EU standardisation body makes environmental progress

The European Committee on Standardisation's (CEN) efforts to 'green' standardisation are paying off, according to the organisation's environmental helpdesk.

CEN’s environmental helpdesk is a two-year pilot project that began in September 1999. Helpdesk staff advise standards writers across the EU on how environmental considerations can be incorporated. “It’s hard work because we deal with so many topics when it comes to standardisation,” Hanna Gersmann, the helpdesk’s co-manager told edie.

At the outset, 120 ‘work items’, or standardisation projects, were chosen by the helpdesk. From more than 3,000 work items, the helpdesk identified 120 that were at an early stage of development and which were likely to have some environmental impact. From there, the helpdesk contacted the committees that have been charged with creating the standards.

“After six months, the reaction was generally quite positive,” says Gersmann. The helpdesk pilot will run until September 2001 and Gersmann believes that some type of on-going environmental project will follow it. “In the very long term, we hope we won’t be necessary. We hope that environmental standards will be so obvious and so easy to understand that we won’t be needed,” says Gersmann.

Overall, CEN is embracing environmental integration, says Gersmann, who expects a chapter on standardisation to be included in the European Commission’s up-coming Green Paper on Integrated Product Policy. “The EC has long believed that standardisation is one of several instruments that will help to integrate environmental policies into other areas of EU work,” says Gersmann.

The process of fully ‘greening’ CEN, beyond simply trying to make some standardisation projects environmentally sound, has led to a general set of CEN environmental guidelines as well as an instruction being issued to CEN’s 11 sectors to set specific standards. The construction and healthcare CEN have both set up committees to investigate ways to bring combine all of their standardisation projects with environmental policy.

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