Topic 4 Environmental management labels

These labels are awarded to companies that have set up indicator systems for the sustainable management of their organisation. These tools are usually called Environmental Management System (EMS) and they provide organisations with a framework through which their environmental performance can be monitored, improved and controlled. It is a set of processes aiming at lowering the environmental impacts of the organisation and at improving the efficiency of its operations.

It requires organisations to consistently review, evaluate and improve their environmental performance. It is a continuous improvement cycle. The objective of this consistent cycle is to identify opportunities of improvement for the environmental performance of the organisation. This system does not indicate a level of environmental performance that organisations should reach, but each organisation has its own EMS that is tailored to its own objectives (and to its processes).   

The first year usually consists in an assessment of the current situation. Afterwards, the tool evaluates the improvements of the organisation regarding its sustainable actions.

Fundamental components of an EMS:   

  • Assessment of the environmental objectives of the organisation;
  • Analysis of its environmental effects and legal standards;
  • Set of environmental goals and targets to decrease environmental impacts and comply with legal standards;
  • Establishment of programmes to meet these goals and targets;
  • Monitoring and measurement of the progress in achieving the goals;
  • Ensuring the environmental awareness and skills of employees;
  • Assessment of the progress of the EMS and realisation of improvements.

Motivating an organisation to continuously improve its environmental impacts is not an easy task. It requires a lot of work time for the staff, but it can also involve external assistance (consultants, trainings, etc.). However, it can bring much more than environmental benefits (namely improved environmental performance, pollution prevention, resources savings). It can enable organisations to reach new markets and new customers, and to reduce their costs (e.g. pollution taxes cost, resources consumption costs). It enhances the public image of the organisation. It has also proven to boost the employee’s motivation and to raise their awareness to environmental problems.  

While some organisations have developed their own EMS informally, most organisations have adopted the EMS framework specified by national or international standards and their system went through an assessment and a certification process against a standard set of requirement for EMS. This last approach is ideal to guarantee that your system has incorporated all applicable processes. Organisations that have had their systems assessed and certified against these standards can obtain a environmental management label. This next section will now depict the most important ones.

The ISO 14001 standard is a key set of requirements for EMS. It is part of ISO14000, a group of standards concerning environmental management. The ISO 14001:2015 standard (previously called ISO 14001) contains general guidelines to implement an Environmental Management System (EMS) to improve the environmental performance of the organisation. It is recognised worldwide and is one of the most widely used EMS standard.

Such as the GSTC, the International Standardization Organisation (ISO) does not deliver directly certifications to organisation. The ISO accredits certification bodies, which needs to follow guidelines to certify a product or a service with ISO standards.

ISO14001:2015 sets and depicts all the policies, processes, procedures generally needed in an organisation for a successful EMS. It can be applied to any organisation (of any size, type or nature). It is non-prescriptive, which means it indicates what should be done however not how. It can be adapted to the requirements of the organisation. ISO 14001:2015 does not state precise environmental performance criteria. The organisation will first determine which environmental aspects of its activities (products and services) it can either control or influence from a life cycle perspective. The ISO 140001:2015 will apply to these environmental aspects.

The EU Eco-Management and Audit Scheme (EMAS) is an environmental management tool launched by the European Commission. It is recognized in the European Union. It aims to help organisations to better manage their environmental performance, by offering tool enabling them to evaluate, to report and to improve their impact of their activities on the environment.

Since the revision of the EMAS regulation, organisations already meeting the requirements of an environmental management system (e.g., ISO 14001:2015) will more easily comply with EMAS. Three characteristics about EMAS are:

  • Performance: EMAS supports organisations willing to improve their environmental performance by helping them finding the right tools to measure that.
  • Credibility: the independence of the EMAS registration process is guaranteed by a third-party verification.
  • Transparency: Organisations implementing EMAS are achieving great transparency both internally (with employees’ active involvement) and externally (with the environmental statement).

European Tourism Indicator System

The European Tourism Indicators System is a system of indicators for the sustainable management of tourist destinations. This management, monitoring and information tool was launched by the European Commission in 2013.

This management tool aims to improve the sustainable management of destinations by measuring all their sustainability management processes. This allows them to assess over time whether the social and environmental impacts of their tourism activities on destinations are improving. However, it is important to keep in mind that it is a voluntary management tool, as it is based on data collection and analysis by the destination manager itself.

The ETIS tool is based on 43 core indicators that cover the essential elements for sustainability monitoring: destination management, economic value, social and cultural impact, and environmental impact. This also enables them to compare and to benchmark over time between destinations. These indicators should be frequently measure. Then, there is also a list of possible supplementary indicators that can help destination manager to tailor this tool to their needs.

Ecocamping is an environmental and quality management system for campsites. They also advise and train campsite staffs and award the ECOCAMPING label to campsites for successful implementation of the management system. This ECOCAMPING distinction gives them access to a broad network. At the moment, 225 Ecocamping campsites are present in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Italy, Croatia and Slovenia.