Home » ISO 14001:2004 EMS » ISO 14001-Clause 4.5.5

ISO 14001-Clause 4.5.5

ISO 14001-Clause 4.5.5 Internal audit

ISO 14001-Clause 4.5.5

ISO 14001 Requirements

The organization shall ensure that internal audits of the environmental management system are conducted at planned intervals to
a) determine whether the environmental management system
1)  conforms to planned arrangements for environmental management including the requirements of this International Standard, and
2)  has been properly implemented and is maintained,  and
b)  provide information on the results of audits to management.

Audit programme(s) shall be planned, established, implemented and maintained by the organization, taking into consideration the environmental importance of the operation(s) concerned and the results of previous audits.

Audit procedure(s) shall be established, implemented and maintained that address
— the responsibilities and requirements for planning and conducting audits, reporting results and retaining associated records,
— the determination of audit criteria, scope, frequency and methods.

Selection of auditors and conduct of audits shall ensure objectivity and the impartiality of the audit process.


ISO 14001-Clause 4.5.5 requires that an organization carry out periodic planned environmental management system audits in order to:
a) Determine whether the environmental management system conforms to planned arrangements (controlling and minimizing the significant
environmental impacts) and meets the requirements of the Standard.
b) Provide feedback to management of the results of such audits. Such auditing should be performed on a planned and scheduled basis to reflect the environmental significance of the activities being audited.

EMS Audit can be defined as “ A systematic and documented verification process of objectively obtaining and evaluating evidence to determine whether an organization’s environmental management  system conforms to the system audit criteria environmental management set by the organization, and for communication of the results of this process to management.” Once your organization has established its EMS, verifying the implementation of the system will be critical. To identify and resolve EMS deficiencies you must actively seek them out. In a small organization, audits are particularly relevant since managers are often so close to the work that they may not see problems or bad habits that have developed. Periodic EMS audits will establish whether or not all of the requirements of the EMS are being carried out in the specified manner.
For your EMS audit program to be effective, you should:

  • develop audit procedures and protocols;
  • establish an appropriate audit frequency;
  • train your auditors; and,
  • maintain audit records.

The results of your EMS audits should be linked to the corrective action system. While they can be time-consuming, EMS audits are critical to EMS effectiveness. Systematic identification and reporting of EMS deficiencies to management provides a great opportunity to:

  • maintain management focus on the environment,
  • improve the EMS, and
  • ensure its cost-effectiveness.

Audit Methodology

The two methodology for conducting audit are Compliance auditing and Performance Auditing.Compliance auditing is more of the style of ‘traditional’ auditing, i.e. ensuring that procedures are being followed in order to comply with the requirements of ISO 14001. This type of audit ensures that personnel are following procedures: i.e. taking measurements when and where they should; reviewing and updating the legislation register; generating the appropriate records, etc. Such auditing methodology will be second nature to an organization that already has a documented quality assurance system meeting the requirements of ISO 9001.It is important that the internal auditors can identify ‘environmental’ nonconformances during the audit. A compliance non-conformance is, for example, when a member of personnel neglects  either due to an oversight to log onto a register the daily amounts of one waste stream going to landfill. The action is taken but not recorded. An environmental non-conformance could be a measurable target (such as the monthly figure for use of recycled paper not increasing as planned). If this has not been identified by operatives and management, for whatever reason, and corrective action not taken, then this may affect the objectives set. It may jeopardize a statement within the environmental policy and constitute a potential environmental non-compliance.

Performance auditing
Performance auditing

Audit Frequency:

In determining the frequency of your EMS audits, some issues to consider are:

  • the nature of your operations,
  • the significant environmental aspects / impacts
  • the results of your monitoring program, and
  • the results of previous audits.

As a rule of thumb, all parts of the EMS should be audited at least annually. You can audit the entire EMS at one time or break it down into discrete elements for more frequent audits.

Auditor qualifications :

You will need trained EMS auditors. Auditor training should be both initial and ongoing. Some organizations use existing and available quality systems auditors from an existing ISO 9001 system for the compliance auditing but for Performance audit, the auditor would need to have a grasp and understanding of the Standard and the EMS, and a broad understanding of environmental issues. Such requirements can certainly be achieved through an independent learning process with a combination of formal training and direct experience. EMS auditors should be trained in auditing techniques and management system concepts. Familiarity with environmental regulations, facility operations, and environmental science is a big plus, and in some cases may be essential to adequately assess the EMS. Some auditor training can be obtained on-the-job. Your organization’s first few EMS audits can be considered part of your auditor training program but make sure that an experienced auditor takes part in those “training” audits. If your company is registered under ISO 9000, consider using your internal ISO 9000 auditors as EMS auditors. Although some additional training might be needed, many of the required skills are the same for both types of audits.  Auditors should be reasonably independent of the area or activity that is being audited.An auditor, auditing his own area of competence, is hardly likely to be impartial – especially if faced with a potential nonconformity directly traceable to their error!

Reporting back to management

Management can use EMS audit results to identify trends or patterns in EMS deficiencies. The organization must also make sure that any identified system gaps / deficiencies are corrected in a timely fashion and that the corrective actions are documented. As noted initially, the Standard calls for some form of feedback to management on the results of the audits. In truth, this is common sense, because if the results of the audits demonstrate major discrepancies in what was planned through objectives and targets and what is actually being achieved, then management needs to reconsider the effectiveness of the whole system in order to fulfil its obligations as set out in the environmental policy.

Auditing procedure

The methodology for performing the audits should be established within written procedures. How else can an internal auditor know how to conduct the audit? Frequencies of auditing should be specified written in a schedule, plan or even a chart  and this should take into consideration the results of previous audits. Many non-conformities raised at the last audit should trigger off a more frequent re-audit until it is established that the corrective and preventive measures have worked. Finally, other types of audit used by organizations include external site audits,  housekeeping (litter etc.), visual impact from the outside, odours, dust. These additional audits can only add to the effectiveness of the compliance and performance audits.Your EMS audits should focus on objective evidence of conformance. If you cannot tell whether or not a particular procedure has been followed, then you should consider revising the procedure. During the actual audit, auditors should resist the temptation to evaluate why a procedure was not followed , that step should come later. During the course of the audit, auditors should discuss identified deficiencies with the people who work in the area. This will help the auditors verify that their understanding is correct. It can also serve as refresher training on EMS requirements for employees.  If possible, train at least two people as internal auditors. This allows your auditors to work as a team. It also allows audits to take place when one auditor has a schedule conflict.Before you start an audit, be sure to communicate the audit scope, schedule, and other pertinent information with the people in the affected area(s). This will help avoid confusion and will facilitate the audit process. Consider linking your EMS audit program to your regulatory compliance audit process. But keep in mind that these audit programs have different purposes, and while you might want to communicate the results of EMS audits widely within your organization, the results of compliance audits might need to be communicated in a more limited fashion.

Linkages among EMS audits, corrective action and management reviews
Linkages among EMS audits, corrective action and management reviews

Audit Checklist:

  1. Has your organisation planned, established, implemented and maintained a programme and procedure(s) for periodic internal audits to be conducted?
  2. Do these internal audits determine whether or not the environmental management system conforms to planned arrangements for environmental management including the requirements of this standard?
  3. Do these internal audits determine whether or not the environmental management system has been properly implemented and maintained?
  4. How does the audit programme take into consideration the environmental importance of the operations concerned, and the results of previous audits?
  5. How does the organisation provide information on the results of audits to management?
  6. Does the audit procedure cover the responsibilities and requirements for planning and conducting audits, reporting results and retention of associated records?
  7. Does the audit procedure cover the the determination of audit criteria, scope, frequency and methods?
  8. How does the selection of auditors and the conduct of audits ensure objectivity and impartiality of the audit process?
  9. How is auditor competency determined?

Mandatory Procedure:

pdf Example of Procedure for Internal audit

Mandatory Records:

pdf Example of  Internal audit Report

Evidence/Implementation document ( Not mandatory but helps in fulfillment of requirement):


pdf Example of format of Internal audit Report
pdf Example of Internal audit / MR Plan
pdf Example of Internal audit schedule
pdf Example of Format of List of Internal Auditors
pdf Example of format of Internal audit EMS check list
pdf Example of Format of  General Facility Population Checklist for EMS Internal Audits

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