Discover how EMAS can help achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

What are the SDGs?

The 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and their 169 targets were adopted on 25 September 2015 by the Heads of State and Government at a United Nations summit as part of the Agenda 2030. The goal behind the SDGs is to eradicate poverty and achieve sustainable development worldwide by 2030. To do so, the SDGs tackle the fields of poverty, health, food and agriculture, water and sanitation, human settlements, energy, climate change, sustainable consumption and production, oceans, and terrestrial ecosystems. The scale, ambition and approach of the Agenda 2030 and its SDGs are unprecedented as they are global in nature and universally applicable, while at the same time taking into account national realities, capacities and levels of development. As the SDGs are not legally binding, implementation and success will rely on countries’ own sustainable development policies, plans and programmes. This means that all countries have a shared responsibility to achieve the SDGs. Therefore, all stakeholders, including governments, civil society and the private sector, are expected to contribute to the SDGs.

EMAS helps achieve the SDGs

But what is the connection between the SDGs and EMAS? Can the SDGs benefit from EMAS in any way, and if so, how? The specific connection between EMAS and the SDGs appears when the features and objectives of EMAS are linked to achieving associated goals and targets of the SDGs. As EMAS is a tool which is implemented to reduce organisations' environmental impacts and increase their sustainability, it can address and help to achieve those SDGs, which likewise deal with environmental and sustainability matters.

EMAS helps identify an organisation’s direct and indirect environmental issues, then assesses the significance of their related environmental impacts. Direct impacts include (a) air emissions, (b) releases to water, (c) production, recycling, reuse, transportation and disposal of solid and other wastes, (d) use and contamination of land, (e) use of energy and natural resources, and (f) local issues like noise and odours. Indirect impacts include issues related to product lifecycle, capital investments, administrative and planning decisions, and the environmental performance and practices of contractors and suppliers. After the environmental impact assessment, it is the overall aim of each organisation to continuously improve its environmental performance. In this context, the connection to the SDGs arises: By helping to improve the environmental impacts associated with the organisation’s activities, EMAS also contributes to achieving those SDGs which concern environmental and sustainability issues. The following connections between EMAS and the SDGs emerge:

sdg6Goal 6 (Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all): EMAS encourages organisations to decrease releases to water, decrease the amount of water used and generally use clean production methods

sdg7Goal 7 (Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all): EMAS encourages organisation to use renewable energy and decrease the amount of energy used

sdg11Goal 11 (Make cities inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable): Through EMAS certification of administrative organisations, EMAS helps a number of public administrations on their path to achieving green and sustainable cities

sdg12Goal 12 (Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns): EMAS can lead to and increase sustainable consumption and production patterns within an organisation through (a) an efficient use of resources (target 12.2), (b) a substantial reduction of waste (12.5), (c) a sound management of waste (12.4) and (d) encouraging the adoption of sustainable practices and requiring a high-quality reporting cycle (12.6). The German Environment Agency recently used EMAS as an indicator for the acceptance of sustainable production patterns in the economy

sdg13Goal 13 (Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts): EMAS pursues the reduction of air emissions (e.g. greenhouse gases), which, together with its goal of continual performance improvement, can contribute to combating climate change

sdg14Goal 14 (Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources): EMAS seeks to decrease releases to and contamination of water as well as the use of natural resources like water

sdg15Goal 15 (Sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, halt and reverse land degradation, halt biodiversity loss): EMAS encourages organisations to decrease their contamination and use of land as well as their use of natural resources

Best practices from EMAS organisations which contribute to the SDGs

cemex_logoCemex, a global building materials company with EMAS-certified production sites in Germany, Poland and Spain, contributes to different SDGs through its actions:

  • SDG 13: Deploying a robust global carbon strategy that reflects the company’s commitment to mitigation and to putting risk assessment processes in place for potential climate change impacts
  • SDG 15: Implementing quarry rehabilitation and biodiversity action plans or deploying conservation efforts at El Carmen, a nature reserve 8.4 times larger than the total sum of the areas impacted by Cemex’s operations worldwide
  • SDG 11: Deploying a community engagement strategy in all of its operations, considering environmental and social impacts and implementing a green building certification policy across the company’s worldwide offices

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hansewasser_logohanseWasser is a German EMAS-certified wastewater disposal company:

  • SDG 6: Through its daily work, hanseWasser contributes to the provision of sanitation for the population of the city of Bremen and its surrounding areas by collecting and treating wastewater. Besides that, the company actively improves water conservation, urban drainage and the preservation of the regional water cycle by taking part in certain regional projects.
  • SDG 14: One research project hanseWasser takes part in aims to examine microplastics contamination within the area of the Weser river basin and the Wadden Sea, and also looks at one of the company’s wastewater treatment plants. In another project, procedural measures have been developed to optimize the company’s nutrient elimination, which leads to a stabilized level of wastewater treatment.

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uga_logoThe German EMAS Advisory Board is itself EMAS-certified:

  • SDG 13 and 15: The organisation compensates all its CO2 emissions from travel activities, heating and energy by depositing money into the Evers-ReForest programme, which is a reforestation program in the German state of Schleswig-Holstein

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eastman_logoEastman Chemical Company, an American Fortune 500 company, is a global specialty chemical company that produces a broad range of advanced materials, chemicals and fibres for everyday purposes. It has an EMAS-certified subsidiary in the UK:

  • SDG 7: The UK subsidiary is partly powered by two wind turbines on the site, helping to decrease the company’s energy consumption year by year since 1998.

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matins_logoMartin’s Hotel, an EMAS-certified hotel group in Belgium

  • SDG 12: The group’s innovative sustainability strategy “tomorrow needs today” focuses on reusing resources and integrating suppliers, employees and customers into their strategy to enable sustainable consumption. Martin’s Hotel received the EMAS Award 2017 for their pioneering role.

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