The European Eco-Management and Audit Scheme (EMAS), a voluntary environmental management instrument, is celebrating its 20th anniversary. What’s the key to its longevity?
On 13 November in Frankfurt, EMAS celebrates its anniversary with a high-level conference looking back over 20 years of achievements.
The scheme is currently helping over 4000 organisations spread across 7000 sites in more than 27 countries. Insiders put its effectiveness down to a number of factors. At the top of the list are the requirements for external auditing and official registration with government bodies. Going beyond the standards of the widely used ISO 14001 environmental management system, EMAS requires legal compliance, public reporting through an EMAS environmental statement, and independent third-party audits by government-approved environmental verifiers.
Under the EMAS Regulation, core indicators help measure and monitor environmental performance against targets, facilitating comparisons within and between organisations over a lengthy time period. But it’s not just about performance: EMAS also requires employee engagement and stakeholder involvement.
Motivation and communication
Participants have noted how systematically engaging employees in environmental protection activities increases motivation, and enables staff to identify with their organisation. No small part of the appeal results from a communication tool box, enabling registered organisations to develop and improve relationships with suppliers, public authorities, civil society organisations, customers, local communities and the media.
And as excellence in environmental performance has become a strong business advantage, there are growing numbers eager to apply EMAS, from the port of Valencia to Vodafone Greece. The scheme has constantly broadened its appeal. To make implementation easier for small- and micro-businesses, the Commission developed the ‘EMAS Easy’ methodology. Using simple and sequential tables and prompts, smaller businesses can now develop an Environmental Management System covering all EMAS requirements and standards.
EMAS has consistently shown how systematic environmental management decreases the costs of waste treatment and energy and water consumption. Under the scheme, organisations keep comprehensive data sets on their energy consumption and emissions, while the environmental statements and reporting show how these factors can be reduced.
By making companies aware of the steps for minimising greenhouse gas emissions, EMAS-registered organisations are well prepared when it comes to meeting stakeholder expectations regarding climate action. It also enables companies to make good on written commitments to corporate social responsibility by demonstrating a strong environmental and employee commitment in their daily operations.
The Frankfurt conference sees awards given out to the longest-standing members from around the EU, as well as sessions on EMAS achievements in the circular economy context from high-level representatives of the European Central Bank, the European Commission, the German government, and the very first EMAS organisation – which is still registered 20 years later.EMAS celebrates its 20th birthday