All of a company’s actions invariably have an impact on our environment. The term “environmental management“ refers to those managerial decisions that trigger environmental effects. A manufacturing operation for instance features various shop floor aspects such as consumables and supplies used, scrap, consumption of energy and water, surface sealing and a lot more.
The environmental management system aims at steadily improving a company’s environmental performance in the long run by thoroughly analyzing, planning, executing and controlling its setup and procedures. This system undergoes regular external and internal auditing.
At present, there are two standards acknowledged internationally:
ISO and EMAS.
What is EMAS all about?
EMAS is an acronym for ”Eco Management and Audit Scheme“, the ”Community System for Environmental Management and Industrial Inspection“. It represents a seal of quality issued by the European Union and depicts itself as the most demanding system for sustainable environmental management worldwide.
As early as 1993, the first EMAS regulation (COUNCIL REGULATION (EEC) No 1836/93 of 29 June 1993 allowing voluntary participation by companies in the industrial sector in a Community eco-management and audit scheme) was released. It constitutes a crucial step towards implementing a common European environmental policy, which has been elaborated and pursued in a joint effort by the member states of what is today the European Union. Its main focus revolves around the so-called „precautionary principle“, geared towards further reducing environmental pollution before it takes place rather than minimizing its aftermath. After a first revision in 2001 (EMAS II), the amended EMAS regulation (EG) no. 1221/2009 took effect on January 11, 2010, dealing with the voluntary participation by organizations in a Community eco-management and audit scheme (EMAS), (Official Journal L 342, page1 of Dec. 22, 2009) – also known as EMAS III. You can find a link to the original text right below some essential sources indicated at the end of this article.
Particularities of EMAS
As opposed to a certification according to ISO norms, EMAS represents a so-called “validation“. The difference between “certification” and “validation” can be outlined as follows: Whereas the former refers to a procedure by means of which the adherence to certain pre-defined requirements is accounted for, the latter has to prove that the outcome of a certain procedure can invariably be reproduced under comparable circumstances. In other words, it is not just the goal that is defined here, but also the path that verifiably and reproducibly leads to this goal.
The international norm for environmental management called ISO 14001 is an EMAS component, yet enhanced by three additional claims paraphrased as “three added values”:
- Transparency towards one’s own employees as well as external parties
- Legal certainty
- Measurable and constant improvement of a company’s environmental performance
ISO 14001 represents the globally recognized standard for an environmental management system. The compliance with this norm is periodically audited by an external organization. For a company to successfully be certified, it has to give reliable evidence that it meets all pre-defined requirements. Passing the audit does not provide legal security.
Advantages of EMAS
The most essential advantages result from implementing the “three added values”:
EMAS obliges participating companies to publish an environmental statement documenting all environmental aspects and their evolution. This statement lays the foundation for an open dialog on environmental issues with public bodies, approval authorities or the public.
Companies taking part in EMAS are required to keep an index of legal provisions. All applicable regulations, legal specifications und receipts of permissions have to be collected and documented. This also entails a legally reliable documentation of all the machinery and equipment being operated in accordance with the relevant regulations. On top of that, organizational precautions ensuring that all legal requirements are met – which has to be checked on a regular basis – must be established. These documentations are audited and attested by a state-certified environmental consultant, which engenders far-reaching legal certainty. Violating legal provisions might be categorized as an environmental offence pursuant to §§ 324 et seqq. StGB (German Criminal Code), calling for prison sentences of up to 10 years and punitive fines of up to 50,000 €. Such severe penalization may well constitute a considerable strain on the well-being of a company.
Apart from the introduction of measures designed to safeguard the compliance with certain environmental procedures, a second important element lies in the optimization of these procedures.
The protection of our environment has been firmly entrenched in the political and economic arena as well as in people’s minds, not just in Europe, but on a global scale. So any company pursuing and documenting a proactive environmental management is more likely to convey a positive image. For suppliers to be approved by a customer, they are also increasingly expected to demonstrate that they are capable of properly managing environmental, quality and energy issues. Moreover, EMAS is stated as a quality seal for a contractor’s technological performance in procurement directives released by the EU.
Various incentives have been created by the political decision-makers in order to help popularize EMAS and thus have it acknowledged internationally. Having succeeded in the EMAS validation program, a company is eligible for reduced public fees and other benefits when dealing with administrative authorities. Approval procedures may be markedly expedited, for instance, once an EMAS statement has been submitted.
Permanently improving one’s environmental performance does not only have a positive impact on the environment, it also more often than not leads to a palpable reduction of costs.
Winning people over as active participants is an important aspect of the EMAS approach. It aims at nurturing the employees’ awareness for environmental issues through training and cross-cutting communication, which fosters their participation when it comes to improving processes.
Inside the LEONI corporation you will currently find four companies carrying the EMAS quality seal:
- j-fiber GmbH (Jena) 1999
- LEONI Bordnetz-Systeme GmbH (Rastatt) 2007
- LEONI Kerpen GmbH (Stolberg) 2012
- LEONI Draht GmbH (Weißenburg, Bad Kötzting and Roth) 2013
These companies have opted in favor of EMAS in response to their own specific requirements. Just take j-fiber as a case in point: its manufacturing process inevitably involves environmentally hazardous substances. So the possibility of gaining legal certainty through EMAS represented a crucial criterion to go for it. The main argument for validating the LEONI logistics centre in Rastatt was a requirement on Daimler's part which applies to all suppliers.
LEONI’s wire branch has long been dealing with managing environmental issues in a thorough fashion. All its German plants have been certified according to ISO 9001(Quality management) and ISO 14001. Here, the “three added values“ were viewed as particular additional benefits. The aspects taking center stage were the following ones: making good use of cost-saving potentials and gaining legal certainty, with a special focus on critical manufacturing processes such as plating (e.g. silver plating), where hazardous materials are used. The fact that the ISO 14001 certification had already been a practical routine suggested further significant saving potential.
By acquiring the EMAS quality seal our successful plants take another step towards reflecting LEONI’s responsibility for protecting our environment and rendering a positive contribution to society as a whole.
Related topics on our website
Regulation (EG) no. 1221/2009... Euro-Lex, original regulation text, in different languages (PDF or HTML):