EMAS is the abbreviation for the Eco-Management and Audit Scheme.
Its origins lie in European Council Regulation 1836/93, which allowed voluntary participation by industrial company sectors in a Community Eco-Management and Audit Scheme (EMAS).
However this Regulation was replaced by 761/2001 which now allows participation in the scheme by ALL organisations. The Regulation requires EU Member States to form administrative structures for the scheme. In the UK, the Institute of Environmental Management and Assessment (IEMA) carry out this function as the 'Competent Body'.
Its aim is to recognise and reward those organisations that go beyond minimum legal compliance and continuously improve their environmental performance and to ensure that the European Community develops policies and implements actions to promote sustainable development and environmental issues. Amongst other matters, this includes organisations' managing the environmental impacts of their products, activities and services by adopting a proactive approach with regard to:
- Preventing, reducing and eliminating pollution at source, where possible
- Ensuring sound management and resources
- Using cleaner technologies, where available.
EMAS calls for maintenance of an effective EMS, via a system which ensures that a policy is available, that objectives, targets and programmes are set to improve environmental performance and the promulgation of such to ensure continuous improvement as a whole.
Differences between EMAS and ISO 14001
Although apparently similar in content, ISO 14001 is an international standard, whilst EMAS is a European standard. There are a number of subtle differences between the two standards as follows:
- EMAS requires an initial environmental review or preparatory review
- EMAS requires preparation of a detailed public statement, which must be verified by a third party to ensure that it accurately reflects the information portrayed. The statement must be verified every three years and an interim statement produced annually and submitted to the Institute of Environmental Management and Assessment (IEMA)
- EMAS requires that an open dialogue be established between the public and other interested parties
EMAS states that organisations must 'provide for compliance with all relevant requirements regarding the environment'. ISO 14001 only states that there must be a 'commitment to comply with relevant legal and other requirements'. Essentially, these can be interpreted similarly, in that, if legislation, guidelines, recommendations or best practices exist, knowledge of the legislation should be apparent and compliance should be demonstrated. Breaches of legislation and regulations may result in EMAS registration being withdrawn.
Who is EMAS applicable to?
The scheme is open to any organisation wanting to declare publically their environmental performance. The scheme allows organisations that are a single site to register, or multi-sites and corporate organisations can apply.
What are the immediate benefits of EMAS registration?
The benefits from registration are similar to those of ISO 14001 with the addition of the benefit of the verified and publically available environmental statement.
The statement is a publication of environmental information, whose accuracy and reliability has been independently checked by an environmental verifier, that gives EMAS and those organisations that participate enhanced credibility and recognition. EMAS could be used by your organization to exploit new opportunities and market places using your validated environmental statement. EMAS demonstrates that you are serious about reducing your environmental impact and improving environmental performance.
EMAS registered organisations also:
- Have their details entered onto the EMAS register - the register contains the details of all organisations that have met the requirements of the EMAS Regulation and are currently registered. The register provides the address, contact phone and fax numbers where copies of the environmental statement can be obtained, date first registered, and a code for the activities undertaken by the organisation, and the scope of registration.
- Can use the EMAS logo to promote their registration under the scheme
How to gain registration?
Initially, an effective and functional EMS that meets the requirements of ISO 14001 must be established and maintained. After this, the steps to verification and registration are:
- Preparation of an Environmental Statement - Your environmental statement must be written clearly, using language that the general public will understand.
- Verification - Once your statement has been prepared, an independent verifier such as NQA must ensure that it gives an accurate representation of your organisation and its activities and it fulfils the requirements of EMAS.
- Validation - Once the independent verifier is satisfied that your statement and EMS meet the requirements, bearing in mind that changes may have been required, they will validate the environmental statement by authorising it with a signature and date.
- Application - Once validated, your environmental statement and details of your site are forwarded to the competent body responsible for the Regulation of EMAS in the EU Member State. In the UK, this is IEMA.
- Registration - IEMA will then register acceptance of the validated statement and provides your organisation with a registration number. Your organisation can then use the EMAS logo on the statement and corporate literature. (As described in Annex IV of the EMAS Regulation).
For additional guidance on the EMAS please visit www.emas.org.uk
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