The core of the EMAS scheme is the so-called "continuous improvement circle" or "PDCA-circle" (plan-do check-act). The elements of this circle are presented in the following diagramme [Hover the cursor over a field below to receive further information on the key steps]:
Make an initial environmental review
The environmental review is an initial comprehensive analysis of the environmental problems caused by an organisation’s activities. The initial environmental review spots the most significant direct and indirect environmental aspects and impacts and lay down a benchmark to measure future success in reducing these impacts. Additionally, legal environmental requirements are identified. On this basis, priorities are set in the environmental programme. The outcome is a report that includes hard data, for example about the consumption of raw materials and energy, production of wastes and emissions. It also includes information about the indirect environmental aspects of the activities of an organisation and the management structures in place to deal with these impacts.
- Give a picture of the organisation’s current environmental performance
- Identify direct and indirect environmental aspects and impacts
- Identify applicable legal requirements
Develop an environmental policy
The environmental policy describes the organisation’s overall aims and principles of action with respect to the environment. All organisations have an environmental policy, though not always formally stated. Sometimes the importance of an explicit environmental policy is overlooked, but it is a crucial element for further action. Without it all further steps become unclear. An environmental policy, adopted at the highest managerial level and revised periodically, should contain at least two central elements: compliance with relevant legal requirements and a commitment to continuous improvement of an organisation’s performance.
- Address all significant environmental issues identified in the initial environmental review
- Commit to comply with applicable legal requirements
- Commit to achieve continuous improvements in your environmental performance
Develop an environmental programme
The environmental programme translates the general objectives established in the environmental policy into specific targets. The environmental programme determines concrete measures, time-frames, and responsibilities, in order to meet the targets. The measures laid out in an environmental programme can be of a technical and/or organisational nature. All of the organisation's staff – from top management to the lower levels – should be involved in these measures.
- Make a detailed workplan
- Set specific targets and measures to achieve them
- Update the programme regularly
Review once more,
The improvement of environmental performance is the cornerstone of EMAS. Performance improvements can also be achieved by making the EMS more efficient. That is why the organisation’s top management should periodically check the consistency of the organisational approach and its capability to meet the goals stated in the policy and the programme. The idea of continuous improvement is that, through a formalised EMS, mistakes are recorded, analysed and that their immediate and remote causes are removed.
- Correct mistakes in your EMS
- Update your environmental objectives
Establish an Environmental Management System (EMS)
To ensure the successful implementation of the environmental policy and programme, internal structures and operating procedures and controls need to be established. For instance, all the staff must receive training on environmental awareness and on the EMS implemented in the organisation. Additionally, the organisational chart laying out the responsibilities of various departments in addressing environmental issues may need to be revised, or performance criteria may need to be changed to reflect new environmental responsibilities.
- Aim at achieving policy commitments
- Base the EMS on the initial environmental review
- Set responsibilities, operational procedures, training needs, monitoring and communication systems
Carry out an internal environmental audit
Internal audits are an important feature of management systems. An environmental audit evaluates the environmental performance of an organisation based on the objectives set in the environmental programme. Through the audit an organisation can evaluate the extent to which its staff members follow the operating procedures and rules of the EMS and whether or not the EMS is capable of achieving the objectives set out in the environmental programme. The audit must be repeated regularly. The outcome of the environmental audit is a report in which possible corrective actions are suggested to guarantee continuous improvement of the organisation's environmental performance.
- Cover all activities and all significant environmental aspects
- Assess the management system
- Check conformity with the environmental policy and programme
Develop an environmental statement
The environmental statement is a clear and concise document addressed to the organisation’s stakeholders. In this document, the organisation describes its environmental efforts and achievements as well as the requirements for continuous environmental performance. The environmental statement includes information on the six environmental core indicators (if applicable) and additional relevant environmental performance indicators.
- Present your environmental policy, programme and management system
- Communicate the results of your work to the public and other stakeholders
Get validation and register
When all of the above has taken place, an independent environmental verifier verifies that the organisation’s environmental policy, its EMS, the environmental audit comply with the provisions of the EMAS Regulation and validates the environmental statement. After the validated environmental statement is sent to the Competent Body it has to be made publicly available. Then the organisation is listed in the EMAS Register and has the right to use the EMAS logo.
- Get official recognition
- Use the EMAS logo