Confirming to ISO 14000 Environmental Management Documentation


Pollution has emerged as one of the primary concerns of China in the last few decades. This has been largely due to the rapid growth of industries which on the one hand, have contributed to the unprecedented economic growth of the country while, on the other hand, have posed a serious threat to China’s natural environment. The Chinese authorities have realized the need to incorporate environment concerns into the management policies of the enterprises for combating this problem effectively.

This has lead to the increasing adoption of the ISO 14000 standards especially the ISO 14001 registrations by the enterprises in China. In this way, more and more enterprises have started applying these international standards to their environmental management systems (EMS).This paper explores the extent to which certified enterprises of the country conform to the mandatory ISO 14001 and the non-mandatory ISO 14004 standards.

Research evidence provided to support the author’s observation that conformity to ISO 14001 and ISO 14004 standards by Chinese enterprises is a bit disappointing

The results of the survey which has been conducted in the form of a questionnaire during the period 2001-2002 clearly reinstate the above observation. On a whole, greater conformance to ISO 14001 standards have been reported than to ISO 14004 standards (Chung, Fryxell, & Carlos, 2005).

A certified enterprise is considered to conform to ISO 14001 standards only if it fulfills the seven basic requirements as specified in clause 4.2 of the ISO 14001 standard of 1996. The results of this survey indicate that of the seven requirements, two that are frequently adhered to by the enterprises are commitment to prevent pollution and adherence to environmental legislations and regulations. Most of the enterprises have appeared to comply with only three or four of the seven criteria. Only 13 enterprises have been able to clearly define their environmental goals and targets in their environmental policies (Chung, Fryxell, & Carlos, 2005).

The results presented in the form of frequency distribution table in this article clearly indicate that most of the enterprises fail to conform to the ISO 14001 standards. Approximately 20% of the enterprises have been able to comply with three or even less of the required criteria. Based on the evidence provided in the form of survey results, it becomes clear that a significant number of enterprises have failed to fulfill the basic requirement of ISO 14001 of formulating an environmental policy in keeping with the nature of their activities.

The results appear a little more disappointing as far as conformation to ISO 14004 standards by the Chinese enterprises are concerned. Of the four essential requirements of the ISO 14004 standard, most of the organizations (82.1%) have shown compliance with only one of them- mentioning the integral values and beliefs of the company. Most other requirements have been totally ignored by the enterprises. Not a single company has been found to fully adhere to all the requirements.

Information regarding the failure to adhere to ISO’s theme of continual development

Continual improvement of the environmental performance is an area that has been grossly ignored by a substantial number of enterprises. In fact, one of the essential requirements of the ISO 14001 standard is to incorporate a commitment to consistently improve environmental performance (C1). However, the results of the survey indicate that only 85 enterprises out of a total of 120 have some reference to C1 in their environmental policies.

The above fact is further emphasized by the revelation that the environmental policies of most of the enterprises do not include criteria for constant monitoring of environmental goals and objectives. Nor do these enterprises consider it a policy issue to impart training and education regarding the environment to the staff members. The two criteria mentioned above, if properly followed, would have been of substantial aid to the enterprises in pursuing the goal of continual improvement of environmental performance.

Suggesting a way of improving the registration/certification program in China

In my opinion, the registration/certification program in China can be improved to a considerably by increasing the involvement of the management committee of the enterprises in the effective implementation of the EMS. The management committee must be made to realize that they are committed to the provision of a cleaner environment. This implies giving greater care, attention and importance to the effective implementation and quality enhancement of the EMSs by conforming to certain international standards like ISO 14001 and ISO 14004 (Chung, Fryxell, & Carlos, 2005). The guidance and inspiration from the top level will definitely motivate employees at all levels to work collaboratively in conforming to international standards to control pollution.


To conclude, it is sufficient to reiterate the fact that the Chinese enterprises have displayed considerable sloppiness regarding adherence to international standards like ISO 14001 and ISO 14004. The situation can be improved by reinstating the importance of EMS as an effective management tool as well as by making the management personnel more responsible and aware of the issue of conformity to international standards.


Chung, S., Fryxell, G., & Carlos, W. (2005). Corporate environmental management policy statements in Mainland China: To what extent do they conform to ISO 14000 documentation? Environmental Management, 35(4), 468-482.