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EMAS - Performance, Credibility, Transparency

Eco-label Environmental Compliance Assistance Program Green Public Procurement

Main features

Key elements of EMAS

EMAS’ distinctive key elements are performance, credibility and transparency:

PERFORMANCE:EMAS is a voluntary environmental management instrument based on a harmonised scheme throughout the EU. Its objective is to improve the environmental performance of organisations by having them commit to both evaluating and reducing their environmental impact, and continuously improving their environmental performance.

CREDIBILITY:The external and independent nature of the EMAS registration process (Competent Bodies, Accreditation/Licensing Bodies and environmental verifiers under the control of the EU Member States) ensures the credibility and reliability of the scheme. This includes both the actions taken by an organisation to continuously improve its environmental performance, and the organisation’s disclosure of information to the public through the environmental statement.

TRANSPARENCY: Providing publicly available information on an organisation’s environmental performance is an important aspect of the scheme’s objective. It is achieved externally through the environmental statement and within the organisation through the active involvement of employees in the implementation of the scheme. The EMAS logo, which can be displayed on (inter alia) letterheads, adverts for products, activities, and services, is an attractive visual tool which demonstrates an organisation’s commitment to improving its environmental performance and indicates the reliability of the information provided.

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New elements of EMAS III

(I) Improvement of the applicability and credibility of the scheme:

    • Transitional registration procedures to facilitate the introduction of EMAS III
    • Revised audit cycles to further improve applicability for SMEs
    • Single corporate registration to ease administrative and financial burdens on organisations with several sites
    • Cluster approach to provide specific assistance to clusters of organisations in the development and implementation phases of EMAS registration
    • Environmental core indicators help to adequately document environmental performance and create multi-annual comparability within and between organisations
    • Sectoral reference documents to facilitate the practical implementation 'on the ground' of EMAS requirements
    • Assistance from Member States to organisations on compliance with legal requirements relating to the environment to ease EMAS registration for organisations
    • Enhanced legal compliance to further strengthen the credibility of the scheme

(II) Strengthening EMAS’ visibility and outreach:

    • Single EMAS logo to communicate EMAS in one coherent and distinctive way
    • EMAS Global to encourage the global uptake of the scheme by making EMAS certification possible for organisations and sites located outside the EU Community
    • Informational and promotional activities of EU Member States and European Commission to support EMAS III
    • Recognition of other EMS to facilitate upgrade from existing EMS to EMAS

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The main stages of EMAS

To receive EMAS registration an organisation must comply with the following steps:

  • Conduct an environmental review considering all environmental aspects of the organisation’s activities, products and services, methods to assess these, relevant legal and regulatory framework and existing environmental management practices and procedures.

  • Adopt an environmental policy containing commitment both to comply with all relevant environmental legislation and to achieve continuous improvements in environmental performance.

  • Develop an environmental programme that contains information on specific environmental objectives and targets. The environmental programme is a tool to help the organisation in its everyday work when planning and implementing the improvements.

  • Based on the results of the review, establish an effective environmental management system (EMS) aimed at achieving the organisation’s environmental policy and at improving the environmental performance continually. The management system needs to set responsibilities, means to achieve objectives, operational procedures, training needs, monitoring and communication systems.

  • Carry out an environmental audit assessing in particular the management system in place and conformity with the organisation’s policy and programme as well as compliance with relevant environmental regulatory requirements.

  • Provide an environmental statement of its environmental performance which lays down the results achieved against the environmental objectives and the future steps to be undertaken in order to continuously improve the organisation’s environmental performance.

  • The environmental review, EMS, audit procedure and the environmental statement must be approved by an accredited environmental verifier. The validated statement needs to be sent to the EMAS Competent Body for registration and made publicly available before an organisation can use the EMAS logo.

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Benefits of EMAS

In 2009, the European Commission completed its ‘Study on the Costs and Benefits of EMAS to Registered Organisations’. The study identified the benefits (and costs) of EMAS registration. Convincing evidence was found of various benefits arising from EMAS registration. The three benefits most commonly identified in the study are:

  • Increased efficiency savings;
  • Reduced negative incidents; and
  • Improved stakeholder relationships.

The study is available here.

A fact sheet on EMAS benefits is available here.

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EMAS and ISO 14001

The European Commission has recognised that ISO 14001 can provide a stepping stone for EMAS. The EN ISO 14001: 2004 environmental management system requirements are an integral part of EMAS III (Annex II of EMAS III).  However, EMAS takes into account additional elements to support organisations in continually and significantly improving their environmental performance. 

EMAS and ISO 14001

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Policy Context of EMAS

Current environmental and climate change concerns clearly illustrate the need to strive towards more resource efficient and eco-innovative production processes. As part of the EU Action Plan on Sustainable Consumption and Production and Sustainable Industrial Policy the European Commission initiated the latest revision of EMAS in order to fully exploit the scheme’s potential for improving the resource efficiency of production processes. Sustainable growth based on a more resource-efficient, greener and more competitive economy is also part of in the Europe 2020 strategy (the economic reform strategy of the EU). Resource efficiency, achieved by decoupling economic growth from resource and energy use, is one of the seven so-called ‘flagship’ initiatives.

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EMAS in the European Commission

The European Commission sets an example by reducing the environmental impact of its own activities through EMAS. Key priorities are the efficient use of natural resources (mainly energy, water and paper), the reduction of overall CO2 emissions, waste prevention, recycling and re-use, green public procurement and sustainable mobility. The environmental performance results between 2007 and 2008 are positive. For example, the total energy use (i.e. electricity + gas + heating oil consumption) fell by 27 percent, per member of staff and the water consumption decreased by 16 percent, per member of staff.

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