EMS important to cutting resource use, says UN

25th April 2012

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  • EMS ,
  • Certification ,
  • Natural resources ,
  • Ecodesign ,
  • Life Cycle Analysis



Environment management systems play a vital role in making production and consumption practices more sustainable, according to the UN Environment Programme (UNEP)

In a new report, published to mark the 40th anniversary of the conference that established UNEP, the programme highlights actions taken by policymakers, non-governmental organisations and private firms to improve resource use.

Alongside praising the work of organisations such as Fairtrade International and market measures like the EU emissions trading scheme in promoting sustainable consumption and production, the UNEP’s Global outlook on sustainable consumption and production policies emphasises the importance of the voluntary actions being taken by businesses and industry.

In particular, it praises environmental management standards, such as ISO 14001, as “vital tools” in improving resource use, by providing practical frameworks to reduce environmental impacts while generating cost savings. UNEP also highlights the important role of life-cycle analysis in helping firms to identify areas where they can cut materials use and the increasing significance being placed on publicly reporting environmental efforts. “Reporting on sustainability performance is coming of age and is increasingly being integrated with financial reporting,” it states.

The report details 56 best practice case studies, including actions by governments, international charities and private sector organisations. Retailers Sainsbury’s and Walmart, which owns Asda, both feature for their work with suppliers. Sainsbury’s has developed a carbon footprint model to assess more than 2,000 farms, while Walmart scores suppliers’ efforts to improve energy, materials and natural resource use.

Other companies cited include Nestlé Nespresso, for its work with the Rainforest Alliance to ensure 80% of its coffee is sourced sustainably and reduce the carbon footprint of a cup of its coffee by 20%, and East Asian leather company TanTec, which has cut its energy consumption by 40% and CO2 emissions by 2,700 tonnes a year.

Janez Potočnik, EU commissioner for the environment, praised the report as a useful tool to help spread best practice ahead of Rio+20 in June.

“We must use natural resources in a far more efficient manner, if we are to meet our needs and improve our level of well-being all over the world, “ he said. “The way we consume and produce will be key to our success or failure. I hope [the report] will encourage fruitful partnerships worldwide.”

Achim Steiner, UN under-secretary general and UNEP executive director, said: “Realising a low-carbon, resource-efficient and employment-generating green economy is the challenge for world leaders when they meet in Rio this June.

“This report further underlines that governments are not starting from zero – many of the transformations towards sustainable societies are flourishing in countries and communities across the globe. Rio+20 offers the opportunity to accelerate and scale-up these policies and projects.”


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