The EMAS (Eco Management Audit System) instituted by EEC (Council of the European Communities) Regulation n.1836/93 is an instrument of environmental and industrial policy of a voluntary nature, aimed at promoting constant improvement in the environmental efficiency of industrial activity.
The system is achieving a widespread consensus in Europe.
Firms that adopt the environmental management system increase their competitive advantage by:
improvement of environmental performance and of relations with the public and government
rationalisation of production processes.
In order for a site to be registered in the scheme the company must:
adopt a company environmental policy;
conduct an environmental review of the site;
introduce, in the light of the results of the review, an environmental programme for the site and an environmental management system applicable to all activities at the site;
carry out environmental audits at the sites concerned;
set objectives at the highest appropriate management level, aimed at the continuous improvement of environmental performance in the light of the findings of audit, and appropriately revise the environmental programme to enable the set objectives to be achieved at the site;
prepare an environmental statement specific to each site audited;
have the environmental policy, programme, management system, review or audit procedure and environmental or statements examined to verify that they meet the relevant requirements of this Regulation and environmental statements validated;
Forward the validated environmental statement to the competent body of the member state where the site is located and disseminate it as appropriate to the public in the State after registration of the site.
In Italy the Competent Organisation to perform the tasks envisaged by Regulation N° 1836/93 (accreditation of environmental auditors and registration of sites) is the "Comitato Ecolabel-Ecoaudit Sezione EMAS Italia" (EMAS Italia Branch). Firms that intend to join the EMAS must send the Competent Organisation an Environmental Statement certified by accredited environmental auditors; on conclusion of the procedure, the site is entered in a specific Community Register.
The certified Environmental Statement, which contains a summary of the commitments undertaken by the firm, is published and periodically updated. The Regulation was adopted by the Member States by 1995 and now, almost 5 years later, the European Commission has produced a revision, to make it more effective and more closely reflect the requirements of countries belonging to the European Community. In June this year, the Council of Environment Ministers of the EU approved the text of the new EMAS Regulation.
What are the main changes of the new EMAS Regulation:
1.1. Extension of EMAS registration to all sectors, not only industrial ones, and in particular to services.
The difficulty of practical application of this principle seems obvious, and especially that of transition from the "site" concept, which was the cardinal feature of the old Regulation, to that of "organisation" which has been taken as the basis for the new one, in order to take account of situations where no specific site is involved.
The European Commission has therefore decided to start drafting guidelines to indicate the approach to follow for registration of an organisation that operates on several sites or has no site to which to refer.
1.2. Simplification of application of the Regulation for Small and Medium Enterprises
It is fully realised that promotion of EMAS membership among small and medium enterprises is a step crucial to the success of EMAS.
To this end, the Commission, urged on by all the Member States and by Italy in particular, has decided to prepare guidelines for the maximum possible simplification in application of the Regulation to smaller enterprises.
These guidelines are practically ready.
Among the various simplifications, one that is of great importance states that the small business implementing its own system of environmental management aimed at specific improvements, need not be required to draft written procedures when these are not necessary.
This major novelty is permitted by the nature of EMAS, which focuses on achievement of results in environmental improvement rather than on the procedures by which they ought to be achieved.
1.3. Take account of EMAS registration in preparation of environmental legislation and controls
This is an invitation addressed to Member States and is based on the observation that the spread and success of EMAS is closely linked to its practical recognition by the authorities responsible for environmental controls. All European Union countries have agreed on the fact that, while compliance with the laws and the obligations deriving from them in environmental matters is essential, the laws themselves should take account of the exemplary environmental behaviour of a firm registered with EMAS and all possible simplifications and benefits of a procedural nature should be provided in its favour.
Another benefit that ought to be granted to EMAS firms is the possibility of agreeing times and modalities with the regulatory authorities for overcoming any environmental non-conformities that emerge during the initial environmental analysis and that the firm honestly reveals.
1.4. Dissemination of EMAS
To facilitate the dissemination of EMAS and its application, the new Regulation commits Member States to make the content and objectives of the Regulation known to all businesses and to the general public, adopting all modern means of information.
The Commission itself is committed to an EMAS Information and Promotion Campaign at the Community level.
1.5. Involvement of employees of EMAS firms
The new Regulation introduces an explicit call for involvement of the employees of a firm that applies for EMAS registration, and that in all phases of the system. Such involvement has double value:
- in the first place it helps the firm, because collective implementation of the various stages that lead to EMAS creates a climate of solidarity and collaboration within the firm;
- in the second place it provides an additional assurance to the public of the seriousness with which the firm is committed to environmental improvement.
1.6. Periodic meetings between the Competent Bodies and the Accreditation Bodies operating in the various countries
To overcome the lack of uniformity that had developed in the application of EMAS in the various countries of Europe, the practice of periodic meetings between the Competent Bodies and the Accreditation Bodies operating in the various countries has been made formal. The aim is to ensure real uniformity and therefore the same added value from EMAS registration, independently of the country where the organisation that has achieved registration is located, and to ensure that certification of the Environmental Statement is carried out with the same criteria independently of the country where the auditor has obtained accreditation.
1.7. ISO 14001 procedure incorporated in the EMAS Regulation
The new Regulation integrally incorporates the ISO procedure for the environmental management system, in part to overcome what appeared to be a climate of competition between the EMAS Regulation and the ISO 14001 international standard.
At present the two systems coincide in the parts regarding the commitments of the firms that undertake a programme of environmental improvement and the corresponding system of internal management (procedures, organisation, practices and systems of internal control).
On the other hand the differences have been accentuated in the public commitment the firm makes to the world outside through the Environmental Statement and by the auditing process, which in EMAS is backed by a system of public accreditation at the European level.
An enterprise that decides to consider the environmental aspects of its activities within its own organisation and budget therefore has the possibility of a gradual approach.
It can take the first step with the ISO procedure; that is, equipping itself with an environmental management system certified at the private level, and later decide on the more demanding EMAS registration.
For the firm, this last means that after adopting its own internal system of environmental management, it opens the doors of its organisation to the public, making a moral contract with the later that binds the firm to an environmental improvement that goes beyond legal obligations, and submits its Environmental Statement to examination by a European auditor.
2. EMAS application to industrial area and district
Italy has judged it appropriate to produce these two different application to take account of the peculiarities of the Italian industrial scene.
This has meant grouping Italian industry into two classes1.
Industrial area. This is a concentration of industry in an area defined as such by the municipal zoning plan and attached to large scale facilities (such as oil refineries, power stations etc.) the location for which was chosen on the basis of closeness to ports and other infrastructure, or it might have grown up around a firm that has developed a network of suppliers to meet the specific needs of the main firm, taking part in some of the processes or producing components that contribute to the final product.
Industrial district. This is composed of chiefly small firms working in the same industrial sector in an area delimited geographically and spread without any precise planning in promiscuous cohabitation with residential areas. The shared technological and organisational matrix means that the firms experience common environmental problems and consequently leads them to seek common solutions.
The EMAS Italia Branch (the competent organisation for EMAS in Italy) in conformity with the voluntary principle of EMAS, has provided for two different levels of application of the Regulation for the two different industrial contexts (as described).
2.1. Level One
When various independently managed firms with different types of products work in an industrial area of limited size, there is a possibility of EMAS registration for the "wider site" if the following conditions are met.
Preparation of a general environmental programme for the whole "wider site" starting from an initial appropriate and detailed environmental analysis shared by all the firms in the area.
Preparation of an agreement that binds all the firms working in the site to create a service to manage the environmental programme.
In other words, a body must be found that can perform the functions of manager of the environmental system in the "wider site" and must be given powers by the individual firms not only to check on execution by each firm of the corresponding specific environmental programme, but also to identify any corrective measures necessary for targets to be reached on time.
Where necessary, the firms can entrust (affidare) the body responsible for managing the environmental programme with the provision of common services of an environmental character, for example, operation of shared waste water treatment facilities, waste management, or management of a shared landfill. Problems connected with the arrival of raw materials at the site and the removal of products and wastes might also be formally delegated by the firms to the body responsible for environmental management of the site.
In this case, because of the presence of a BODY RESPONSIBLE FOR ENVIRONMENTAL MANAGEMENT with powers superior to those of the individual firms, the "wider site" can be considered as a single entity, even though it contains different and independent firms.
The "wider site", understood as a single whole, can therefore issue a single Environmental Statement which, after being certified by an accredited environmental auditor or by a group of accredited environmental auditors, may lead to registration of the site.
Obviously, in the event that the first but not the second condition is met, the individual firms can use the initial environmental analysis of the wider site and the corresponding general environmental programme as a binding basis for application of the EMAS regulation and therefore for registration of the sites belonging to each individual firm.
The programme must in any case take account of infrastructure interactions between the individual firms.
In such a case there could be a series of Environmental Statements that would have to contain both the principal targets of the programme for environmental improvement of the wider site" and specific actions decided on by the individual firms for registration of an industrial site in accordance with the EMAS Regulation.
2.2. Level Two
When an area is too large and includes many firms with different types of production, as in the case of Industrial Districts, it is possible and desirable for all the firms, with a contribution from the local authorities, to draw up a Strategic Programme for environmental improvement in the area considered, starting from an initial environmental analysis again referring to the whole Area or District.
This Strategic Programme must specify and clearly fix, on the basis of the geographical characteristics of the territory and its interrelations with the surrounding environment, general objectives that must be met for gradual attainment over time of environmental targets significant for the entire area.
In consideration of the public interest, the local authority ought to promote the setting up of a Body to prepare and implement the programme for environmental improvement of the Area or District. This body, which should include industrial associations and other actors involved, can ask for certification of the strategic environmental programme for the Area or District by independent auditors, following procedures laid down by the competent national Bodies.
The auditors must above all make sure that the programme targets represent a real environmental improvement for the entire Area or District and that there is a real commitment by all the parties that will take part in the programme.
This programme must be brought as widely as possible to the knowledge of all those living within and around the territory concerned, and in particular to the knowledge of groups and associations (of consumers, environmentalists, trade unions etc.).
After adoption of the programme, each firm can take the actions necessary under the EMAS regulation to certify its own Environmental Statement and obtain registration of each individual site.
Obviously the Strategic Programme for the Area or District must form the premise for every action that comes within the responsibility of the individual firm What are the most evident advantages for the firms involved?
The development of a consortium structure for the innovation will lighten the burden on the firms of a series of tasks. There will be a saving through sharing the costs for the initial environmental analysis of the entire area and for identification of appropriate solutions to common environmental problems.
The establishment of a network of firms operating in the same geographical site can contribute to developing co-operation between them in order to exploit all possible synergies in solving the environmental problems of the whole area.
The growth of a positive attitude by local authorities. Playing an active role in general setting of environmental objectives, they will contribute to greater transparency in the activities carried out within the areas for which they are competent.
Increased consensus on the part of the general public, which will see environmental action not limited to the individual firm but involving all those in the area and therefore aimed at overall improvement in the area concerned.
3. Some examples of promotion of the EMAS Regulation to industrial areas and districts
3.1. The ceramic tile district of Sassuolo-Fiorano
The application of EMAS to this district envisages, in the first place, an initial environmental analysis of the entire area, preparation of a programme of environmental improvement that includes not only aspects affecting ceramics firms but also others relating to other industrial establishments, residential areas, public services and, last but not least, roads and traffic. This programme, accompanied by indications of the resources to be used and those who should provide them, will first be submitted for examination by an independent third party and them brought to the knowledge of the inhabitants in general and of their organisations.
A Protocol of Understanding for application of this plan was signed last month by the Region, Provinces and Trade Association. The Committee set up under this Protocol is supported by a technical group.
3.2. Prato Textile District
Application of the Area EMAS is in the start-up stage for the first macro-lot of the Prato textile district, which covers an area of 1.5 km² with 350 small enterprises. All the enterprises had previously established a consortium (COCER) which has responsibility for handling the environmental problems of the area and for common services. In this case, too, a Protocol of Understanding has been drawn up and a Sponsoring Committee established.
The firms in the area have for now signed an agreement that provides for an initial common environmental analysis covering the whole area. This will be followed by the individual enterprises adopting a specific system of environmental management. Only at the end of this stage will the firms evaluate the possibility of taking a further step towards EMAS as individual firms or of providing themselves with a common organisation to handle the environmental problems of the area. The result could therefore be registration of individual sites or of the entire area. The EMAS Italia Branch has received statements of interest in application of the procedure from various tannery districts, from the Ravenna chemicals district and from the Trapani Province stone industry district.
4. Other initiatives
Sector guidelines through examination of the environmental problems of a specific industrial sector and their possible technical and organisational-operational solutions.
The EMAS Italia Branch has reached an agreement on this topic with Confindustria, the aim being to encourage industrial associations to draft specific guidelines for their own industrial sectors.
At present, guidelines have already been drafted for the ceramic tile and tanning industries, while Unione Petrolifera and Assocostieri are currently engaged in drafting guidelines for their sectors. The network for dissemination of EMAS throughout the country.
For this purpose it has been proposed to construct a widespread network connected to a central node at ANPA. The basic formula it is intended to adopt is to ask the organisations with official responsibilities and that are present throughout the territory (Chambers of Commerce, ARPA, local authorities and regional industrial associations) to create equipped information points where those potentially interested can make contact. School for training environmental auditors and consultants for small and craft enterprises.
Proposal to create a National School for individual environmental auditors and consultants.
In the first year of activity, planned to be the year 2000, the School will be located at three separate sites, all in the Mezzogiorno, which is considered a priority for the development of EMAS - and also in order to receive co-financing from European Union structural funds. The operation of the school will be entrusted to a scientific and technical committee appointed by the EMAS Italia Branch in accord with ANPA and in which the associations representing small industrial and craft businesses interested in the operation of the School will take part.
The course will comprise a theoretical part, indicatively of about 240 hours, which will include the handling of the environmental problems of the specific sector, techniques of environmental management and auditing, and relevant environmental legislation.
The theoretical part will be followed by practical exercises including visits of inspection by groups of trainees, assisted by a tutor, to firms selected by the associations concerned.
For the first year it is intended to have a total of 60 trainees split between the three locations.
At the end of the course, the trainees will sit an examination followed by award of the corresponding certificate. After the course, the trainees will be able to perform environmental consultancy for firms that ask for it and may submit an application for accreditation as Environmental Auditor for EMAS. The EMAS Italia Branch will adopt a simplified procedure for them, but this has still to be decided on. Following the first year, the school modules could be copied in other parts of the country if the necessary resources can be found.
5. Registration of new sites in Italy
After the achievement of 13 sites registered at the end of last year, the upward trend has continued satisfactorily. The early months of 1999 saw registration of another 5 sites of great importance for dissemination of the system. In fact the great Enichem chemicals complex at Mantua has recently been registered. The commitment involved a very heavy burden on the firm which, after obtaining ISO 14001 certification in 1998, decided to take the next step of joining EMAS and to prepare a voluminous Environmental Statement in which it transparently exposed all the environmental problems that a major chemical industry has to face.
With this registration, the EMAS Italia Branch has, among other things, been able to claim that the EMAS system is also applicable to sites with real problems of environmental impact, indeed in a certain sense it is precisely such sites that validate the EMAS instrument. For such sites, the public commitment made by the operator to implement an environmental policy that aims at improvements in environmental conditions beyond those imposed by the law is of decisive importance or indispensable.
5.1 Cordevole Valley ENEL site
This is a hydroelectric power station that exploits four falls in the same watercourse. The distinctiveness of the site lies in the fact that it includes not only the areas where the generating machinery is installed, but the entire basin of the watercourse and its tributaries. The initial environmental analysis was therefore extended, on request by the EMAS Italia Branch, to all the significant environmental aspects of the changes that the dams and reservoirs involved for the whole Cordevole valley. The aspects of slope stability, flow regulation in all the watercourses in the interests of both flora and fauna, use of the water also for irrigation and, finally, conservation of landscape aspects important for tourism in the area were given particular attention in the Environmental Statement both for the purposes of analysis and of the actions envisaged in the programme of environmental improvement. ENEL thermoelectric power station, La Casella locality, Piacenza Province
A landfill for industrial waste at Collegno in Turin Province.
A chemicals site operated by Icefor at Magenta in Milan Province
5.2. Filago Chemicals Area (Bergamo)
There are five chemicals enterprises in this area, administratively and operationally independent but closely inter-related and provided with common services. The common infrastructures comprise the water distribution system, the gas and electricity distribution systems and also general services and every other activity not specifically linked to production. There is also a common system for collection and discharge of process water.
These enterprises, as the procedure provides for, have formally constituted a Committee that has power to control all environmental aspects of the area and to take all the measures necessary for the continuous improvement required by the EMAS Regulation.
The procedure was successfully completed on 22 July, resulting in the first concrete application of Area EMAS in our country.
1 Source: report presented by the EMAS Italia Branch to "interested parties" on 16 September 1998.