ISO 14001:2004 is an Environmental Management System based on the continuous improvement principles and the PDCA cycle. Any worthwhile Environmental Management System (EMS) will have at its core objectives and targets or goals with metrics.

Most EMS models stipulate that these objectives be developed, managed, tracked and communicated. Simply, these objectives will detail what an organization intends to do to improve its environmental performance, and provide an objective measurement to insure that the goal is met. When an EMS is initiated, there is typically an abundance of low hanging fruit that can serve as objectives and targets that can be easily plucked. This is important so that the system can demonstrate initial success, and the organization can practice and learn how to effectively manage environmental projects. Management can see these readily achieved goals as a stepping-stone to tackling the more complex or costly environmental issues that may face an organization.

The ISO 14001 Standard requires that an organization consider a number of variables when establishing objectives and targets. In practice, the following questions should all be considered in the process used to establish objectives and targets:

    • Compliance Issues: Does the objective address an area that is not in compliance with regulations? Will it create a new compliance issue?
    • Significant Environmental Impacts: Does the objective relate to an impact your system has determined to be significant?
    • Technology: What are the technical options for modifying or replacing existing equipment or processes?
    • Financial Limitations: Will the objectives fit into the operating budget of the organization?
    • Personnel Resources: Does the organization have the people to implement and manage the project?
    • Operational Requirements: Will the objective enhance (or decrease) productivity or streamline the environmental activities?