The EU Ecomanagement and Audit Scheme (EMAS) is an environmental management scheme that aims to improve the environmental performance of organisations by committing them to evaluating and reducing their negative environmental impacts. It is a voluntary framework that provides the basis for a published environmental report and it aims to recognise and reward those organisations that go beyond minimum legal compliance and continuously improve their environmental performance. EMAS incorporates ISO14001 (see ISO9000 Series) and is externally evaluated. Once accredited, participants can publicise their participation in the scheme through use of the EMAS logo.

There are four main stages involved in an organisation achieving EMAS registration:

  1. Conduct an environmental review of all its activities and assess them against existing environmental laws.
  2. Establish an environmental management system setting out its environment objectives and the means to achieve these objectives.
  3. Carry out an internal environmental audit assessing the management system in place and compliance with relevant environmental regulatory requirements.
  4. Provide a statement outlining its environmental policy, programme and management system, and summarising its environmental performance with the results achieved and the steps necessary for future improvements.

Summary

The core of  EMAS is a ‘continuous improvement cycle’ or the plan-do-check-act process. The elements of this circle are presented in Figure 4.

Figure 4. EMAS continuous improvement diagram

The environmental review is an initial comprehensive analysis of the environmental problems caused by an organisation’s activities. The outcome is a report that includes hard data about consumption of raw materials and energy and the production of wastes and emissions; information on the indirect environmental impacts of the organisation’s activities; and an outline of the management structures in place to deal with these impacts. The purpose of the initial review is to identify the most significant environmental impacts – and thereby identify possible priorities to be set in the environmental programme – and to lay down a benchmark to measure future success in reducing these impacts.

The formulation of an environmental policy, reflecting top management’s commitment to continuous improvement in environmental performance inside the legal framework is the first visible step of the process. The environmental policy is a document that describes the organisation’s overall aims and principles of action with respect to the environment. Developed at the highest managerial level, the environmental policy is intended to be revised periodically. It should contain at least two central elements: compliance with relevant environmental regulations and a commitment to continuous improvement.

The environmental programme translates the general objectives and targets established in the environmental policy into specific targets, determining concrete measures, timeframes, responsibilities, and the resources necessary in order to meet them. 1 The measures laid out in an environmental programme can be of a technical and/or organisational nature. All of the company’s activities – from top management to the lower levels – should be involved in these measures.

To ensure the successful implementation of the environmental programme, an organisation is required to establish operating procedures and controls, or an environmental management system. Apart from the environmental impact of production activities and housekeeping activities (property management, procurement, energy consumption, waste production and management), an EMAS-registered environmental management system has to include the indirect environmental impacts of an organisation’s activities, products or services.

Finally, an environmental audit is conducted to assess the management system in place and the whole process is then described in the environmental statement. The statement has to include the following information:

  • A description of the organisation, its structure and its activities, products and services.
  • An assessment of all the significant direct and indirect environmental issues.
  • A summary of year-by-year figures on pollution emissions, waste generation, consumption of raw material, energy and water, and noise.
  • A presentation of the organisation’s environmental policy, programmes and management system.
  • The deadline for the next statement.
  • The name and accreditation number of the environmental verifier and the date of validation.

When the environmental management system has been implemented and the environmental statement has been prepared, the organisation must have them validated by an independent accredited verifier: an independent external party that examines the organisation’s environmental policy, management system, audit procedure(s) and environmental statement to ensure that they meet EMAS requirements. If the verifier is satisfied that the requirements are met, he or she validates the information contained in the company’s environmental statement.

Once the environmental statement has been verified, the organisation then sends its validated statement to the EMAS National Competent Body for registration. The organisation is then listed in the register of EMAS organisations and has the right to use the EMAS logo. Organisations are required to update their environmental statement annually, although in exceptional circumstances, for example, small organisations, this renewal period can be extended with the agreement of the verifier, normally up to three years.

The EMAS environmental management system is defined according to the ISO 14001 Standard. However, when implementing EMAS, participating organisations must also:

  • Demonstrate legal compliance.
  • Commit to continual improvement of their environmental performance.
  • Demonstrate an open dialogue with all stakeholders.
  • Extend employee involvement to the process of continually improving the organisation’s environmental performance.

EMAS can be applied to the whole of an organisation or to specific sites.

The EMAS EU website is the main portal for information and support. The EMAS competent body in the UK is the Institute of Environmental Management and Assessment(IEMA).

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