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.
(I) Improvement of the applicability and credibility of the scheme:
(II) Strengthening EMAS’ visibility and outreach:
To receive EMAS registration an organisation must comply with the following steps:
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:
The study is available here.A fact sheet on EMAS benefits is available here.
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.
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.
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.