On November 3 this year. The European Commission has adopted a new EMAS user manual. The revised fourth version is expected to further improve the environmental performance of organizations planning to join or actively using the EU’s management and audit system. The changes made are the result of a complex consultation process.

What is EMAS?

Recall that the Eco-Management and Audit Scheme was introduced as early as 1993. as a voluntary tool to assess, manage and continuously improve the environmental performance of private and public organizations. November 2022. 4014 organizations and 12,731 locations across Europe were registered in the system. Germany and Italy had the largest number of users, while Latvia and Finland had the largest percentage increase in registrations on a six-month basis. Data from the European Commission shows that EMAS is in high demand in the waste export and disposal, construction, metal product manufacturing and wholesale trade sectors. In Poland in 2022. It was used by 68 organizations.

The rules for voluntary participation in the system are set out in Regulation (EC) No. 1221/2009, which from the legal side describes the process of registration, conducting regular audits, requirements for verifiers and their supervision, and conditions for validation. The EMAS User’s Guide, on the other hand, is a more practical tool, aimed directly at users of the system and intended to facilitate the performance of specific environmental tasks.

What changes does the new EMAS User Guide bring?

In particular, significant improvements have been made in user-friendliness compared to previous versions of the manual. Included in the content are numerous clear iconographies and collections of best practices. The updated EMAS User’s Guide reflects the changes made by the regulation itself. They mainly concern the use of key indicators and the establishment of minimum environmental reporting requirements. The EMAS registration process itself has also been streamlined, reducing bureaucratic hurdles and deadline requirements.

The new version of the handbook suggests to addressees how they can systematically improve their environmental performance by realizing sustainable production and consumption. Among the expected benefits are cost reductions, improved internal control processes and increased compliance of operations with applicable regulations. Organizations using EMAS can therefore reduce their environmental impact, improve their value chain and learn to better communicate their goals and achievements. In perspective, this will translate into greater market potential.

First steps, or from plan to system

The EMAS User’s Guide describes the eight steps an organization wishing to register with and actively use the system must follow. The whole process takes an average of about. 12 months, but may shorten or lengthen depending on the size of the organization. The first step is planning with management involvement. It involves identifying opportunities and threats and analyzing existing practices and processes, as well as legal obligations. In the second step, the organization prepares an environmental policy, on the basis of which an environmental program is later formulated. In the fourth step, an eco-management system is created that takes into account the division of authority and responsibility and assigns specific tasks to individuals. The manual suggests how to involve and train employees and how to prepare for critical situations.

EMAS auditing and reporting

The fifth step in the EMAS implementation process is to conduct an internal environmental performance audit. The manual details the frequency of inspections, the necessary activities to be carried out and the form of the final revision prepared by the responsible units within the organization’s structure. A new EMAS Use Guide instructs how to use audit conclusions to prepare an environmental report. At this stage, the organization is required to establish minimum requirements and key evaluation indicators, regarding energy use, emissions, water consumption, material efficiency, waste produced and the scale of land use in relation to biodiversity.

The seventh step in the process is external verification, which is carried out by competent supervisory authorities designated in each member state. The manual precisely defines the procedural and documentation requirements in this regard so that users can prepare properly. Finally, in the final, eighth step, an organization gains the right to register with EMAS and can use the system to further improve its environmental performance.

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