As in the world of quality management (ISO 9000, your EMS can be certified – or registered, the terms are synonymous – by outside organizations. This is a requirement of doing business in some industrial sectors (such as in the automotive industry) and for some export markets. EMS certification is also useful either for reputation purposes, or for your own benefit. Having an unbiased, third-party visit your facility occasionally to look at your system with a fresh set of eyes can be a valued-added investment. For more information on selecting a registrar, go to: Suggestions for Selecting a Registrar
The most common registration is to ISO-14001-2004. This internationally-recognized process is summarized below.
The international Organization for Standardization (ISO sets international standards in the same way that the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) sets Unites States standards. In fact, as the relevant national body, ANSI represents the United States in ISO. An affiliate of ISO, the International Accreditation Forum, sets standards for national accreditation bodies. The accreditation body for ISO 14001 in the United States is the ANSI-ASQ National Accreditation Board, or ANAB. ANAB accredits registrars.
If you decide to seek formal registration for the EMS that you have developed, you contact, and contract with, a registrar. A list of accredited registrars can be found at ANAB’s Web site, in the yellow pages, or you can collect references within your business community. Refer to Suggestions for Selecting a Registrar for helpful tips on selecting a registrar.
The registrar will assign an audit team. These may be employees of the registrar, or more often, contract auditors brought in for your audit. The audit team will start with a review of documents, which they will ask you to provide in advance of the on-site audit. This allows them to get much of their work done without the expense of traveling to your location.
The auditors have specialized training and experience requirements they have to meet. "ISO Lead Auditor" is a phrase you may hear; this refers to a specific credential that the lead auditor (at least) on your team should have.
The audit team will then visit your facility. There will be an opening meeting, which your top management should attend. After that, the audit team will tour your facility and observe and interview individuals throughout your organization. Depending on the size and complexity of your organization/facility, the audit team may spend more than one day, especially for an initial registration audit. After the on-site audit phase is complete, a closing meeting is held where the auditors provide some indication of their results. Formal, written results, which document the audit team’s findings, and recommendations to the registrar, are submitted at a later date. The registrar makes the final determination regarding your registration status.
Note: While the final report may include some suggestions (typically referred to as observations) on how you might improve your EMS, auditors are governed by strict rules and guidelines that do not allow them to mix consulting and auditing services.
Once registration is achieved, you will be audited, per your contract with the registrar, at least annually. These "surveillance" audits are less comprehensive than the initial audit. A common strategy is to annually audit one-third of your system. A surveillance audit should also re-visit areas of concern identified in the previous audit.
Your ISO registration is good for three years, at which point re-certification is required. There are strict ISO guidelines on how your ISO registration can be used in your publicity or advertising. You should note that you cannot state that your product or service is "ISO-certified" – ISO does not certify the product, but certifies that the processes used to create it meet a certain standard.
There is no publicly-maintained list of who is registered to ISO 14001, and there is no requirement that you publicize your registration. There are some commercial services offering lists of who is registered. DES suggests that you publicize your registration – it only reflects well on you.