The European Commission decided today to take further steps to green the institution by adopting a Decision to implement the Community’s Eco-Management and Audit Scheme, EMAS. The scheme will give the Commission an accurate picture of its environmental impact, improve its environmental performance and provide both organisational and financial benefits. Environment Commissioner Margot Wallström said: "The European Commission will lead by example. With the introduction of EMAS we want to set an example for other public authorities and economic operators to follow, and our final objective is achieving EMAS registration for the European Commission". Vice-President Neil Kinnock said: "The Commission signalled its awareness of the need for practical action when it launched its Green Housekeeping(1) scheme in 1997. Applying EMAS will further reinforce our commitment to ensuring an environmental-friendly administration."
EMAS is a European scheme designed to help organisations improve their environmental performance. It provides a clear structure, which can be adapted to manage environmental issues within different types of organisation. It is designed to provide organisations with an accurate picture of their environmental impact, to help them target more accurately the most significant impacts and to deal with them appropriately.
Under the new EMAS Regulation(2) the scheme has been extended to include public authorities. This broadening of scope enables the European Commission to participate in the scheme as well.
Organisational and financial benefits
Introducing EMAS enables the Commission to review how some issues are managed within the institution, such as buildings, staff commuting and transport arrangements and the development of policies can impact upon the environment. This quest for environmental efficiency fits into the broader context of the reform process that the new Commission has embarked upon.
In addition, the integrated and systematic approach of EMAS to the management of environmental issues will enable the Commission to make cost savings, such as reduced energy consumption. There is, therefore, scope for both organisational and financial benefits, as current practices in industry show.
Pilot phase in three DGs
The Secretariat-General, DG Environment and DG Administration will conduct an initial pilot phase. The first step will consist of an evaluation of all the environmental aspects of their activities. Input from the Commission’s Green Housekeeping operation will be taken into account.
This action will clearly identify activities that have a significant environmental impact. As a result, environmental objectives will be set for a period of two years. At the end of this period the results will be evaluated, with a view to extending the application of EMAS to all services. The final objective will be for the European Commission to achieve EMAS registration.
Environmental benefits in Member States
Member States have shown that environmental management schemes can be set up within public authorities. In January 1997, Sweden launched a pilot project to introduce environmental management systems in 25 governmental authorities. In July 2001, the first public authority in Belgium was registered under EMAS.
To date, 138 public bodies have set up environmental management systems. Preliminary results show reduced electricity and paper consumption, acquisition of environment-friendly products and the sorting of waste at source. All of these actions have a direct and positive impact upon environmental performance.
Between January and July 2001 356 companies in Europe achieved EMAS registration.
The new EMAS Regulation incorporates all the relevant elements of EN ISO 14001:1996 standardisation. So, the work required to set up an environmental management system does not need to be performed twice in order to meet international and European requirements. In terms of credibility and transparency, however, EMAS exceeds these international standards.
Good environmental management is a start, but there comes a point where organisations need to deal with public concerns and be closely inspected by independent experts. In terms of efficiency, it is becoming essential for organisations to adopt an approach to tackling environmental issues that is systematic and can be externally verified. Instead of reacting to individual issues, organisations can behave proactively when it comes to the environment.
The EMAS scheme makes a clear environmental statement. It lets organisations say what they are doing for the environment, why they are doing it and how. It is, therefore, a useful tool for organisations that want to highlight their efforts and achievements. External checking gives credibility not only to the environmental statement that is made, but also to the organisation that is making it. Thanks to the EMAS logo, organisations can also advertise the fact that they operate a sound environmental management system and are supplying reliable environmental information.
EMAS allows effective environmental management. It is transparent for everyone outside the Commission to see the efforts the institution is making and is a credible source of environmental information.