EMAS stimulates regional cooperation of SMEs in Wallonia, Belgium

The Walloon employer's organisation UWE provides group support to regional companies on their way to implementing and improving environmental management systems such as EMAS.

Bringing regional companies from diverse industries together

When setting up an environmental management system, there can be strength in numbers. The Union Wallonne des Entreprises (UWE), the Walloon employers’ organisation, builds upon this insight in a project that supports international certification of regional companies. Since autumn 2020, the project supports eight regional companies interested in achieving an official EMAS registration or ISO 14001 certification. These selected eight out of 23 companies are from various sectors, including food industry, construction, plastics processing, manufacturing of resins, paints and coatings, and a sheltered workshop. Some SMEs are internationally known, such as the Trappist beer and cheese producer Chimay.

Supporting companies in their environmental management system implementation process

The project aims to support companies with the implementation and continuous improvement of environmental management systems such as EMAS or ISO 14001. Recent surveys by the UWE found that many companies are not familiar with these standards. The UWE consequently decided to offer group support to the selected companies in order to enable them to first familiarize themselves with these environmental management systems and to start the implementation process. The project objective is that all of the eight selected companies achieve either an EMAS registration or alternatively an ISO 14001 certification by the end of the process, and thereby serve as inspiring examples to other companies.

Knowledge workshops, practical training and peer exchange

There are three main ways in which the projects aim to achieve these goals. Firstly, in joint workshops, the companies acquire the knowledge and tools necessary to implement environmental management systems. Secondly, trainers and consultants support the companies and answer questions, offering individual and practical support to empower each company. And thirdly, the project fosters discussions and promotes peer learning among the various companies.

Responding to the COVID-19 lockdown throughout Belgium, the methodology of the project was adapted to enable the virtual workshops to be as engaging and participatory as was initially planned. The advisors from the UWE Environment Unity have joint forces with trainers from 21 solutions to provide support to the cluster.

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