In last week’s post, we talked about the need for clearly and fully defining Context of the Organization as a basis for a strong and aligned Management System (MS) – this week we’re going to dig in to Context’s External Issues in a bit more detail.

Context of the Organization – External Issues

Context requires an organization to “determine external and internal issues that are relevant to its purpose and that affect its ability to achieve the intended outcomes of its __________ management system.” (ISO 14001:2015 clause 4.1 – environmental; or DIS 45001 clause 4.1 – OH&S) or “are relevant to its purpose and its strategic direction and that affect its ability to achieve the intended result(s) of its quality management system” (ISO 9001:2015 clause 4.1)

All three standards stop there – no explanations, no definitions, no helpful notes.

Annex A to the rescue

By digging in a bit more, we find some helpful info in the Annex A sections, especially for the environmental and OHS versions, where we get a bit more “context” of the context:

mcdonald consulting group, context of the organization, external issues

geralt / Pixabay

9001:2015 – no further guidance given in Annex A, although there are a few notes in Clause 4.1:

NOTE 1   Issues can include positive and negative factors or conditions for consideration.

NOTE 2   Understanding the external context can be facilitated by considering issues arising from legal, technological, competitive, market, cultural, social and economic environments, whether international, national, regional, or local.



14001:2015 – quite a bit of info – including lists of external issues which can be relevant, including

a) environmental conditions related to climate, air quality, water quality, land use, existing contamination, natural resource availability and biodiversity…

b) external cultural, social, political, legal, regulatory, financial, technological, economic, natural and competitive circumstances, whether international, national, regional, or local


context of the organization ISO 45001:2016 external issues

skeeze / Pixabay

45001:2105 (DIS) provides even more info, covering

a) external context issues, such as:

  1. the cultural, social, political, legal, financial, technological, economic and natural surroundings and market competition, whether international, national, regional or local;
  2. introduction of new competitors, contractors, suppliers, partners and providers, new technologies, new laws and the emergence of new occupations;
  3. key drivers and trends relevant to the industry or sector having impact on the organization;
  4. relationships with, and perceptions of values of, its external interested parties;
  5. changes in relation to any of the above.

As a result of these lists, you can now determine which of these are relevant, and then determine who we’re talking about when we look at whether these external forces impact the organization or not.  (When we are going through an implementation on site, we spend about 2 hours identifying who fits in to each of these categories, in an effort to ensure that we are considering ALL before we are determining relevance; this helps to demonstrate that the organization has taken everything into account when determining relevance.)