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What is an Environmental Aspect?

What is an environmental aspect?

Environmental Aspect is defined in ISO 14001:2015 as an element of an organization’s activities, products or services that may impact or do impact the environment. So what exactly does this mean? In simpler terms, an environmental aspect is anything that happens within your organization that interacts with the environment. This encompasses both negative or positive interactions with the environment. Many people focus on the negative but it’s important to remember that anything that has positive effects also matters, for example recycling, or planting trees. All in all, it is important for your organization and your EMS to make sure and remember not only negative aspects but also positive when identifying environmental aspects.

Categorizing Aspects

Many organizations find it useful to categorize environmental aspects. ISO 14001 Annex A helps make this a bit easier. There are six categories and this will help you work with the Environmental Self Assessment Tool Areas.

ISO 14001 Annex A Categories

Organization Environmental ASAT Major Areas

Emissions to Air


Releases to Water


Waste Management

Solid Waste: Hazardous and Industrial

Contamination of Land

Land Management

Consumption of Natural Resources and Raw Materials

Other Environmental Issues Particular to your General Locality and Community (noise, odors, etc.)

Location Management


Chemical Release


Toxic Substances

As an organization, you do not have to use this list, or you can subdivide these categories and add other aspects such as noise, employee exposure, etc. If the list seems advantageous for you, then use it, but it is not a requirement if it does not serve you well.

Classification of Environmental Aspects

Within the categories you may also want to categorize the environmental aspect into classifications. Classifications will help allow you to understand and determine what control you have over environmental aspects and prioritize any that may need to be controlled. These categories are:

  • Controlled
  • Influenced
  • Significant
  • Non significant
  • Positive

Why is it important to identify Environmental Aspects?

The goal for identifying environmental aspects is to understand which are important environmental issues to be managed and controlled by your EMS.

What are the ISO 14001 Requirements in regards to Environmental Aspects?

The standard requires organizations to establish and maintain a procedure for identifying environmental aspects, any activities associated with them including products and services, that are within your control. Once you have identified these aspects you must determine which have a significant impact on the environment. Prioritizing the aspects is important when it comes to continual improvement within your organization.

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