ISO 14001

How to define roles and responsibilities for your ISO 14001 EMS

October 19, 2022

How to define roles and responsibilities for your ISO 14001 EMS

Clause 5.3 of ISO 14001:2015 requires top management to ensure that roles and responsibilities and authorities for your Environmental Management System (EMS) are assigned, communicated, and understood, but what exactly are these roles and responsibilities? And what’s the most effective way to define these for your organisation?

What are the EMS roles and responsibilities that ISO 14001:2015 requires you to define?

Defining ISO 14001 roles and responsibilities in your organisation has many benefits… from enhancing environmental performance to improving communication and collaboration. 

The success of an environmental management system depends on commitment from all levels and 

functions of the organisation. It is not the responsibility of just one person to understand the EMS, but all.  A good starting point is to define the EMS compliance roles first. Whether you’re a sole trader or a corporate CEO we all find ourselves wearing multiple hats. Therefore, creating the role (or hat) of ‘Environmental Manager’ will help you assign the key responsibility of improving the EMS to the most appropriate person in your organisation.

Responsibilities of the Top Management role

​​Top management should take accountability for the effectiveness of the Environmental management system and ensure that the EMS achieves its intended results. They must provide appropriate resources for the EMS and ensure responsibilities and authorities for relevant roles are assigned, communicated and understood. Top Management have overall responsibility for the integration of the ISO 14001:2015 requirements into business processes. This starts with defining an Environmental policy that includes a commitment to the protection of the environment, internal training and a commitment to continually improve the EMS. Top management can also leverage opportunities to prevent or mitigate adverse environmental impacts and enhance beneficial environmental impacts through setting objectives in line with the strategic direction of the organisation. 

Responsibilities of the Environmental Manager role

Good communication and collaboration are key competency attributes for the Environmental Manager role. They will need to liaise with top management, process owners and staff to ensure that all employees have read and understood the Environmental Policy and are aware of the Environmental objectives of the Environmental management system. Other responsibilities include ensuring that the EMS conforms to the requirements of ISO 14001; monitoring the performance of the EMS; and reporting opportunities for improvement to top management.

The Environmental Manager should have an understanding of statutory & regulatory legislation as this is a requirement of the standard. See How to maintain a EMS Legal Register for ISO 14001

Responsibilities of the Process Owner role

Process owners and line managers should be assigned responsibility for ensuring the integration of the EMS requirements into business processes. Process owners should also be responsible for ensuring staff and external suppliers understand how they can control or influence environmental aspects of its activities, products and services considering a life cycle perspective. 

Responsibilities of all Staff

All staff are responsible for maintaining the required Environmental of service. Employees must also be aware of Environmental objectives and the implications of not conforming with the EMS requirements Staff should also be aware of Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), that will monitor and measure if the process is working as expected. 

How ISO 14001 Software can help you define and communicate your EMS roles and responsibilities

The ISO 14001 standard requires the above EMS roles, responsibilities and authorities to be communicated and understood in your company, so how do you achieve this?

One of the easiest ways to achieve this is to document the roles and responsibilities using ISO 14001 software such as the ISOvA Toolbox, which has a list of predefined EMS Roles and Responsibilities including Environmental Manager, Top Management, Process Owners and All Staff. You can easily tailor these to match your organisation or add new roles. The guidance includes how to describe the responsibilities in terms of education, experience, training, and competence requirements. Internal and External communication columns include authorities on what and how information should be communicated.


Simply review and edit the ISOvA EMS Roles and Responsibilities template to define responsibilities for each role. Whether that is your Managing Director or your Environmental manager, we set out the precise expectations of each individual, so everything is clearly communicated. 

Once set, your EMS roles will appear in other related areas of your EMS software, including assigned responsibilities for Objectives, Corrective Actions, KPIs and Risk owners, to keep everything synchronised.

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