EHS Management

Setting environmental objectives and targets for ISO 14001 Compliance

What is an Objective? What is a Target?

Environmental objectives are goals that you would like to meet in the future.

Targets are the means for providing verifiable evidence that you have actually met the objective.  For example, your environmental objective may be to reduce the generation of hazardous wastes.  Your may then set your target at 20 percent reduction within 12 months.  In the parlance of ISO 14001, objectives are “documents” whereas targets are “records.”  Documents can be modified while records cannot.  For example, you can modify your objectives, but you cannot change having missed your targets.

In setting your targets, make sure you are not overly ambitious—especially during the first year of implementation.  Set a target that is realistic and reasonably easy to achieve in the first year.  You don’t want your organization to fail the first time it tries to meet an environmental target.  Failure can be very demoralizing to your team members.  It is much better to set an achievable target and meet it the first year and then set progressively more aggressive targets in following years.

Remember that the fundamental basis of an effective environmental management program consists of top-down support and bottom-up involvement.  Always get senior management to buy in on the objectives and targets, and make sure you communicate the objectives clearly to the employees.  After all, the employees are the ones who are going to make it happen.

Some Good Examples

Here are some examples of environmental objectives:

  • Minimize raw material use.
  • Minimize releases of air contaminants to the environment.
  • Comply with all applicable environmental laws.
  • Use recycled products where feasible.
  • Stop purchasing chemicals that contain carcinogens.
  • Safeguard the environment for future generations.
  • Be a responsible neighbor.
  • Foster openness with employees and the public.

Examples of environmental targets:

  • Reduce sanitary waste from routine operations by 25 percent by 2014, using a 2005 baseline.
  • Recycle 45 percent of sanitary wastes from all operations by 2014 and 50 percent by 2020.
  • Reduce fleet petroleum consumption by 20 percent by 2014, using a 2000 baseline.
  • Ensure that 75 percent of new light-duty vehicles purchased each year are alternative-fuel vehicles.

Listed below are some examples of environmental objectives and specific target dates:

Objectives Targets Involved Parties
Reduce water consumption. Set water use baseline by 12/1/2012.
Benchmark each plant by 3/1/2013.
Put program in place by 7/1/2013.
Production and maintenance staff
Engineering department
Accounting department
Reduce chemical spills. Train all employees by 9/1/2012.
Reduce number of spills 50% by 1/1/2013.
Production and maintenance
Shipping and receiving
Environmental training group
Stop buying chemicals that contain carcinogens. Evaluate alternatives by 1/1/2013.
Set purchase policy by 3/1/2013.
Product development group
Purchasing department
Improve employee awareness. Train employees within a year. All staff


Depending on the objectives, different groups of employees will be involved.

For the water consumption objective, all production and maintenance personnel must be involved in the process since they are the end users of water.  Engineering staff will be required to set the baseline and come up with engineering solutions (such as automatic shutoff valves and individual water meters) to help conserve water.  Maintenance staff will be trained on more efficient ways of cleaning the facility.  Accounting staff will be responsible for billing the production department for water usages.

In the case of reducing chemical spills, you must get the support of everyone who handles chemicals.  Set up an awareness program so that all your employees understand the safe handling procedures and the various reporting requirements in the event of a spill.  For example, you may want to assign someone in the receiving department the responsibility of reviewing the material safety data sheet/safety data sheet for safe storage requirements before a new chemical is stored in the warehouse.

In the case of buying chemicals that do not contain carcinogens, the product development group and purchasing department will take the lead role.  Someone in the product development group must evaluate various alternatives to ensure that they do not affect the quality of the final products.  Purchasing agents must look for vendors of acceptable alternatives. Senior management will then have to approve the new policy.

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This article is adapted from an article written by Norman Wei, owner and principal instructor at Environmental Management and Training, LLC. You can contact Mr. Wei at, or visit the website at


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