Standardisation used to drive improved environmental performance
Claire Monkhouse from the IEEP looks at the latest developments at the European CommissionThe Commission has released a working document on integrating environmental aspects into standardisation.
Historically, one of the main drivers for standardisation has been the single market, but there has been an increasing focus on the role that it can play in protecting the environment and supporting sustainable development, as set out in the Sixth Environmental Action Programme.
More than 13,500 standards already exist in the EU and many of these incorporate environmental considerations.
However, the Commission wants to ensure that these become core to the development and review of standards. It is calling on stakeholders to help "systematically integrate relevant environmental aspects in European standards making".
The paper is intended as a consultation document and sets out details on the policy framework, the aim and scope of standardisation and the rationale for using standards for environmental protection and sustainable development.
As standardisation is not mandatory, the Commission suggests the use of incentives to stimulate improvement. These could include using standards to demonstrate compliance with regulations that require environmental considerations to be built into a product's design, as is increasingly being required in policy.
In recognition of the limited participation to date, the Commission is providing financial support to help stakeholders, such as consumer groups (ANEC), labour organisations (TUTB) or organisations representing small and medium sized companies (NORMAPME), to participate in setting standards.
These groups have associate membership of the standardisation organisations.
References: Working Document for a Communication from the Commission to the Council and the European Parliament: Integration of Environmental aspects into European Standardisation: http://europa.eu.int/comm/environment/standardisation/questionnaire_standardisation.pdf Further information on the consultation available from: http://www.europa.eu.int/comm/environment/standardisation/index_en.htm