ISO management system standards amended

Management System Advancement

ISO's surprise amendments to its management system standards

March 2024.

Normally, changes to ISO management system standards are a long, drawn out affair. There are committees that meet over long periods of time to plan and recommend changes. There are drafts published - often more than one. There is voting by members. Eventually, a final version is agreed upon, and the standard is published.

Not so, this time. In a move that has surprised most if not all observers, ISO has released amendments to a whole series of its management system standards.

The surprise move has already led to some criticism of both the amendments themselves and the manner in which they have been introduced. We don't plan to get into the debate here, but aim to explain what the amendments are and what you might do to address them.

What are the amendments - and to what management system standards?

The amendments apply all its management system certification standards. They relate to clause 4 Context of the Organization. They are briefly as follows:

  • Clause 4.1 Understanding the organization and its context: This sentence is added: “The organization shall determine whether climate change is a relevant issue”.
  • Clause 4.2: Understanding the needs and expectations of interested parties: This note is added: “NOTE: Relevant interested parties can have requirements related to climate change”.

In essence, the new requirement requires organizations to determine whether climate change is a relevant issue and whether relevant interested parties have requirements related to climate change. The word 'shall' in the 4.1 amendment (above) means that such a determination is mandatory. If climate change is found to be a relevant issue to the organization, then it needs to be considered in the planning and implementation of its management system.

Those organizations that have an ISO standard compliant management system will of course, already be conducting some form of analysis of their context.  What has changed, is that climate change must now be a topic that is taken into consideration.

A communique has been published by ISO in conjunction with IAF. Download communique.

The amendments are published free of charge and can be obtained from the store on the ISO web site (you will need to set up an account if you don't already have one).

When will the amendments apply?

The amendments appear to apply with immediate effect. Accredited Certification Body DNV has already advised that its auditors will include the amendments in future audits  when assessing the relevant parts of a management system. It may take a short while for all CB's to communicate to all of their auditors but we can expect it to happen quite quickly. It would therefore, be wise for any organizations that are already certified or seeking certification in the future to ensure that they address the amendments promptly.

How will you address the amendments?

The requirements for clause 4.1 and 4.2 are often addressed in a situational or strategic analysis exercise. Typically, external factors are considered in a PEST (Political, Economic, Social, and Technological) /  PESTEL (Political, Economic, Social, Technological, Environmental, and Legal) analysis or some variation on that. The analysis is typically combined with an assessment of interested parties and their relevant needs and expectations. That component being documented in a table.

ISO management system certification standards are not very prescriptive in how an organization meets requirements, and your approach may be different.

Our suggestion is that you review any existing arrangements to address those clauses. If climate change is not already considered in them, then the arrangements should be updates.

For some, it may be challenging to identify how climate change may be an issue for their management system. Let's take an example of a white-collar professional service provider. How might climate change be an issue for their QMS (Quality Management System)? They could determine that there are no actual changes to the climate that are affecting their service delivery at the moment - or very likely in the near future. However, they may identify that some clients are beginning to ask for their service to be delivered in a manner that creates less environmental impact. Some clients may even be asking them about ISO 14001 compliance.

We wanted to get this information out to our community as soon as possible. It's very early days for these amendments and it will be interesting to see the outcomes. We'll be sharing this article on LinkedIn and we would be keen to learn of your thoughts there.

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