There are three main recognised standards that have developed in the UK and internationally.

  • ISO 14001 – International Standard*
    ISO 14001 is the international standard for EMSs which specifies the features and requirements necessary to help organisations systematically identify, evaluate, manage and improve the environmental impacts of their activities, products and services. In the UK this is currently the most widely used EMS standard.
  • EMAS – The EU Eco Management and Audit Scheme
    Voluntary EU wide scheme which focuses on legislative compliance and includes ISO 14001 as the requirement for the EMS component. Additional to ISO 14001, EMAS requires organisations to produce a public statement about their environmental performance.
  • BS 8555 – British Standard
    Providing a phased approach for organisations to achieve either ISO14001 or EMAS. Breaks down the implementation process into 6 discreet phases.

The above standards / schemes have developed closely and are now significantly complementary with organisations from all sectors and scales choosing the standard best suited to their needs.

*NB: The ISO 14000 series of standards provides a comprehensive set of tools available to companies to manage and improve their environmental performance.

Legal Requirements

Organisations registering to EMAS must be able to demonstrate that they have identified and know the implications to the organisation of all relevant environmental legislation and that their system is capable of meeting these on an ongoing basis. At the time of registration, the environmental regulators are consulted to make sure that they are satisfied with the organisation in this regard.

Dialogue and Reporting

EMAS is all about improving environmental performance and communicating your results. Communication and dialogue are two-way processes: in EMAS this means being able to respond to the information needs of your stakeholders and reporting information on your environmental performance to fulfil their needs.

EMAS recognises that good quality, reliable and targeted information is essential in this respect – the EMAS logo represents a seal of reliability on the information that is presented with it. All EMAS registered organisations must produce a body of environmental information in the form of an environmental statement that has been independently validated. However, they can also use extracts of this information to target different interested parties: shareholders; customers; environmental regulators; neighbours. All have different information needs - EMAS allows information to be targeted at these and to be ‘badged’ with the EMAS logo.

The scheme also allows the EMAS logo to be used in adverts with information on the environmental attributes of products and services – ‘validated green claims’.

Improved Environmental Performance

EMAS requires participating organisations to improve their environmental performance. Using fewer raw materials; consuming less energy; producing less waste – these actions all help to improve the environment and to make companies more economically competitive.

EMAS doesn’t require organisations to improve all their environmental aspects at once – it requires environmental improvement programmes to be directed to those aspects of the organisation's activities, products and services that cause the biggest environmental impacts. Over time, as the environmental improvement programmes are implemented and successful, new initiatives can be targeted at other environmental impacts.

Employee Involvement

Implementing environmental improvement programmes involves workers at all levels of the organisation – from top level management to those working in administration or on production lines. Not only does this help to ensure the success of your environmental initiatives, it also acts as a valuable teambuilding exercise for employees. EMAS requires the involvement of employees in the process of improving the organisation's environmental performance.

EMAS Competent Body

The EMAS competent body is responsible for the registration of organisations under EMAS. The competent body controls the entry and maintenance of organisations on the EMAS register. Competent bodies are designated by each EU Member State under the condition that the competent body composition is such to guarantee their independence and neutrality.

In the UK, IEMA is the EMAS competent body as designated by The Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).

The role of the EMAS competent body includes:

  • Registering organisations that comply with the relevant EMAS requirements;
  • Deleting or suspending organisations;
  • Liaison with Competent Enforcement Authorities - Environment Agency, Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA), N Ireland Environment and Heritage Service, BEIS (formerly BERR and DTI), local authorities;
  • Notifying the European Commission of those who are on the register;
  • Participate in Competent Bodies Forum;
  • Along with DEFRA, contribute to Member State's EMAS Promotional Strategy;
  • Develop an understanding of the market for EMAS registration;
  • Help to produce guides, leaflets;
  • Speak at conferences, seminars and workshops;
  • Promote the achievements of registered organisations.

EMAS Supervision and Verification

The EMAS Regulation identifies a number of responsibilities for implementing and enforcing the Scheme's requirements. These are explained below.

Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Responsible for appointing the Competent Body and the Accreditation Body. Also responsible for promoting the scheme and for ensuring implementation.

The EMAS competent body responsible for registering, suspending or deleting sites. Contributes to promoting of the scheme and is responsible for this web site.

United Kingdom Accreditation Service (UKAS)
The EMAS accreditation body responsible for ensuring the competence of environmental verifiers, through witnessed assessments and ongoing supervision of their activities.

Competent Enforcement Authority
Responsible for informing the Competent Body (IEMA) if an organisation is in breach of legal requirements. Depending on the location of the organisation, the regulators are the Environment Agency, Scottish Environment Protection Agency and/or the Northern Ireland Environment and Heritage Service, the DTI and the local authority.

Environmental Verifier
Responsible for validating that the organisation's policy and management system comply with the requirements of the regulation and that the information in the environmental statement is accurate and reliable.

A full list of verifiers is available from UKAS