Commission rolls out EMAS revision plan

All organisations with "significant environmental effects" to be eligible for participation

The European Commission has published its proposal to revise the EU eco-management and audit scheme EMAS, in a bid to increase the programme's uptake and strengthen its credibility.

The most radical proposal in the document would open participation in the scheme to the service sector and any organisation that has "significant environmental effects, direct and indirect". Since it started in 1995, EMAS has been reserved almost exclusively to the manufacturing sector.

The Commission wants to extend EMAS's scope to take in sectors such as banking, insurance, tourism, public administration, agriculture and forestry. It hopes this will boost the number of registered sites - currently around 2,000 - and says pilot studies have demonstrated a demand from non-industrial organisations to participate. The Commission is also keen to ensure that EMAS can compete with the ISO 14001 international environmental management standard, which is already available to all sectors.

The proposal suggests areas that organisations might consider, listing "direct" impacts such as energy use and pollution, and "indirect" ones, more applicable to the service sector. The suggested indirect areas include capital investments, loans and insurance services offered by the organisation. A member of EU environment commissioner Ritt Bjerregaard's political cabinet said it will remain up to the individual company to identify the areas where environmental impact needed to be addressed. "We are not coming to the financial sector telling them what their impacts are," Jeffrey Huntingdon said. "The obligation is very much on them to analyse what they are."

The proposal does, however, state that organisations must address the "significant impacts associated with their procurement procedures", something which would have a knock-on significance for the suppliers and sub-contractors of EMAS registered companies. The European employers' federation Unice has said that this requirement would make EMAS less attractive to companies thinking of joining the scheme (ENDS Daily 3 September).

The Commission also wants to make sure that the demands imposed by EMAS are equally rigorous in every EU country and proposes that the relevant accreditation bodies come together in a discussion forum at least twice a year.

As part of the Commission's aim to "sell" EMAS, which it sees as a "product of the European Community", it has designed a logo which accredited companies will be able to use on their letterheads and other informational material. The logo will not be allowed on advertising, products or packaging, however, to avoid confusion with ecolabel symbols.

Follow Up:
European Commission, tel: +32 2 295 1111.

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