented information

Changes to documentation procedures: {{form.Changes_to_documentation_procedures}}


Operational control

Top-level procedures: {{form.Top-level_procedures}}


Environmental performance

Key environmental performance indicators: {{form.Key_environmental_performance_indicators}}

How are environmental performance indicators measured?: {{form.How_are_environmental_performance_indicators_measured?}}

How are environmental performance indicators monitored?: {{form.How_are_environmental_performance_indicators_monitored?}}


Measurement and reporting

Changes to management review procedure: {{form.Changes_to_management_review_procedure}}

Changes to internal audit procedure: {{form.Changes_to_internal_audit_procedure}}



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