Proposed Revision Seeks to Keep EMAS Ahead of ISO 14001

The European Commission has finalized proposals for revising the EU's voluntary ecomanagement and audit scheme (EMAS) that aim to make the scheme more attractive - not least by encouraging member states to grant businesses a relaxation of environmental mcontrols if they sign up - as well as to enhance its credibility and profile.

Some 2000 industrial sites have won EMAS registration since the scheme started operating in 1995, but around two-thirds of these are in Germany and take-up elsewhere has been patchy.

The revision proposal takes over central aspects of ISO 14001, the international standard for environmental management systems (EMS) that grew out of EMAS, while at the same time seeking to maintain the added value that distinguishes the EU scheme. Like ISO 14001, participation in the revised EMAS will be open to any type of organization,including services firms and public administrations, instead of being limited to industrial companies as now.

But industry is concerned that the changes — the fruit of extensive consultation of stakeholders by the Commission’s environment directorate — will take EMAS too far beyond the ISO standard. For their part, environmental groups maintain that the proposal will in some ways weaken the existing scheme.

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