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The European Union's Eco-Management and Audit Scheme (EMAS) is the most comprehensive environmental management and audit system in the world. It is a voluntary instrument for the continuous improvement of an enterprise or other organisation's environmental performance, with an environmental management system (EMS) and external verification in the form of an official periodic audit, for all sectors and organisation sizes. It covers and in part extends all of the requirements of the DIN EN ISO 14001.

Aluminium smelter
EMAS is for both workplace and external environments

EMAS is a voluntary tool available for any kind of organisation aiming to:

  1. Improve its environmental and financial performance
  2. Communicate its environmental achievements to stakeholders and society in general.

Since April 2015, large enterprises in Germany are subject to a compulsory energy audit every four years (German Energy Performance Ordinance (EDL-G, 15.04.2015)). However, if a company already follows an EMAS Environmental Management System, then this requirement is no longer applicable, whereas companies with only the ISO 14001 Certificate will still need to undergo the new Energy Audit.

ISO 14001 is focussed primarily on improvements to the management system. EMAS obliges enterprises to a system of verifiable continuous improvement of its environmental performance, above and beyond the requirements of law. Measurable goals and regular internal and external audits verify whether the planned improvements to the operational environmental protection have been achieved or not.

Since EMAS covers all the requirements of ISO 14001, the final declaration of the environmental auditor and EMAS registration brings with them a verification of conforming to the ISO 14001.

Electronic waste
EMAS is for every stage of a product's life
    EMAS provides:
  • • an environmental review to determine the current status
  • • continuous improvement of environmental performance
  • • employee information
  • • governmental level supervised verification, conducted by specially accredited EMAS auditors
  • • an ES (Environmental Statement), which is a comprehensive public document
  • • validated legal compliance

An important part of the EMAS public information and engagement process is the Environmental Statement (ES). The ES is a written summary of the most important information, data and facts, as well as a description of the self-imposed programme for improvement of environmental impacts and performance of the enterprise.

The participation in the EMAS results in a certificate in accordance with ISO 14001, since the EMAS satisfies all of the latter's requirements. the concluding declaration of the auditor and the registration of the EMAS is a verification of conformity to the ISO 14001. The auditor is empowered to award an ISO 14001 Certificate.

Whereas not the case with ISO 14001, participation in the EMAS programme is also verification of meeting all non-dispensable legal requirements. EMAS therefore provides protection to responsible parties and facilitates liability insurance.


Article 4 of the EMAS Regulation requires the following steps for an organisation to qualify for registration with EMAS:

  • Environmental review
  • Environmental policy
  • Environmental programme
  • Environmental management system
  • Environmental audit
  • Environmental statement
  • Verification and Registration

The Eco-Management and Audit Scheme (EMAS) is voluntary standard which helps organisations of a braod variety achieve a higher level of self-evaluation, management and improvement of their environmental performance.

EMAS is recognised as the most credible and robust environmental management system in the world. It matches the EN ISO-14001 standard step for step, then adds four 'pillars' to its requirements:

  1. Continual improvement
  2. Each bi-annual review sets higher targets of environmental performance. There is no room for complacency with EMAS.

  3. Compliance to legislation
  4. EMAS provides a guarantee for internal and external purposes that standards are being maintained in an optimal fashion, and verified by external auditors.

  5. Public information
  6. Annual reports, such as the Environmental Statement (ES), are a convenient and meaningful way to communicate an organisation's genuine commitment to environmental standards.

  7. Employee involvement
  8. EMAS has been shown to raise employee morale, and ensures all resources are engaged in achieving clear goals.

EMAS is a European Union Standard

EMAS is open to any organisation, of any size, in both the public and private sectors. All 27 member states of the European Union may obtain it, as well as countries of the European Economic Area (Norway, Iceland, and Liechtenstein). Organisations in countries which may one day become an EU member may also seek the EMAS standard.

ISO 14001 is a stepping-stone to obtaining EMAS. ISO 14001 can be the management system element of EMAS. However, EMAS is a more stringent standard, and as such has the following differences:

StatusUnder no legal bases. (International: world wide) ISO standard under private lawUnder legal bases (EU Member States and EEA countries). Regulation of the European Parliament and the Council under public law
OrganisationDoes not go towards entities or sitesThe entity to be registered shall not exceed the boundaries of the Member State, and it is intended to go towards entities and sites
PolicyDoes not include a commitment to the continual improvement of environmental performance but of the performance of the systemIncluded commitment to continual improvement of environmental performance of the organisation
Initial environmental reviewInitial review is recommended, but not requiredObligatory preliminary review, when is the first time that the organisation sets its environmental status
Environmental aspectsRequired only a procedure able to identify environmental aspectsIdentification and evaluation of the environmental aspects (direct and indirect). Establishment of criteria for assessing the significance of the environmental aspects
Legal complianceOnly commitment to comply with applicable legal requirements. There is no compliance-auditObligatory to demonstrate it. Required full legal compliance. There is a compliance-audit
External communicationNot open dialogue with the public. Only is required to respond to relevant communication from external interested parts. Control by public is not possibleOpen dialogue with the public. Public Environmental Statement (validated for verifiers)
Continual improvementRequired periodically improvement without a defined frequencyRequired annual improvement
Management reviewRequired an environmental performance in the management, but not through a performance auditIs wider and requires an evaluation of the environmental performance of the organization, based in a performance-audit
Contractors and suppliersRelevant procedures are communicated to contractors and suppliersRequired influence over contractors and suppliers
Employee involvementNoActive involvement of employees and their representatives
Internal auditingIncluded only system audit against the requirements of the standardIncludes: system-audit, a performance-audit (= evaluation of environmental performance) and an environmental compliance-audit (= determination of legal compliance)
AuditorAdvised the independence of the auditorRequired the independence of the auditor
AuditsCheck environmental system performance. No frequency requiredCheck for improvement of environmental performance. Frequency required: 3 year cycle during which all areas are verified at least once
External verificationNoAccredited environmental verifiers
Verification/ Certification ScopeCertifiers accredited according to EAC codeVerifiers accredited according to NACE codes
Authorities are informedNo obligationObligation by Validation of Environmental Statement

The German EMAS Advisory Board (UGA) is an independent committee to the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety (BMUB). As a multi-stakeholder forum, the UGA brings the various interest groups in environmental management together, and is actively engaged in the implementation and dissemination of the European environmental management system EMAS. Tasks, composition and powers of the UGA are regulated by the Environmental Audit Act (Umweltauditgesetz - UAG).

ISO is the International Organisation for Standardization. Although the name is often taken by English-speakers to be an acronym (International Standards Organization), officially it is not an acronym, but derived from the Greek word isos, (equal). Hence, the title ISO is used by other languages, such as French, which otherwise would use Organisation internationale de normalisation, leading to a plethora of acronyms.

ISO is an international organization which establishes standards for the world, except for the fields of electrics and electronics, which falls to the jurisdiction of the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC), and telecommunications, for which the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) is responsible. Its headquarters are in Geneva, Switzerland, and is currently active in 164 countries.

Environmental Management Standards

In 1992, the British Standards Institute (BSI Group) published the BS 7750, an environmental management systems standard. This was a world first, and when ISO wanted to develop a similar standard in 1996, they based it on the British model. Currently, a quarter of a million organisations in at least 160 countries utilise the ISO 14000 series.

ISO 14'000 is a family of standards which recommends standards for effective environmental management, with large companies and organisations in mind. This includes the vast majority of major organisations in the more developed countries, as well as many small-to-medium sized enterprises. In Europe, all organisations applying EMAS automatically meet the requirements of ISO 14001 for their environmental management system.

The aim is to aid operations and organizations to minimise their impacts on the environment, and to comply to applicable laws and other external requirements. The policy is not to set an absolute fixed standard, but to allow for a process of continuous review and application of techniques available, so that continuous improvement is the result.

For this purpose, the terms BAT (Best Available Technology) and BATNEEC (Best Available Technology Not Entailing Excessive Cost) find application.

ISO 14'000 Certification

An external audit is conducted on an organisation's environmental management system (EMS). The audit focuses on how a product is produced, rather than the product itself. The ISO 14'000 is often audited along with the quality management system, ISO 9'000. If this is the case, the ISO 19011 audit standard is applied when assessing mutual compliance.

EMAS and ISO 14001

The EU only Eco-Management and Audit Scheme (EMAS) uses the standards as laid out in ISO 14001 as integral part of its standard specifications. EMAS goes beyond ISO 14001 in areas such as performance improvement, legal compliance and obligation to report and inform.

With ISO 14001 there is no requirement for an environmental audit. There are procedures for identifying environmental factors. The focus of ISO 14001 is improvement of the management system, and for EMAS the focus is continuous improvement of environmental performance.

Both EMAS and ISO 14001 have obligations to meet and maintain relevant laws and regulations, but EMAS alone stipulates the process of verification through an independent external environmental auditor.

ISO 14001 requires its environmental policies to be accessible to the public, while EMAS promotes open dialogue between external stakeholders.

ISO promotes training for staff, and EMAS promotes active participation of all staff at every level, as well as representatives.

ISO 14001 provides for an internal audit of its management system, and EMAS lays down a fixed method for internal verification of its operations (management system, performance and compliance).

In EMAS, an accredited environmental auditor validates the environmental declaraton and verifies the implementation of the management system. With ISO 14001 the certification occurs according to the ISO standards.

In the EMAS procedure, each organisation is listed with a unique reistration number in a registry open to the public. The registration process is done with participation of the environmental authorities. With ISO, there is neither a public registry nor participation by environmental authorities.

EMAS has its own logo, but ISO does not.

Content © Renewable.Media. All rights reserved. Created : May 30, 2015 Last updated :March 20, 2016

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