On the Road to EMAS
Step 2: Perform the environmental review of your organisation.
An environmental review is an analysis of the environmental problems caused by an organisation’s activities. The initial environmental review spots the most significant direct and indirect environmental aspects, as well as any impacts of your organisations. This review also establishes benchmarks in order to measure future success in impact reduction. There are five main parts to the environmental review:
- Determine your organisational context: that is, the internal and external issues that might positively or negatively affect your environmental management. It includes the influence of environmental issues such as climate, air quality, water quality, natural resources availability and biodiversity on your future Environmental Management System (EMS). You should also look at external and internal factors such as cultural, social and political circumstances or your organisation’s activities, culture and capabilities (see EMAS Regulation for more examples).
- Determine the interested parties to your EMS (employees, shareholders, suppliers, etc.) as well as their needs and expectations. Your organisation can decide to voluntarily fulfil these needs or expectations. In that case, it will become part of your compliance obligations in your EMS.
- After you have found out who the interested parties are, your organisation should identify its legal environmental requirements and checks its compliance (either independently or with the help of a consultant).
- Your organisation will then have to examine in detail its activities in terms of consumption of raw materials and energy, the production of waste and emissions (direct aspects).
- As a last step, your will look at your organisation's indirect environmental aspects (activities impacting the environment for which you have indirect influence), as well as specify how management routinely deals with them.
An important part of the environmental review is examining these two last elements (direct and indirect environmental aspects) in a life cycle perspective. That means that your organisation should consider all stages of a product or service (from raw material acquisition, purchasing and procurement, design, production, transportation, use, end-of-life treatment and final disposal) when considering its environmental impacts. However, you do not need to carry out a life-cycle analysis (LCA).
If your organisation is part of a sector already listed within the Sectoral Reference Documents, you should take the best environmental management practices and indicators as a source of inspiration.It’s a good idea to consider whether they are applicable to your organisation, as they will likely serve as key models in the improvement of your organisation’s environmental performance.
To sum up an effective environmental review should:
- Identify the “external and internal issues” that can positively or negatively affect the organisation’s environmental management system
- Determine the needs and expectations of interested parties
- Give a picture of the organisation’s current environmental performance (all existing practices and procedures concerning environmental management)
- Identify direct and indirect environmental aspects and impacts
- Identify applicable legal requirements
- Assess the significance of environmental impacts with a life cycle perspective
- Identify risks and opportunities associated with its environmental management system
Note: Tools have been developed to help EMAS organisations implement EMAS. You can find these tools in the section EMAS Implementation tools of the website. Tool 2 – Environmental aspects and Tool 3 – environmental responsibilities, are particularly useful when performing the environmental review.