This document gives guidelines for a phased approach to establish, implement, maintain and improve an environmental management system (EMS) that organizations, including small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), can adopt to enhance their environmental performance. The phased approach provides flexibility that allows organizations to develop their EMS at their own pace, over a number of phases, according to their own circumstances. Each phase consists of six consecutive stages. The system's maturity at the end of each phase can be characterized using the five-level maturity matrix provided in Annex A. This document is applicable to any organization regardless of their current environmental performance, the nature of the activities undertaken or the locations at which they occur. The phased approach enables an organization to develop a system that ultimately satisfies the requirements of ISO 14001. The guidance does not cover those elements of specific systems that go beyond ISO 14001 and it is not intended to provide interpretations of the requirements of ISO 14001.