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Does Climate Change Have a Place in ISO 9001?

At Mark1, we are always up to date with the latest amendments and changes to ISO standards — our industry evolves quickly in response to real-world events and requirements, which is why it is so fascinating! A recent amendment to ISO 9001, however, has sparked some debate amongst our team about whether it is a positive or negative choice from the International Organisation for Standardisation. Read on to find out what Paul, Ian and Brandon have to say about the change!

Changes to ISO 9001: Climate Change and Quality Management 

So, what exactly is the change? An amendment to ISO 9001 (the quality management standard) is incorporating “additional text addressing climate change”. Aligning with the ISO London Declaration on Climate Change, which was approved in September 2021, the change relates to Clause 4 of the standards. Language is being added to mandate that “the organisation shall determine whether climate change is a relevant issue”, and how this impacts the needs and expectations of interested parties. There will be a twelve-month period in which auditors will treat these changes as opportunities for improvement after the changes are published, but they will take immediate effect. The changes will apply to ISO 9001, ISO 14001 and ISO 45001 in early 2024.

So, what do the Mark1 team think about climate change being incorporated into ISO 9001?

“Climate Change Belongs in ISO 9001!”

Our Senior ISO Consultants, Paul Nolan and Ian Bonney, both consider this change to be a positive one. We asked them to explain their perspectives and received two very different (but equally interesting) responses!

Paul pointed out that the issue of climate change was deeply relevant and important throughout wider society.

“Even if we already have the environmental standard, that doesn’t mean that other areas governed by ISO standards are not impacted by climate change,” he told us, “and by adding this small change, ISO are highlighting that it should be a constant consideration for businesses and organisations of all sizes. Getting everyone thinking about environmental consciousness, outside of dedicated spaces like ISO 14001, is only ever going to be a positive step forward in raising awareness.” 

Mark, on the other hand, argued that the benefits to businesses would far outweigh the effort required to implement the change. He continued:

“As Paul said, climate change is a huge issue, and customers in all industries are very sceptical of greenwashing these days. People are more likely to choose genuinely environmentally conscious businesses, and the reputation of these international standards means that even ISO 9001 could come to signify a commitment to sustainability. It’s a relatively small change to the standard that could have a big positive impact on a certified business in terms of expanding their customer base.”

“No, It Doesn’t!”

On the opposite side of the argument, our ISO Consultant Brandon Nolan is less impressed by the proposed changes (there have been some spirited debates around the office!) and has given us his views.

“Paul said it himself — we already have the environmental standard, and many businesses admirably choose to pursue that. ISO 14001 exists for a reason, and we don’t need to blur the boundaries between the standards; it risks confusing organisations who are trying to become certified, and makes everything more complicated. Of course, climate change is hugely important and relevant, but I think that it is much more impactful to pursue a whole standard dedicated to sustainability and environmental responsibility than it is to add a small clause to the other standards. In fact, it’s such a small change that ISO are not even implementing a transition period.” 

When asked what he thought would be a more impactful modification in terms of combatting climate change, Brandon suggested

“if all ISO consultancy firms like Mark1 advocated for clients to pursue ISO 14001, it would make much more of a difference than the proposed changes to Clause 4. I suppose we have to start somewhere, though!”

To speak to our experts about the proposed changes to ISO 9001, 14001 and 45001, you can contact the Mark1 team here.

Posted in ISO 9001

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