Changes to the ISO 14001 standard are expected to lead to a lot more work and result in a stronger, more respected and widely accepted program. ISO 14001 is the standard against which an organization may have its Environmental Management System (EMS) audited by an independent certification body that then vouches for the conformity of the system to the standard's requirements by issuing an "ISO 14001 certificate." Certification is not a requirement of the standard, but many organizations have chosen this option because of the perceived credibility of an independent verification. Up to the end of December 2003, at least 66,070 certificates to ISO 14001:1996 had been issued in 113 countries and economies, over 34% more than the previous year and the largest annual increase so far recorded by The ISO Survey.
Little words can make a big difference when designing a regulation, standard, or guidance document. On November 15, 2004 the International Standards Organization published two new sets of guidelines for companies to manage their environmental impacts--known as ISO 14001 and ISO 14004. "These standards represent the state of the art in environmental management practice," affirmed ISO Secretary-General Alan Bryden, "and are at the leading edge of ISO's comprehensive offering to help organizations address all three dimensions of sustainable development--social, economic and environmental." One significant change in the standard is little more than an "or" changing to an "and."