Environmental Aspects & Impacts

Environmental Aspects & Impacts

Environmental Aspect

The definition given in ISO14001:2015 for environmental aspect, is an ‘element of an organisation’s activities or products or services that interacts or can interact with the environment’.

When determining the environmental aspects of an organisation’s activities, products, and services consideration should be given to the following:

  • Areas of control and influence.
  • Inputs and outputs from current activities.
  • Change in activity, such as planned or new developments, new or modified activities, products, and services.
  • Abnormal, normal, and foreseeable emergency situations.
  • Life cycle perspective.

Environmental Impact

The definition given in ISO14001:2015 for environmental impact, is ‘any change to the environment whether adverse or beneficial, wholly or partially resulting from an organisation’s environmental aspects’.

These are associated environmental impacts arising from any change to the environment, whether adverse or beneficial, wholly, or partly resulting from the organisations operations in the form of activities/services/products.

Determining significance

Having identified an organisations activities, aspects and impacts, the next step is to determine which of its activities is the most important to manage in terms of environment.

ISO14001:2015 requires that ‘the organisation shall determine those aspects that have or can have a significant environmental impact, i.e., significant environmental aspects, by using an established criteria.’

However, there is no single method for assessing significance and there is no specific guidance in the standard other than it is for the organisation to set the criteria and it should provide consistent results.

In general, an environmental aspect can be considered significant if it:

  • Is controlled by statutory requirements.
  • Is of concern to key stakeholders.
  • Has the potential to cause immediate or catastrophic harm to the environment.
  • Has major financial implications, both in terms of a positive impact (savings) or negative impact (costs).

One technique that can be used to determine the level of significance is through a risk assessment matrix (occurrence x consequence), a basic example would be:

Those environmental aspects inside the shaded area would be significant, those outside not significant. The darker shaded area would indicate those of a higher priority.

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