The new EMAS scheme makes it easier for SMEs to participate.
With the introduction of EMAS III, environmental audits, covering all activities at the organisation concerned, must be conducted within an audit cycle of no longer than three years. However, for small organisations (see FAQ on small organisations for a definition) EMAS III has introduced derogations (Article 7). Upon request of small organisations, Competent Bodies see FAQ on "Competent Body" for additional information) can extend the registration cycle as follows:
verification of full environmental management system and audit programme and its implementation as well as environmental statement validated in a 4-yearly frequency (instead of a 3-yearly frequency);
validated updated environmental statement every 2 years (instead of every year).
The extension can only be granted when the following conditions are fulfilled:
no significant environmental risks are present;
the organisation has no substantial changes planned as defined in Article 8 of EMAS III;
there exist no significant local environmental problems that the organisation contributes to.
The organisation aiming to benefit from the extension has to introduce the request to the Competent Body, including the elements supporting that the three conditions are met and including the confirmation of the environmental verifier that these conditions are met.
Organisations should be aware that:
nevertheless, each year they are exempt from the obligation to prepare a validated updated environmental statement, they need to forward the non-validated updated environmental statement to the Competent Body;
the extension does not concern the EN ISO 14001:2004 standard with a 3-yearly audit cycle. Hence, if they also have ISO certification, the audit cycles do not correspond.
Furthermore, with the introduction of EMAS III special assistance in the development and implementation phases of EMAS registration will be given to clusters of organisations such as industrial associations or regional chambers of commerce. This assistance eases administrative and financial burdens on organisations, which is particularly valuable for SMEs. Also, reference documents will be developed by the European Commission to facilitate the practical implementation of EMAS requirements. For instance, information will be given on best environmental management practices and the use of environmental indicators in specific sectors. This improves the applicability of the scheme for organisations – particularly SMEs.
To access to more information about specific tools guiding and facilitating EMAS implementation and registration for SMEs, please see the following links (those tools are not yet updated according to EMAS III)