Improvement [ISO 14001 Procedure Template]

What is Improvement for ISO 14001?

Your organization should actively seek out and realize improvement opportunities that will better enable it to achieve the intended outcomes of the EMS.

Contents

10.1 General

Improvement may not always take place on a continual basis. ‘Improvement’ can be affected:

  • Reactively (e.g., by corrective action)
  • Incrementally (e.g., by continual improvement)
  • By step change (e.g., breakthrough)
  • Creatively (e.g., innovation) or by
  • Re-organisation (e.g., transformation)

Potential sources of improvement opportunities include the results of analysis and evaluation of:

Your organization should actively seek out and realize improvement opportunities that will better enable it to achieve the intended outcomes of its EMS.

Look out for objective evidence that improvement is taking place. However, while improvement does not need to be continuous, it does need to be evidenced as occurring.

improvement

10.2 Nonconformances and Corrective Action

The organization is required to take whatever action is necessary to control and correct a nonconformity, and to deal with any resultant environmental impact.

Determine what caused the nonconformity and then to consider whether the potential for a similar problem remains. You will need to consider whether any further action is required to prevent a similar nonconformity recurring at the same place or occurring somewhere else, at some point in the future.

Auditors should evidence that where nonconformities have been identified an investigation has been conducted to determine whether other similar nonconformities actually do or potentially could exist and whether the organization has considered whether it needs to make changes to the EMS to prevent recurrence or occurrence elsewhere:

  1. Take whatever action is necessary to control and correct the nonconformity, and to deal with any resultant environmental impact
  2. Determine what caused the nonconformity and then to consider whether the potential for a similar problem remains
  3. Consider whether any further action is required to prevent a similar nonconformity recurring at the same place or occurring somewhere else, at some point in the future
  4. Determine if similar non-conformity has occurred elsewhere and consequently whether it needs to take similar corrective action

There may be instances where it is impossible to completely eliminate the cause of non-conformity, so in instances, the best organizations can do is to reduce the likelihood or the consequences of a similar occurrence happening again in order to reduce the risk to an acceptable level.

Dealing with Corrective Action

A corrective action should be considered as a reactive response to a problem since it is taken when a nonconformance is detected or upon receipt of a customer complaint.

Your organization should first contain the problem and then determine its root cause in order to take appropriate corrective action to prevent the problem’s recurrence.

Corrective Action Process

  • Define the Problem
  • Select an Interim Containment Action (ICA)
  • Verify an Interim Containment Action
  • Implement an Interim Containment Action
  • Identify the Root-Cause
  • Complete a Comparative Analysis
  • Develop Root-cause Theories
  • Test the Theories
  • Verify the Root-Cause
  • Determine and Verify the Escape Point
  • Implement & Validate Permanent Corrective Actions
  • Prevent Recurrence

10.3 Continual Improvement

Auditors should evidence whether your organization has identified improvement opportunities and EMS underperformance using the outputs from other processes such as, analysis and evaluation, internal audit, management reviews, tools and methodologies to support investigations. Auditors should also check whether the organization has implemented the identified opportunities for improvement in a controlled manner.

The standard provides help to interpret some terms used in this clause. ‘Continual’ means that this activity occurs over a period of time, but with potential intervals of interruption, while ‘continuous’ means duration without interruption.

Continual Improvement Process

Your organization should seek to implement a process, with appropriate methods, techniques, and formats for identifying areas of underperformance or opportunities for improvement.

You should expect to evidence that your organization has selected the appropriate tools and techniques to investigate the causes and thereby establishing and implementing a process for continual improvement.

The impetus for continual improvement must come from the use of (as a minimum):

  • EMS Policies
  • Risks and opportunities
  • EMS objectives
  • Aspect and impacts
  • Hazards and safety risks
  • Analysis and evaluation of data
  • Audit results
  • Management review
  • Non-conformity and corrective action

Requirements for continual improvement interrelate with the following clauses:

  • EMS planning
  • EMS objectives
  • Risks and opportunities
  • Recommendations for improvement
  • Improvement of the system, processes and products
  • Analysis and evaluation of data
  • Non-conformity and corrective action

Processes can always be made more efficient and effective, even when they are producing conforming products. The aim of a continual improvement programme is to increase the odds of satisfying customers by identifying areas that need improvement. It requires the organization to plan improvement systems and to take into account many other activities that can be used in the improvement process.

You will be required to ensure that you continually improve the degree to which your products and services meet customer requirements and to measure effectiveness of your processes. To this end the continual improvement principle implies that you should adopt the attitude that improvement is always possible and your organizations should develop the skills and tools necessary to drive improvement.

Once your environmental management system has been implemented, run the new EMS for at least three months to ensure it is fully embedded it into your business’s processes and to identify nonconformities, address corrective actions, and to implement any improvement opportunities. Engage with your chosen Certification body to arrange certification!

Updated: 10th December 2021
Author: Richard Keen

Richard Keen

Richard Keen

Richard is our Compliance Director, responsible for content & product development.
But most importantly he is ISO's biggest fanboy and a true evangelist of the standards.
Learn more about Richard

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Nonconformity & Corrective Action Procedure

The purpose of this procedure is to establish the process for identifying, documenting and analyzing non-conformities and mitigating their impacts by implementing appropriate corrective actions. Your organization’s quality management system is geared toward the proactive elimination of actual and potential deficiencies.

Non-conformities in products, services, processes and our management system are investigated and action implemented to prevent their occurrence.

Forms & Reports also included:

  • Control of Nonconformity & Corrective Action Process Activity Map
  • Non-conformance Report
  • Non-conformance Log
  • Concession Request
  • Concession Request Log
  • Corrective Action Report
  • Corrective Action Log
  • Nonconformity & Corrective Action Process Map

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