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The European Eco-Management and Audit Scheme (EMAS)

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The European Union's Eco-Management and Audit Scheme (EMAS), which became effective in 1995, is a voluntary program which enables organizations within the EU and the European Economic Area to seek certification for their environmental management systems.

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Each member state was required to designate an independent national authority to oversee the regulation.

Registration under EMAS is on a site-by-site basis, rather than covering entire organizations. Originally EMAS was confined to industrial operations, but as part of a wide-ranging revision of the regulation, adopted in March 2001, all sectors of economic activity are now included.

Other amendments embraced by 'EMAS II' include:

  • The integration of ISO 14001 as the environmental management system required by EMAS, to make it easier for companies to make the transition from ISO to EMAS (in general, EMAS is more stringent than ISO 14001);
  • The creation of an EMAS logo;
  • Greater participation of employees in the implementation of EMAS;
  • A greater emphasis given to environmental reporting;
  • More consideration of 'indirect' environmental impacts - for example those associated with investment policies, procurement and planning

The new regulation, 761/2001, was officially adopted by the Council of the European Union and by the European Parliament on 19 March 2001 and came into effect the following month, replacing Regulation 1836/93. All member states are obliged to implement it, and to establish an accreditation system within 12 months of its coming into force.

To date, more than 3,100 sites have been awarded EMAS certification, two-thirds of them in Germany.

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