Leadership in being able to motivate people towards a common goal. It is the ability to inspire people towards a shared vision and the ability to inspire change. Leaders act as role models for the behaviours and skills that are required for achievement of organisational objectives. For an organisation to be able to meet the ISO 14001 requirement, Leadership is a key ingredient.

Management is related to administration of business processes. It requires doing effective planning, using effective communications methodology and the effective use of organisational business systems.

Leadership relies on mostly intangible things like attitude, inspiration, personal character and decision making. These are necessary attributes and skills to motivate an organisation to achieve its objective.


ISO defines Leadership as

Leadership is the person or group of people who directs and controls an organisation at the highest level. Top management has the ability to delegate authority and provide resources within the organisation. If the scope of the management system covers only part of an organisation, then top management refers to those who direct and control that part of the organisation?

Leadership requirements

ISO 14001 requires that Leadership should ensure the following:

  1. Taking accountability for the effective ness of the environmental management system.

Meaning that the top management is now responsible for the effectiveness of the environmental management system. They can delegate some of their responsibilities to a management representative but they would need to have more involvement in the environmental activities.

  1. The leadership has to ensure that an environmental policy is established and environmental objectives are set up that are compatible with the strategic direction and context of the organisation. The leadership is in a position to understand the place of the environmental policy within its strategy and within the external and internal issues being faced by the organisation.
  2. Leadership has to ensure that the requirements of the ISO 14001 environmental management system are integrated within the business processes of the organisation. This means that the organisations processes should be able to achieve both its organisational objectives as well as environmental objectives.
  3. Leadership has to ensure that all the resources needed for the environmental management system such as trained human resources, equipment, technology and finances are available so that environmental objectives can be successfully achieved.
  4. Top management has to communicate to the employees the importance of effective environmental management and conforming to environmental management system requirements. As it is the employees who have to do the actual work to achieve environmental objectives, so, the importance of environment management has to be communicated in such a way that its importance becomes clear and enshrined in their minds.
  5. The leadership has the responsibility to ensure that the environmental management system achieves its planned and intended outcomes. They have to get the work done from managers and employees so that favorable outcomes are achieved.
  6. They have to direct and support the persons such as managers and employees to contribute to the effectiveness of the environmental management system. It is their responsibility to get the environmental objectives achieved from their subordinates.
  7. Leadership has to make sure that the environmental management system is continually improved. This is done by Corrective Actions, Internal Audits and Management Reviews etc.
  8. The top management has to provide support to other relevant management roles within the organisation to demonstrate their leadership as it applies to their sphere of influence or areas of responsibility. Without support from Leadership it becomes difficult for managers and employees to effectively ensure that their environmental responsibilities are fulfilled.

Environmental Policy

It is the responsibility of Top Management to establish implement and maintain an environmental policy. The policy should have the following characteristics:

  1. It should be to the purpose and context of the organisation
  2. It should provide a framework and basis for setting environmental objectives
  3. It should include a commitment for the protection of environment including the prevention of pollution. Other commitments can be sustainable resource use, climate change mitigation and adaptation and protection of biodiversity and ecosystems.
  4. It should include a commitment to fulfill its legal and organisational environmental compliance obligations.
  5. It should include a commitment for the continual improvement of the environmental management system in order to enhance environmental performance.

They should maintain the environmental policy as documented information, meaning it should be framed and affixed to walls at appropriate places so that all the employees can see and understand it. The Policy shall be communicated within the organisation through meetings and environmental trainings and finally should be available to interested parties such as Buyers, Government Agencies etc.

Organisational roles, responsibilities and authorities

It is the responsibility of Leadership to ensure that responsibilities and authorities for relevant roles for environmental management are assigned and communicated within the organisation. As the environmental responsibilities have to be carried out by employees and managers, so, the top management assigns the responsibilities for various functions to relevant employees.

Specific responsibilities that are to be assigned are

  1. Responsibility for ensuring that the environmental management system conforms to ISO 14001 International Standard.
  2. Responsibility for reporting to top management on the performance of the environmental management system including environmental performance achieved by the organisation.

Top Management Audit

During audit the Leadership shall have the following responsibilities

  1. Demonstrate knowledge of the environmental management system objectives and provide an overview of where these lie within the organisations vision.
  2. Prove that coordination of the environmental management system and other strategic goals as well as processes has been carried out.
  3. Prove that they have communicated the importance of the environmental management system, progress in the area of environment as compared to objectives and the ongoing results of the system.
  4. Show familiarity with the continual improvement process and show that this culture exists within the organisation.

You can request a free quote for ISO 14001 Consulting customised for your business in just 2 minutes.

Other articles you that would help with your understanding of ISO14001 Environmental Management Systems

A Dummy’s Guide to ISO 14001

Facts About ISO 14001