ISO 14001-Clause 4.2: Understanding the needs and expectations of interested parties

Environment, ISO Standards

This is the second in a series of blogs, in which we will describe what is required by an organization so that it may meet the requirements of ISO 14001:2015.

In this blog we will continue to look at Clause 4: Context of the organization, focussing on Clause 4.2: Understanding the needs and expectations of interested parties.

Clause 4.2: Understanding the needs and expectations of interested parties

Previously we covered Clause 4.1 Understanding the organization and its context. We discussed the requirement for the organization to understand the internal and external issues that can impact in a positive or negative manner on its environmental performance.  Such issues include organizational culture and structure, and the external environment including cultural, social, political, legal, financial, technological, economic, market competition and natural factors of significance to its performance.

Consideration of the above will facilitate the identification of interested parties and their needs and expectations.  If interested parties and their requirements are not identified there is a danger of falling short of their expectations.

ISO 14001 defines an interested party as “a person or organization that can affect, be affected by, or perceive themselves to be affected by a decision or activity”.

ISO 14001 requires the organization to determine:

  • The interested parties relevant to the environmental management system
  • The relevant needs and expectations or requirements of interested parties
  • Which or these needs and expectations are or could become compliance requirements

A variety of means may be used to identify interested parties, which include:

  • Noting who has expressed an interest in your operations
  • Structured brainstorming workshops
  • Using interviews and questionnaires
  • Asking employees, including managers and public relations personnel
  • Asking executives and heads of departments who is important to your business
  • Asking the question “who are we required to provide information to because of a law, regulation, permit or licence?”

ISO 14001 Stakeholders

Interested parties may include:

  • Employees and Employee Families
  • Regulatory authorities such as Local Authorities, EPA, SEPA and the Environment Agency
  • Owners, Shareholders and Parent Company
  • Suppliers, Contractors and Subcontractors
  • Clients/Customers
  • Investors and Bankers
  • Insurers
  • The Media
  • Local Community and Neighbours of the Organization
  • The General Public
  • The Emergency Services
  • Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) such as Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth
  • Professional bodies for Environmental Practitioners such as IEMA
  • Environmental Management Professionals

Some needs and expectations are mandatory because they have been incorporated into laws and regulations. The organization may also subscribe to voluntary initiatives or adopt the requirements of interested parties.  Once the organization adopts these needs and expectation, it must ensure that they are addressed when planning and establishing the Environmental Management System.

The organization should take the time to understand the relevant interested parties’ needs and expectations and determine those relevant to the Environmental Management System, which should be addressed.


Clause 4.2 Understanding the needs and expectations of interested parties – Quick Check

  • Have you identified relevant interested parties?
  • Have you determined the relevant needs and expectations of interested parties?
  • Have you determined which relevant needs and expectations are compliance obligations?
  • Does the organization have an adequate appreciation of the needs and expectations of interested parties?


Annex SL , Environment , Environmental management system , ISO 14001 , ISO 14001:2015 , management system standards
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