The climate: a game changer for management standards

The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and the International Accreditation Forum (IAF) have announced the publication of an amendment to 31 major management standards as part of their decision to introduce climate change as a vital issue. AFNOR explains the amendment in 10 questions and answers.

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What is the ISO amendment A1:2024 all about?

Amendment A1:2024 has turned climate change into a strategic topic by inviting organizations and their stakeholders to consider climate change issues within the meaning of the requirements set out in Clauses 4.1 and 4.2 of the management system standards based on the harmonized structure: “The organization shall determine whether climate change is a relevant issue” (4.1) and “Relevant interested parties can have requirements relating to climate change” (4.2). ISO acknowledges that organizations may already implicitly consider climate change issues within their management systems by comparing climate change to an “external factor“, but these new inclusions give the topic greater importance and a cross-cutting dimension, all of which requires special attention from the organization.

Which standards are affected?

ISO has clarified that amendment A1:2024 covers 31 “Type A” management system standards, including all QSE standards: ISO 9001, ISO 14298, ISO 16000-40, ISO 22163, ISO 22301, ISO 28000, ISO 29001, ISO 30301, ISO 34101, ISO 35001, ISO 37301, ISO 46001, ISO/IEC 27001, ISO 21401, ISO 30401, ISO 50001, ISO/IEC 20000-1, ISO 19443, ISO/IEC 19770-1, ISO 21001, ISO 37001, ISO 41001, ISO 44001, ISO 14001, ISO 15378, ISO 18788, ISO 21101, ISO 22000, ISO 37101, ISO 39001 and ISO 45001.

Does it mean that new versions of the standards will be published?

The publication of amendment A1:2024 effectively adds a new section to the standards concerned. In the same way that a legislative amendment modifies a law, the amendment entails a new version of the original text. This new version will be authoritative in its ISO or ISO/IEC form, and also in its EN ISO or EN ISO/IEC form. This is the case for each of the 31 standards mentioned.

Where can organizations get it, and how much does it cost?

Since amendment A1:2024 covers 31 standards, it is attached to each individual standard in the form of a document containing a few brief lines. It can be viewed free of charge in the standards collections of ISO’s affiliated national standardization organizations by searching for any of the standards concerned. The actual standards must still be purchased. For example, the amendment for ISO 9001 on quality is available here on the AFNOR Publishing website.

Why is it coming out now and not after standards have been revised?

The content of amendment A1:2024 was endorsed by the ISO Technical Management Board (TMB) during its 88th meeting in Brisbane on 19 September 2023. This decision was expected to lead to an actual statement on 31 January 2024, but the resolution was only published on 23 February 2024 as a joint communiqué from ISO and IAF (International Accreditation Forum). Given the scale of climate change issues and their impact on everyday life, ISO felt it necessary to include the topic in an immediate amendment without waiting for each standard to be revised. However, it has already been established that standards under development/revision, such as ISO 9001, ISO 14001 or ISO 37001, will include this amendment in their new version. We announced it here for ISO 9001, which is scheduled for the end of 2025, and here about the future ISO 14001.

Why introduce the subject of climate change into the standards?

Climate change is a game changer that is shaking up the global economy and radically changing how economic players organize themselves. Inevitably, it is a management-related issue, i.e. management of occupational health and safety because working environments are affected by rising temperatures, management of urban planning due to the need to develop and adapt cities to increasing temperatures and new hazards, quality management in the nuclear industry because the cooling water used in nuclear power plants will be drawn from the environment at higher temperatures, which affects equipment and safety, and the list goes on. Just as climate change has its place in the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals and in Europe’s new Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive, it also has its place in voluntary standards on an international scale.

How do organizations already applying the standards need to change their practices?

Many organizations did not wait for ISO to release amendment A1:2024 before determining whether their business model gave due consideration to climate change issues. This subject dovetails seamlessly with the risks and opportunities matrix, since climate change presents new risks for the organization, which in turn needs to identify opportunities (to modify its business, develop new business models, etc.). Within the company, process managers will need to spend more time and resources on this topic, and they can no longer avoid thinking about the issue. For organizations applying for certification, climate change will be a new and unavoidable focal point in the audit.

Will climate change considerations be a new criterion during certification audits?

This amendment strengthens consideration for climate change challenges among all the issues that organizations are already facing. Auditors will pay specific attention to this point, and the organization will be required to demonstrate that it has no climate change issues, or otherwise that such issues are reflected in its policy. This new amendment does not require organizations to undergo a transition audit or a new management system audit. The current certificate remains unchanged. Audit durations will remain the same.

Should this point be incorporated into certification audits from now on?

ISO and IAF invite all stakeholders – certified organizations, certification organizations and accreditation bodies – to integrate this amendment now. However, the obligation has not been formally mentioned. Their joint communiqué states that IAF will provide further guidance to accredited certification bodies. AFNOR Certification will send you these details.

Can this specific point lead to a nonconformity during the audit?

The requirements of Clauses 4.1 and 4.2 may lead to a nonconformity during the audit. If an organization fails to consider climate change issues, auditors may issue an audit finding. They will assess the extent of that finding based on its importance and impact on the organization. One example is an organization that uses a lot of water, but fails to consider the effects of droughts and potential water restrictions. IAF is due to provide accredited certification bodies with further instructions on this point as well. AFNOR Certification will send them to you.