The EU Eco-Management and Audit Scheme (EMAS)

A regulation allowing voluntary participation by companies in the industrial sector in a Community eco-management and audit scheme (EMAS) was first adopted [1] [2] [3]

in 1993 in order to promote evaluation and improvement of the environmental performance of industrial activities and the provision of relevant information to the public.53 In 2001 it was replaced by a new regulation which made EMAS available to all organisations having environmental impacts^4 That was in turn replaced in 2009 by Regulation (EC) No 1221/2009 on the voluntary participation by organisations in a Community eco-management and audit scheme (EMAS).55 The amendments introduced through the new Regulation aimed at increasing the scheme’s efficiency and its attractiveness for organisations, focusing particularly on the needs of small organisations, the institutional set-up, and the links to other policy instruments, including to so-called Green Public Procurement.56

The objective of EMAS is to promote continuous improvements in organisations’ environmental performance, inter alia by organsiations’ establishment and implementation of environmental management systems; the systematic, objective, and periodic evaluation of the performance of such systems; and the provision of information on environmental performance. EMAS is described as an important instrument of the sustainable consumption and production and sustainable industrial policy action planTh (Art 1.)

In Article 2, definitions of many terms used in the Regulation are set out. That includes definitions of ‘environmental performance’, which means the measurable results of an organisation’s management of its environmental aspects, and of ‘environmental management system’. The latter is understood as the part of the overall management system that includes the organisational structure, planning activities, responsibilities, practices, procedures, processes, and resources for developing, implementing, achieving, reviewing, and maintaining the environmental policy and managing the environmental aspects. EMAS is open to ‘organisations’, a notion that is given a very broad definition.58

Chapter II of the Regulation describes how organisations, including those outside the EU, may be registered by a Competent Body in a Member State. Organisations wishing to be registered for the first time must, inter alia, carry out an environmental review of all environmental aspects of the organisation and then, in the light of the results of that review, develop and implement an environmental management system. They must also carry out an internal audit and prepare an environmental [4] [5] [6] [7] [8] [9]

statement. The more precise requirements that apply to these activities are set out in Annexes. The initial environmental review, the environment management system, the audit procedure, and its implementation shall be verified by an accredited or licensed environmental verifier and the environmental statement shall be validated by that verifier. The organisations must also provide material or documentary evidence showing that the organisation complies with all applicable legal requirements relating to the environment. (Arts 3-5.)

EMAS-registered organisations and sites are listed in an online database hosted by the Commission (the EMAS Register)^9 As of mid-2014, more than 4,000 organisations and approximately 7,500 sites were EMAS-registered.[10] [11]

The obligations of registered organisations can be found in Chapter III. Such organisations must, at least on a three-yearly basis, have the full environmental management system and audit programme and its implementation verified. They must also prepare an environmental statement and have that validated by an environmental verifier. In the intervening years the organisations shall carry out an internal audit of their environmental performance and compliance with applicable legal requirements relating to the environment. They must also prepare an updated environmental statement and have it validated by an environmental verifier. The environmental statements shall be made available to the public. The frequency may be slightly extended for small companies upon request. Registered organisations that plan to introduce substantial changes must carry out an environmental review of these changes, including their environmental aspects and impacts. (Arts 6-7.)

Registered organisations may use the EMAS logo, consisting of a symbol and the text ‘EMAS’ and ‘Verified environmental management’, as long as their registration is valid. The logo may be used on any environmental information published by a registered organisation, provided that it meets certain requirements, including having been validated as being accurate. The logo may not be used on products or their packaging or in a way that may create confusion with environmental product labels. Member States must put in place effective provisions against the use of the EMAS logo in violation of the Regulation. (Arts 10 and 40.)

Chapter IV sets out rules applicable to Competent Bodies, including their designation and the process for registration of organisations.

Chapter V deals with environmental verifiers whose task it is to assess whether an organisation’s environmental review, environmental policy, management system, audit procedures, and their implementation comply with the requirements of the Regulation. The environmental verifier shall be an external third party, independent—in particular of the organisation’s auditor or consultant—impartial, and objective in performing its activities. It shall ensure that it is free from any commercial, financial, or other pressures which might influence its judgement or endanger trust in its independence of judgement and integrity in relation to the verification activities. (Arts 18 and 20.)

The operation of accreditation and licensing bodies is regulated in Chapter VI, whereas Chapter VII sets out specific rules applicable to the Member States. Member States must, inter alia, ensure that organisations get access to information and assistance possibilities regarding legal requirements relating to the environment in the Member State. They shall also promote the EMAS scheme and provide information to the public about the objectives and principal components of EMAS.

Chapter VIII sets out obligations applicable to the Commission. Among these are to make publicly available a register of environmental verifiers and registered organisations and a database of best practices on EMAS. The Commission shall consider how registration under EMAS can be taken into account in the development of new legislation and revision of existing legislation, as well as how it can be used as a tool in the context of application and enforcement of legislation. The Chapter also provides for Member States to submit to the Commission a request for recognition of existing environmental management systems, or parts thereof, as complying with corresponding requirements of the EMAS Regulation. (Arts 42, 44, and 45.)

The Commission has adopted a user’s guide setting out the steps needed to participate in EMAS.[12] [13] [14]

  • [1] On this procedure see Art 5a(1) to (4) and Art 7 of Council Decision 1999/468/EC laying downthe procedures for the exercise of implementing powers conferred on the Commission [1999] OJ L184/23, and recital 21 in the preamble of Regulation (EU) No 182/2011 of the European Parliamentand of the Council laying down the rules and general principles concerning mechanisms for controlby Member States of the Commission’s exercise of implementing powers [2011] OJ L 55/13. For anexample of such a Decision see, eg, Commission Decision 2014/350/EU establishing the ecologicalcriteria for the award of the EU Ecolabel for textile products [2014] OJ L 174/45.
  • [2] See (visited 10 January 2016).
  • [3] 52 [2007] OJ L 189/1.
  • [4] Council Regulation (EEC) No 1836/93 allowing voluntary participation by companies in theindustrial sector in a Community eco-management and audit scheme [1993] OJ L 168/1.
  • [5] Regulation (EC) No 761/2001 of the European Parliament and of the Council allowing voluntary participation by organisations in a Community eco-management and audit scheme (EMAS)[2001] OJ L 114/1.
  • [6] [2009] OJ L 342/1.
  • [7] 56 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, 2 and 5. On ‘Green Public Procurement’ see (visited 13 January 2016).
  • [8] 57 (16 July 2008) COM(2008) 397 final.
  • [9] ‘Organisation’ means a company, corporation, firm, enterprise, authority or institution, locatedinside or outside the Community, or part or combination thereof, whether incorporated or not, publicor private, which has its own functions and administration. Art 2 p 21.
  • [10] See ‘Search engine for EMAS registrations’ at (visited 10 January 2016).
  • [11] See ‘About EMAS’ at (visited10 January 2015).
  • [12] Commission Decision 2013/131/EU establishing the user’s guide setting out the steps needed toparticipate in EMAS, under Regulation (EC) No 1221/2009 of the European Parliament and of theCouncil on the voluntary participation by organisations in a Community eco-management and auditscheme (EMAS) [2013] OJ L76/1.
  • [13] Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-Making and Access toJustice in Environmental Matters (‘Aarhus Convention’) (Aarhus, 25 June 1998) 2161 UNTS 447.Interestingly, parts of the Convention are in turn strongly influenced by EC legal acts from the 1980sand early 1990s. P Oliver ‘Access to Information and to Justice in EU Environmental Law: The AarhusConvention’ (2013) 36 Fordham International Law Journal 1423—70, 1426.
  • [14] Council Decision 2005/370/EC on the conclusion, on behalf of the European Community, ofthe Convention on access to information, public participation in decision-making and access to justicein environmental matters [2005] OJ L124/1.
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