"Centralisation" hindering French EMAS take-up

Decentralisation, effective promotion, seen as crucial to encourage EMAS adoption

A review of experience with the EU eco-management and audit scheme (EMAS) in four countries has concluded that over-centralisation and lack of promotion are largely responsible for the small number of firms that have taken up EMAS in France. Published today by Friends of the Earth France (FoE) and green business group Entreprises pour l'Environnement (EPE), the review calls for new efforts to promote EMAS in France.

EMAS registrations are concentrated almost entirely in seven European countries, dominated by Germany which has ten times more EMAS registered firms than any other country (ENDS Daily 22 September). As of July this year there were only nine EMAS registrations in France, while in four EU countries there were none. Today's report from FoE and EPE attempts to explain the wide differences, based on a review of experience in France, Germany, the UK and the Netherlands.

It concludes that France's poor performance compared with the leading countries is due to a lack of promotion of the scheme by government, which has kept responsibility tightly within the French environment ministry. Regional chambers of commerce and industry have been poorly mobilised to encourage businesses, while industry's response has been largely "passive," partly due to a "perception of competition" between EMAS and the ISO 14001 global environmental management standard.

The situation could be improved, FoE and EPE conclude, if the government would learn from the other three countries in which interviews were conducted and public environmental statements required of EMAS-registered companies reviewed.

In Germany, the report says, chambers of commerce and industry have played an "essential role" in promoting and coordinating EMAS registrations. Financial aid for companies taking up EMAS and the promise of lighter regulation for EMAS-registered firms have also helped.

The report points towards "excellent promotion" of the scheme in the UK and a strong consensus culture in the Netherlands as important factors in supporting EMAS - though with only 40 and 15 sites registered respectively, neither are EMAS leaders.

The one bright spot reported for EMAS take-up in France is the quality of public environmental statements, 161 of which were reviewed. All of those produced by French companies were of "good quality," (average score 15 out of 20) the report concludes. German statements were of "very variable" quality (average score 12/20), while British and Dutch statements were "generally mediocre" (average score 9/20).

Follow Up:
Entreprises pour l'Environnement, tel: +33 1 47 24 72 99; Friends of the Earth France, tel: +33 1 48 87 33 14.

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