The aim of an internal audit is to evaluate a management system and to improve the effectiveness thereof. By continually evaluating and improving, an organization of company is better able to reach their objectives and goals. Systems are evaluated and this assists management in maintaining control over the processes and gives them the ability to continually improve them.
Management, along with internal auditors, work through each system and process systematically and review them. This kind of audit is in place to review how well a particular process is geared towards risk management. These audits also help to ascertain whether the correct processes are in fact in place and whether or not those in place are being adhered to. Audits make it easy to pinpoint areas where efficiency needs to be stepped up or where new and fresh ideas need to be brought to the fore in order to maximize the performance of the processes.
Every area of operation is thoroughly investigated during an internal audit. Any part of the business operation that deals with customers, suppliers, environmental impact, employees, health and safety, as well as issues related to the requirements of ISO 14001. Areas that are investigated do not leave out areas such as organizational skills, and ethics. These are areas that are intangible, but still key to complete operational perfection.
The internal audit report is presented to the powers that be, the CEO, and management. The audits introduce a viewpoint that is independent from those harbored by those involved directly in the organization. The report offers valid and objective accounts on how the company is performing and to what extent success will be achieved, with the current processes in place.
External audits differ vastly from internal audits. External audits are carried out by third party participants. These audits are usually carried out to ascertain the degree to which a company or organization management systems conform with the requirements of certain standards like the ISO 14001 certification for instance.
External audits do not focus on the entire business and all it’s processes but only on those which bear reference to the certification in question. The processes implemented to carry out and achieve the requirements of the certification, are evaluated. The areas where the organization seems to be lacking are pinpointed and from there suggestions are made on how this can be rectified. The recorded changes, results, improvements, an successes are evaluated and it is ensured that all paperwork recorded conforms with the requirements of the particular standard.
Once ISO 14001 certification is granted to an organization, it doesn’t end there. Although the certification is valid for three years, the organization, its processes, and conformance are all evaluated on a regular basis, usually annually. This is to ensure that procedures put in place, are in fact sufficient and that they do conform with requirements. ISO 14001 certification is an ongoing process and not one where you can slack off once the certification has been awarded.. There has to be notable improvements in processes, and the results of the impact on the environment, need to show reduction through actions taken by the environmental management team.
Each person needs to be answerable during an external audit. Yes, the management and leadership have the responsibility of providing answers, but they need to be able to rely on their environmental management team to make choices and have the ability to provide them with answers on why certain action was taken. The team are answerable to the leadership and management who face the music with the third party auditing company.
An organization needs to pass an external audit, in order to uphold their ISO 14001 certification. The ISO 14001 certification requirements, if put in place properly, are not only there to reduce environmental impact, but also to improve the overall operational performance of the organization.
Audits, whether internal or external, are key in ensuring operational and functional performance of an organization. Without these audits, key members in the organization will not have the insight into the problem areas in the business that need to be addressed. Audits are a way of enabling management and leadership to incorporate innovative ideas and processes to improve wherever possible.
An audit, whether internal or external, should offer no problem to an organization if their processes and results are properly monitored and recorded. Paperwork, documents, and documenting any problems, corrective action, or changes is imperative to assisting the auditors in helping the business owner, managers, or leadership to identify areas that need work or change. Member involved in these processes and documentation need to be held accountable for their work, ensuring that it is perfect. Leadership and management need to make those on the environmental management team inspired, motivated, and determined. They need to understand the importance of their function in the process and that they are responsible members of the team.
ISO 14001 certification carries with it a huge, and sometimes daunting task. Processes need to be developed, and implemented. With each process there are measurements and recordings that need to be made daily. Management needs to be hand on in a process like this, aware of changes that need to be undertaken, and the results that need to be achieved. This is not a process where management can sit back and let those given the responsibilities, do all the work. They need to have their finger on the button at all times, and be aware of what is going on and where.
Environmental impact is something that needs to be reduced by all companies, their operations, and their products. Destroy the environment through greed now, and you will eventually stifle the chance of future operation. Your environmental management system needs to have a balance whereby environmental footprint in reduced, but operational success is also achieved. This balance is not an easy one to maintain, but with a driven environmental management team in place, it is very possible to achieve and maintain.