Commission to extend EMAS to SMEs and other sectors

The European Commission plans to update the Eco-Management and Audit Scheme (EMAS) set up for industrial activities in June 1993, to allow all types of organisation to participate in the voluntary scheme.

The opening of the scope of EMAS to sectors outside industry will give maximum coverage of significant environmental impacts. For example, the financial sector will be able to use EMAS to manage its environmental effects. These effects can be as significant as those of industry, considering the influence the financial sector can have on business through its investment policy.

Participation of small and medium sized enterprises (SME) in EMAS is a priority for the Commission, in particular within the information and promotion strategy required by EMAS. The Commission will develop tools to assist SMEs, such as operational guidelines, guidance to verifiers as well as initiatives such as supply chain partnerships with their customers.

Increased compatibility of EMAS with ISO 14001 will allow organisations to use ISO 14001 as a building block in the implementation of EMAS. Organisations then wishing to move forward to EMAS registration need only to address the supplementary elements clearly identified within the Proposal – ensuring there is no duplication of effort between the two standards.

For EMAS to succeed registered organisations must be viewed as credible by the general public. To this end the Proposal allows the environmental improvements of an organisation to be tracked via public reporting in the environmental statement. The Proposal allows for a more flexible approach to reporting which will give organisations the opportunity to answer stakeholder concerns about its environmental situation.

Environment Commissioner Ritt Bjerregaard said “Sound environmental management is becoming an essential part of doing business. Pressure from customers and the need to be good neighbours is moving the environment into the board room. Since 1993, EMAS has given industry the right tool to go about this, ensuring improved environmental performance and greater credibility. Now, we’re giving others the same opportunity. Financial institutions, public authorities, agriculture will now all be able to benefit from the Scheme.

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