Integrating Quality and Environmental Management Systems into one Integrated Business System

There are benefits and efficiencies to be gained in combining ISO based quality systems (ISO/TS-16949, QS-9000, or ISO 9001) with ISO 14001 (EMS) systems into one integrated business system. The Introduction to ISO 14001 mentions this approach. What puzzles many, however, is how to go about it, particularly since the ISO 14001 standard numbering scheme remains completely inconsistent with either ISO 9001 based standards. 

Many companies have implemented ISO 14001 programs, usually after already being certified to a quality standard. This is driven as a requirement by automotive customers, or often, by the corporate offices of larger global companies. 

I have audited a number of companies which have both systems. Many started out with completely separate systems and later set about to unify them. Some attempted integration right from the outset. However, some integration efforts only succeeded partially, and did not get the full value. There is more to it than just cobbling the documents together. 

I believe the difficulty comes from focusing on the clauses, rather than to the “processes” of the ISO 14001 standard. Yes, the “processes.” Forget clause numbers for a moment. Most sections in the EMS standard describe activities that are essentially the same as in ISO 9001 (QMS): Internal Audits, Corrective Action, Management Review, Document Control, Training, and many others are very similar activities or “processes” in both standards. In ISO/TS terminology, these are administrative “support processes.” Regardless of the standard, they remain important, administrative “support processes.” 

Therefore, if they have already been defined, mapped or described in your quality system as a process, this can serve to define the same activity in your EMS. Controlling a quality record is the same as controlling an environmental record, a safety record, a corporate Sarbanes-Oxley record, and so on. A record is a record; a document is a document. Or, is there really any difference between how we calibrate a quality gage vs. an environmental gage? This same logic can be applied throughout most of the ISO 14001 standard.

So, by viewing the clauses in your EMS as “process activities,” you can align them with the equivalent process procedures and instructions in your QMS. Whatever little additional clarification may be needed in the description, scope, or perhaps the storage locations, can easily be added to a quality procedure without any harm done. There is nothing that says you may not add additional requirements to your procedures. In fact, both TS and EMS actually encourage it. And, if your procedures carry a numbering system unique to the quality standards, that is not a problem either. These changes should not affect your quality audits.

In fact, the main differences between the two standards are that ISO 14001 adds Aspects & Impacts, a higher emphasis on Legal Requirements and Regulations (which is a TS/QS requirement as well), and an emphasis on training for Emergency Preparedness. There are other minor variations, but these three are the primary differences.

Therefore, you can combine those activities that are common to both standards into common procedures. The few remaining activities that are different should be written into their own procedures. The three examples listed above could easily be regarded as supporting or management processes, could they not? Then they can simply be added to your integrated business management system, as several additional processes. No harm done to either standard, and the approach can be “legal” in either audit, as long as it is adequately defined in both the quality and environmental system manuals. The manuals would describe the necessary linkages and interactions as needed, so they don’t disappear from the landscape during an audit. 

It is even acceptable for organizations to develop one integrated management system manual that addresses all the requirements of a quality as well as an environmental standard. Whether an organization opts for two manuals or one combined manual is up to each organization, depending upon their individual needs.

The benefit of all this integration is reduced paperwork and documents to control. A reduction in redundant procedures which essential say the same thing, and easier document revisions when the processes change. But the greater benefit is a single unified approach to managing and training efforts. Recordkeeping is reduced as well. Audits become more streamlined. 

It also seems to work equally well, whether the Management Rep responsibilities are merged, or fulfilled by two separate individuals or departments. 

It should be noted, this approach is not theoretical. I have seen a number of companies already use this approach to good success.