11.9.2009   

EN

Official Journal of the European Union

C 218/59


Opinion of the European Economic and Social Committee on the Proposal for a Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on the voluntary participation by organisations in a Community eco-management and audit scheme (EMAS)

COM(2008) 402 final — 2008/0154 (COD)

2009/C 218/13

On 11 September 2008 the Council decided to consult the European Economic and Social Committee, under Article 175 of the Treaty establishing the European Community, on the

Proposal for a Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on the voluntary participation by organisations in a Community eco-management and audit scheme (EMAS)

The Section for Agriculture, Rural Development and the Environment, which was responsible for preparing the Committee's work on the subject, adopted its opinion on 28 January 2009. The rapporteur was Mr PEZZINI.

At its 451st plenary session, held on 25–26 February 2009 (meeting of 25 February), the European Economic and Social Committee adopted the following opinion by 166 votes to 5 with 5 abstentions.

1.   Conclusions and recommendations

1.1   The EESC sees the review of the Community Environmental Management and Audit Scheme (EMAS) as a key opportunity to give the Community voluntary scheme fresh impetus, ensuring that it is established once and for all as a benchmark of excellence and a communication and marketing tool for organisations to use in respect of production or product life cycles, fully integrated with other environmental policy instruments.

1.2   The EESC feels that the proposed legislation is still too complex. A further creative effort is needed to establish the conditions necessary for EMAS to be recognised by the market as providing environmental added value of excellence and benefits and burdens which are commensurate with its purpose, particularly for smaller organisations and businesses, as well as full international validity, cutting red tape and technical and administrative costs, which are still too high.

1.3   The EESC believes that it would be a major step forward for the Community to become aware of the obligations and burdens for the individual user deriving from the application of the various environmental protection rules, and the potential benefits and tax relief arising from adoption of EMAS.

1.3.1   It is also important for public authorities with decision-making and monitoring powers to raise awareness in this connection.

1.4   Organisations, particularly small ones, need to be given incentives to participate in EMAS: by offering them easier access to available funding and information and to public institutions; by establishing and promoting technical assistance measures; by simplifying procedures and mechanisms; and by reducing technical costs and burdens for registration and management.

1.5   In the EESC's view, EMAS should become a genuine ‘benchmark of excellence’ and guarantee of environmental quality which also enhances products' value, with due regard for connections with the Eco-label regulation.

1.6   The EESC is firmly in favour of clear shouldering of individual responsibility by an organisation or business when participating voluntarily in EMAS, in undertaking to submit to requirements and monitoring and in enjoying benefits. It therefore opposes any form of collective responsibility where an entity has responsibility in the name or on behalf of others, although clusters and networks promoting and facilitating use of EMAS – particularly of a cross-border nature – are to be encouraged.

1.7   The EESC stresses the importance, to promote EMAS, of ongoing, systematic stakeholder involvement at Community, national and regional level as a pre-requisite for the achievement of any EMAS environmental objective, with clearly-defined proactive, preventive goals.

1.8   The EESC welcomes the identification by the Commission of a number of key indicators relating to factors such as:

efficiency and energy-saving,

land use and conservation,

water and air,

emissions,

waste treatment,

preserving biodiversity,

to be activated with a reinforced but user-friendly system with cost-effective environmental reporting.

1.8.1   The EESC believes that when rules were being established for cutting red tape for organisations, Member States could have been required to exempt certified EMAS sites from further environmental requirements laid down in addition to the EMAS statement, which are still demanded, sometimes out of unnecessary harassment and sometimes because of bureaucratic inertia.

1.8.2   Since the procedures laid down for EMAS certification provide for more careful treatment of the environment in all respects, charges for registering EMAS certification should be abolished, particularly for organisations operating in areas where there is a considerable carbon footprint (1), i.e. greater exploitation of the environment, from the production and manufacturing chain.

1.9   The EESC feels it is important for EMAS to be better promoted and given more support at Community level, drawing on the Competitiveness and Innovation Framework Programme (CIP) (2) and EIB and Structural Funds resources, and at national level as regards public procurement, tax relief, keeping registration and renewal fees down and de-taxation of reinvested profits.

1.10   The EESC calls for a closer link between the proposed legislation and all the environmental policy instruments and rules with which the legislation has to coexist and be coordinated, avoiding overlaps and duplication.

1.11   The EESC is firmly convinced that EMAS certification, widely disseminated and supported with an image and substance of excellence, can help considerably to:

make employees, employers and the general public more aware of environmental issues;

increase sustainable production;

encourage sustainable trade;

disseminate sustainable consumption.

1.12   The EESC feels in this connection that it is important to harness the role of EMAS-registered businesses in promoting and introducing EMAS in the chain of clients and suppliers in the European single market, generating a virtuous circle of the culture and practice of sustainable development.

1.13   The EESC stresses the importance of the EMAS certification process it has launched for its site. It encourages the other European institutions to do likewise and set a good example.

2.   Introduction

2.1

The development of voluntary instruments should be seen as a major part of Community environment policy. The Commission itself admits that ‘these tools have a great potential but have not been fully developed (3).’

2.2

Voluntary environment instruments can bring major benefits when they:

enable corporate social responsibility values to be implemented,

implicitly acknowledge differences between businesses and between organisations,

offer businesses and organisations greater flexibility in achieving their objectives,

reduce the overall costs they have to bear to comply with rules,

simplify procedures and eliminate red tape, without creating new, complex self-reference management and monitoring structures or requiring them to be created,

encourage technological innovation in businesses and organisations which is environmentally friendly and will maximise competitiveness,

send the market, the authorities and the public a clear message and picture,

reduce/remove other Community/national red tape,

are accepted as useful on international markets.

2.3

In addition to EMAS, noteworthy voluntary instruments adopted and fine-tuned by the EU include the Eco-label (4), the Environmental Product Declaration (EPD) and the Life Cycle Assessment (LCA), Green Public Procurement (GPP) (5), the Energy Star mark (6) and voluntary agreements (7), Agenda 21 and the EN ISO 14001 standard.

2.4

Synergies with other environmental policy instruments have become increasingly effective: for instance synergy with the Environmental Management System (EMS) defined in EN ISO 14001 (8) – with 35 000 certifications – based on an essential commitment by top business management to comply with legislation, ensure ongoing improvement and prevent pollution.

2.5

Moreover, in the context of the Sustainable consumption and production and sustainable industrial policy action plan (9) – on which the EESC is drawing up an opinion – EMAS is presented as an instrument working in synergy with:

the Eco-label,

the Directive concerning integrated pollution prevention and control (IPPC),

the Emissions Trading Directive,

the Seveso II Directive,

Directive 2005/32/EC on ecodesign requirements for energy-using products, and sectoral directives, which apply specific product requirements with EPD and LCA schemes (10).

2.6

Since 1992 the EESC has believed that the Community eco-management and audit scheme (EMAS) plays a significant role of stimulating and increasing environmental protection, welcoming the ‘proposed 'system' for improving environmental protection, particularly since the environmental policy objectives are to be achieved with company resources, incentives for careful handling’ (11) and improved, more widely-disseminated information and the involvement of all employees.

2.7

Regulation (EC) No 761/2001 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 19 March 2001 replaced the 1993 Regulation, extending the possibility of certification to all ‘sites’, following a review which ‘builds on … the trend in Community environmental policy to emphasise voluntary instruments and the responsibility of all stakeholders in promoting sustainable growth’ (12). The EESC welcomed this (13).

2.8

In particular, the EESC reiterated that fundamental elements of EMAS should be:

voluntary participation,

shared responsibility for environmental protection,

ongoing, effective management of environmental effects,

credible, transparent results,

it complements other environmental policy instruments in the framework of promotion of sustainable development,

broadest possible involvement of all employees in businesses, organisations and public authorities, and of the public.

2.9

Other objectives that EMAS can help to achieve are:

cost reduction, particularly as regards supplies, through savings on materials and energy and water consumption,

lower risk for employees, with potential benefits in terms of insurance and confidence as regards entrepreneurs and investors,

possible beneficial effects on competitiveness, by securing wider acceptance on the part of consumers and the market, and by boosting demand for certified products,

wider public procurement markets, particularly as regards technical specifications of environmental excellence,

greater involvement of employees and participation in the mid- to long-term development of the organisation,

greater care on the part of credit agencies and fast-track options as regards requests for financing, particularly through cooperatives and guarantee schemes.

2.10

The EESC therefore welcomes the Commission's initiative to launch a review of the current legislation regulating voluntary participation in EMAS, so that its full potential can be unleashed.

3.   The Commission proposal

3.1

The proposed review of the Community eco-management and audit scheme (EMAS) seeks – by means of a new Regulation repealing Regulation (EC) No. 761/2001 and Decision 2001/681/EC and Decision 2006/193/EC – to:

increase the positive environmental impact of the scheme by improving performance of organisations participating in EMAS and by increasing the uptake of the scheme;

reinforce the obligation for organisations to comply with all applicable legal requirements relating to the environment and on environmental reporting on the basis of core performance indicators;

harmonise procedures for accreditation and verification;

enlarge the geographical scope to organisations from outside the EU;

reduce administrative burdens and simplify registration procedures;

reduce registration fees for SMEs;

establish deregulation, particularly for renewal of EMAS registration;

oblige Member States to consider incentives such as tax incentives;

simplify the rules for the use of the EMAS logo;

promote EMAS through information campaigns at EU and national level and other activities such as the establishment of an EMAS award;

draw up guidelines on best practice in environmental management.

4.   General comments

4.1   The EESC sees the review of the Community Environmental Management and Audit Scheme (EMAS) as a key opportunity to give the Community voluntary scheme fresh impetus, ensuring that it is established once and for all as a benchmark of excellence and a communication and marketing tool for organisations to use in respect of production or product life cycles, fully integrated with other environmental policy instruments.

4.2   The EESC feels that the proposed legislation is still too complex and that a further creative effort is needed to establish the conditions necessary for market mechanisms to recognise the environmental added value of EMAS, and for public authorities to simplify the entire administrative framework and encourage more environmentally-friendly product design, providing for new forms of protection, particularly for SMEs.

4.3   The EESC calls for greater coordination between the proposed legislation and all the environmental policy instruments and rules, avoiding overlaps and duplication.

4.3.1   The EESC calls for a new ‘recital’ to be included in the proposal, specifying the directives and regulations under which EMAS registration must be accepted as valid to comply with their requirements, without causing an unnecessary, costly increase in burdens for organisations and businesses.

4.4   The EESC stresses the importance of ongoing, systematic stakeholder involvement as a pre-requisite for the achievement of any environmental objective. This involvement must be interpreted in the widest sense, including all decision-makers at all stages in the process, and all forms and tools possible for training and educating authorities, businesses, trade unions, trade associations and consumers, as well as interested individuals.

4.4.1   The EESC believes that appropriating the environmental dimension as an intrinsic value and encouraging environmental protection initiatives will lead to more sustainable production and models.

4.5   In this regard the EESC believes that EMAS should be promoted through information and communication campaigns targeting various groups of stakeholders, including central and local public bodies and authorities, smaller businesses and organisations, the public, consumers and all levels of the education system.

4.6   In particular, organisations, especially small ones, need to be given incentives to participate in EMAS: by offering them easier access to available funding and information, public institutions and green public procurement; by establishing and promoting technical assistance measures; by simplifying procedures and mechanisms; and by reducing burdens and technical costs of assessment, registration and management.

4.6.1   The EESC feels that the Commission proposal still falls short here.

4.7   In the EESC's view, the costs of EMAS assessment, registration and management should be much lower, particularly for smaller bodies, and funding should be available in this regard under the Competitiveness & Innovation Framework Programme (feasibility projects) and from the EIB and/or the European Regional Development Fund.

4.7.1   Bodies operating in highly industrialised areas or areas with a large carbon footprint should be given incentives such as free registration or simplified administrative procedures (14) to sign up to EMAS, while the technical checks and monitoring phases should remain the same.

4.8   The EESC stresses the importance of EMAS being recognised as a benchmark of excellence for organisations and businesses which also enhances products' value on both the internal and international markets, with due regard for connections with the Eco-label Regulation.

4.9   The EESC is in favour of clear shouldering of individual responsibility by an organisation or business when participating voluntarily in EMAS, in submitting to requirements and monitoring and in enjoying any benefits.

4.10   The EESC therefore opposes any collective arrangement whereby one body is given responsibility in the name or on behalf of others which it has brought together in a group, as this procedure would lower the level of excellence of the benchmark, which EMAS must preserve. However, clusters and networks – particularly those of a cross-border nature – are to be encouraged to promote and facilitate use of EMAS and to provide assistance.

4.11   In this connection the EESC attaches importance to the identification of a number of key indicators relating to factors such as efficiency and energy-saving, use and conservation of land, water and air, emissions, waste treatment and preserving biodiversity, to be backed by a reinforced but user-friendly and cost-efficient environmental reporting system. This could operate directly by computer transmission, through a web portal, to keep costs and burdens down, especially for smaller bodies (15).

4.12   The EESC feels it is important for EMAS to be better promoted and given more support: at Community level, drawing on the CIP and EIB and Structural Funds resources; and at national level as regards tax relief, an obligation for contracting authorities to introduce GPP parameters, reduced registration and renewal fees and de-taxation of profits reinvested in EMAS-related technological innovation.

4.13   The EESC is concerned at the excessively high number of national/regional structures which are appointed by the Member States:

competent registration bodies,

accreditation bodies,

authorities responsible for regulatory control,

environmental verifiers.

The EESC feels there is a need for Community guidelines to simplify the situation here.

4.14   In addition to endorsing the use of competent structures which already exist under the provisions on marketing products on the internal market (16), the EESC recommends use of existing mechanisms as regards CEN-ISO technical standardisation and energy-efficiency of buildings. This would avoid creating new, costly posts and structures which are likely increasingly to widen the gap between the public and European integration.

4.15   In any case, the EESC can see a substantial need for an increase in Community funding for training and assistance for national and regional authorities and potential EMAS users, and to produce practical, user-friendly guides, especially for smaller bodies.

4.16   The EESC believes that disseminating and supporting EMAS certification with an image of excellence through a widely-used, widely-endorsed procedure will considerably and tangibly help to achieve:

sustainable production,

sustainable trade,

sustainable consumption.

4.17   The EESC recommends measures to enhance and support the role of EMAS-registered businesses and organisations in promoting and introducing voluntary means of participating in the Community eco-management and audit scheme, targeting clients and suppliers in horizontal and vertical production chains in the European single market, generating a virtuous circle of the culture and practice of sustainable development.

4.18   The EESC is currently making extensive preparations to activate EMAS certification for its site and encourages the other European institutions to do likewise, providing sustainable, significant examples for all bodies in the EU which might be interested in EMAS certification.

Brussels, 25 February 2009.

The President

of the European Economic and Social Committee

Mario SEPI


(1)  For instance, where the industry value (Gross Value Added — GVA) exceeds the national/Community average by more than 10 (?) percentage points. For example, in Italy 16 out of over 100 NUTS III provinces have an industry GVA of over 35 %, while the national and Community average is 22 % (EUROSTAT data).

(2)  Particularly under its first pillar: entrepreneurship.

(3)  Cf. COM(2007) 225 final — Mid-term review of the Sixth Community Environment Action Programme.

(4)  Cf. Council Regulation (EEC) No. 880/92 and Regulation (EC) No. 1980/2000 of the European Parliament and of the Council.

(5)  Cf. Communication from the Commission - Public procurement for a better environment, COM(2008) 400 final; .Directive 2004/18/EC and Directive 2004/15/EC.

(6)  Cf. Regulation (EC) No. 106/2008 of 15 January 2008, office equipment; while Energy Star is a voluntary mark.

(7)  Cf. COM(2002) 412 final. The Communication specifies the minimum requirements that voluntary agreements have to meet to be "in the interests of the Community".

(8)  The 1996 edition of the standard was revised in 2004. The new EN ISO 14001:2004 edition includes major improvements.

(9)  Cf. COM(2008) 397.

(10)  LCA = Life Cycle Assessment; EPD = Environmental Product Declaration.

(11)  OJ C 332, 16.12.1992, p. 44.

(12)  OJ C 209, 22.7.1999, p. 14.

(13)  Cf. footnote 3.

(14)  For example, where it is not necessary, move the environmental statement back from one to three years; exempt the body from the environmental statements required by local-authority boards of health and reduce the burdens imposed by some industrial accident bodies.

(15)  The egovernment programme could be useful in this regard.

(16)  Cf. Decision 768/2008/EC of 9 July 2008 on a common framework for the marketing of products, and Regulation 765/2008/EC of 9 July 2008.