Both ISO 9001 and ISO 14001 have a whole new clause of leadership for the management system. This replaces the old concept of top management commitment that appeared in the previous versions of both standards.
To begin, if you already have top management who are fully engaged in the management systems you have, and who actively participate in decisions and take note of issues and concerns the system raises, then this will be much easier. If, however, senior staff rarely comment on the QMS or EMS and who limit their involvement to management review then this will require some work.
Key to understanding leadership here is accountability. Top managers are busy people and were happy in the past to delegate much of the system function to a representative who would ‘keep the certificate on the wall’. The function of a management representative has been removed from the standards so it is no longer the case that this can be easily delegated.
To be accountable, top management must really have their finger on the pulse and be aware of issues and concerns within the system as soon as they occur. This allows them to allocate resource, drive improvement and ensure that the system really does contribute towards the organisation. To have certification should always be a benefit and never a burden.
The most obvious areas for top management to demonstrate their involvement include:
- Considering the quality and environmental implications of decisions they have taken, and ensuring the QMS and EMS develops alongside wider business/organisation improvement. The QMS should never be an afterthought
- Actively and continually reviewing progress against objectives and targets – and not simply waiting for an end of year review to find out these are not going to be met
- Making sure different departments and activities throughout the organisation work together to deliver the product/service and deliver good environmental management – the process approach
- Supporting all staff who may be trying to deliver the quality management system
- Being aware of risks and opportunities and using these when developing organisational strategy
Much of this already occurs within an organisation, but it is now part of ISO 9001 and ISO 14001. Much of this does not necessarily have to be documented in any way, but the top manager within your organisation shall have to be able to demonstrate this during certification body audits, usually through interview or by explaining the decisions they have made. There is no harm including top management in your own internal audit programme to ensure they are well prepared!