Value of EMAS questionable

A report has called into question the value of the EU-run Eco-Management and Audit Scheme (EMAS) as well as the impact of the union's flower Ecolabel logo.

The feedback from the European Commision’s review into EMAS and the Ecolabel, EVER, is far from enthusiastic and potentially undermines both schemes.

The review’s interim report says: “So far, EMAS does not seem to contribute to the competitiveness of companies if this is measured according to conventional variables such as market shares, revenues, increases in sales and turnover.”

It does hint that companies with EMAS certification are more likely to be recognised as market leaders and have higher customer satisfaction but recognises these are ‘immaterial’ to a company’s bottom line.

Surprisingly it finds only a ‘marginal’ difference in environmental performance of those companies with and without certification and says the biggest perceived benefit of the scheme is better management and organisation of a company’s resources rather than keeping up with competitors.

The Ecolabel logo fared little better in the report, with an acknowledgement that it was currently of limited value as it: “Does not yet influence the communication with consumers since the awareness of the label is very low, even if it is used with product marketing campaigns”.

The review accepted that national logos used to identify products as eco-friendly had been more successful and were far more widely recognised.

It also found that many companies which qualified for the Ecolabel were not applying, either out of ignorance of its existence or the cost of analysing their product for eligibility then processing an application.

In terms of financial incentives, the report said there was no more than “scattered anecdotal evidence that shows sales have increased when an eco-label has been obtained”.
The final section of the EVER report looked at the possibility of merging EMAS with the Ecolabel scheme but found little taste for the idea.

“There seems to be very little support for merging the two schemes neither by participant nor stakeholders,” says the report.

While the review is not complete, the less than glowing interim report will surely throw a shadow over the future of the two schemes and it seems bringing them together in the hopes their wedding could provide a boost to both seems like a desperate measure doomed to fail.

In the words of the report: “They are seen as two different schemes with different aims.

“A merge of the two schemes would confuse consumers.”

By Sam Bond

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