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Oct 22, 2013
Verdigris Blog: A Quick (Very Quick) Guide to Environmental Management
medium_laurel3.jpg The weekly Verdigris blog by Laurel Brunner

We get lots of enquiries about the value of standards, and some are easier to answer than others. In the case of environmental management standards a common question is the difference between the Eco Management & Audit Scheme (EMAS) and ISO 14001 (Environmental management systems). There is more to it than the one being European and the other international and so having wider relevance.

The two are about helping companies to improve their environmental management, meaning continual improvement of an organisation’s environmental footprint. They are compatible and in the EU’s view ISO 14001 is a stepping stone for EMAS, which will accept the same documentation and processes as required for ISO 14001 certification. However EMAS is very definitely a European standard which automatically limits its relevance to the 27 members of the EU and to the European Economic Area (Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein), plus EU membership candidate countries such as Turkey and Croatia. For graphic arts companies, ISO 14001 or a local scheme offering sufficient rigour would be more relevant and meaningful to customers.

EMAS requires compliance with environmental legislation and that the certification is overseen by government. EMAS also requires that employees get involved and that the organisation publishes an annual report to provide public information. Both EMAS and ISO 14001 require continual improvements in environmental impacts, although only EMAS specifies the revision timeframes. Both are relevant to all sorts of organisations, regardless of size, and once you make the commitment, relatively easy to achieve.

Both EMAS and ISO 14001 are about commitment. In the case of ISO 14001 particularly these standards are about self-determination with subsequent confirmation from an external organisation. The standard starts with a requirement to have a defined environmental policy for the company. The principals of both have much in common with ISO 9001 the quality management standard that is applied throughout industry, and that is also the foundation of many certifications schemes used for print quality control.

Within the graphic arts industry ISO 14001 is more widely used than EMAS, which is being pushed in Europe especially for local government authorities. The Europeans want to encourage organisations to streamline their processes to reduce overall environmental impact, for instance in administration, construction, education and health. As with most things EU, EMAS is about changing behaviour, whereas ISO doesn’t much care about behaviour so much as deployment.

Whether you opt for EMAS or ISO 14001 what matters most is commitment to continual improvement and pollution prevention. Organisations can cover this in their environmental policy statements, even if a company has no intention to get certified. The benefits of certification by a reputable body are obvious: formal and rigorous recognition of your efforts, and those of your colleagues. And just as important, a management system imposes a discipline that soon leads to better cost control and hopefully profitability.

– Laurel Brunner

Verdigris supporters who make the blog possible: Agfa Graphics (, Digital Dots (, drupa (, EFI (, EcoPrint (, Fespa (, Heidelberg (, HP (, Kodak (, Pragati Offset (, Ricoh (, Unity Publishing ( and Xeikon (
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