Environment

Sectoral Reference Documents

The Sectoral Reference Documents (SRDs) on Best Environmental Management Practice provide guidance and inspiration to organisations in specific sectors on how to further improve environmental performance.

The European Commission, in consultation with EU Member States and stakeholders from the sectors addressed, produces two documents for each sector: a concise Sectoral Reference Document (SRD), and a detailed technical report on Best Environmental Management Practices ('best practice report'). These documents are being developed for different sectors which have been identified as priority sectors.

Each SRD includes the following elements:

  • Best environmental management practices;
  • Environmental performance indicators;
  • Benchmarks of excellence.

In this way, the SRDs are aimed at encouraging organisations to consider the most advanced and effective techniques, measures and actions that front-runner organisations in their sector are implementing to improve their environmental performance.

The best practice reports provide real life examples of BEMP implementation as well as information on the environmental benefits achieved, the cross-media effects, the applicability and economic value of the technology, and the reasons why companies adopt BEMPs. The reports are designed to help organisations to identify and implement the most relevant BEMPs for their individual needs. The EC has adopted official SRDs (available in all official languages of the EU) in the following sectors:

  1. Retail trade
  2. Tourism
  3. Food and Beverage Manufacturing

For the following sectors best practice reports have been finalised and SRDs are in progress:

  1. Construction
  2. Public Administration
  3. Agriculture

For other sectors, the development of the best practice reports and SRDs is still on-going. However, preliminary documents exist which may be used as a source of information on the scope and development process. These documents are available on the website of the Commission Joint Research Centre (JRC):


The development of the SRDs is led by the Joint Research Centre, the European Commission's in-house scientific service. To be involved in the development of one of the SRDs or to access the documents developed so far and find more information and updates on the status of the SRDs, you can contact the JRC at JRC-EMAS-SRD@ec.europa.eu. You can also visit the following website.

How do I use the Sectoral Reference Documents (SRDs) correctly?

The use of the SRD is open to any organisation desiring to improve its environmental performance. However, EMAS registered organisations have to take SRDs into account when developing and implementing their environmental management system (Decision (UE) 2016/611 of April 15th/2016). That means that an organisation should:

  • Compare its internal processes with the recommended best environmental practices and benchmarks of excellence to identify potential improvements. The organisation should include relevant improvement points should be included in its environmental programme for the following year;
  • Consider the relevant sector-specific environmental performance indicators in the SRDs when choosing the specific indicators for its environmental reporting ;
  • Mention in the environmental statement how the relevant best environmental management practices and, if available, benchmarks of excellence, have been taken into account;
  • Consult the SRDs on specific topics to find inspiration about which issues to tackle next when reviewing its environmental performance.

Implementing the best environmental management practices listed in the SRDs or meeting the identified benchmarks of excellence is not mandatory for EMAS registered organisations. However, during its environmental audit the organisation shall provide evidence on how it used the SRDs when developing and implementing its environmental management system.

The EMAS environmental verifier has to validate this evidence. However, given the voluntary nature of EMAS, no disproportionate burdens should be put on the organisations to provide such evidence. That means that verifiers will not require an individual justification for each element that is mentioned in the SRD and that was not considered relevant by the organisation. They could, however, suggest additional elements for the organisation to take into account in the future as further evidence of its commitment to continuous performance improvement.

Further information on SRDs can be found here on the website of the Joint Research Centre.

If you have any questions, do not hesitate to contact the EMAS Helpdesk!