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Integration of environmental aspects into European standardisation

European standardisation extends to an ever-increasing number of areas. This development makes standardisation an effective technique for fulfilling the objectives of sustainable development and environmental protection. With this in mind, environmental aspects need to be integrated more systematically into European standards, and all those involved in compiling them need to take environmental protection into account.

ACT

Communication from the Commission to the Council, the European Parliament and the European Economic and Social Committee of 25 February 2004 - Integration of Environmental Aspects into European Standardisation [COM(2004) 130 final - Not published in the Official Journal].

SUMMARY

European standardisation makes it possible to apply harmonised technical standards among the Member States of the European Union (EU). It thus facilitates trade in the single market.

Standardisation plays a part in the formulation of Community policies and the dissemination of technical knowledge. By integrating environmental aspects, standards can thus contribute to sustainable development and the associated Community policies.

Developments in European standardisation

European standards are voluntary documents compiled by the European or international standards organisations. This work is based on a proactive process and on a consensus among all stakeholders.

The process of compiling standards is conducted under the new approach to technical harmonisation and standardisation.

Standardisation covers an increasing number of sectors. It is now considered to be a useful tool for environmental protection, in that it:

  • has an influence on the way products and services impact on the environment, particularly in the context of the Integrated Product Policy;
  • implements standardised test methods and methods of measurement in order to facilitate the enforcement of Community environmental legislation. This is the case with horizontal standards used to simplify the measurement of levels of pollutants in sludge, as well as in soil or biowaste;
  • promotes the use of environmental technologies and supports initiatives which have environmental benefits. Standardisation can, for example, help in the marketing of technologies such as micro-cogeneration which makes it possible to simultaneously develop heat and electricity in a building;
  • draws up environmental management standards which aim to improve the environmental performance of businesses, such as the ISO 14000 series of international standards.

Europe's ability to create environmental standards can lead to the development of international standards.

Environmental standards

The environmental quality of the standards produced in the EU can be improved. Particular attention is also focused on the quality of the standards drawn up in the acceding countries. The main aim is to:

  • improve the environmental training of the experts who compile or revise European standards and allow all stakeholders access to environmental information. The dissemination of technical know-how should be encouraged at European and national level;
  • set priorities regarding the topics to be dealt with, taking into account issues of public interest related to EU environmental policy. The Commission can use the European standardisation mandate to flag these priorities;
  • promote the active participation of all parties concerned by standardisation. The European standardisation bodies such as CEN EHD and CENELEC work on the basis of national delegations. The Member States should thus support participation by civil society and the scientific community in the process of drawing up standards. The Commission is pursuing the same objective by linking up with the ECOS consortium of environmental organisations;
  • make systematic use of tools which help integrate environmental aspects into standardisation. Regular meetings will be held to exchange experience and assess the progress made.

Incentives

The Commission wishes to encourage systematic use of the most effective integration tools. The European standardisation bodies have developed specific tools such as:

  • working groups dedicated to the environment;
  • technical advisory boards;
  • environmental databases;
  • sectoral guides and checklists written by experts for experts.

Stakeholders in the standardisation process become involved voluntarily. In order to ensure the proliferation of environmental standards, it is also necessary to enhance their market relevance.

Background

When the Sixth Community Environment Action Programme was adopted in 2002, the Commission proposed that environmental protection be taken into consideration in standardisation activities.

This communication was drawn up following an Internet consultation. Representatives from business and industry, NGOs, public authorities and standardisation organisations had the opportunity to voice their opinions on the best way of taking action for the environment.

RELATED ACTS

Council conclusions of 1 March 2002 on standardisation [Official Journal C 66 of 15.03.2002].

Report from the Commission to the Council and the European Parliament on actions taken following the resolutions on European standardisation adopted by the Council and the European Parliament in 1999 [COM(2001) 527 final - Not published in the Official Journal].

Last updated: 18.11.2005

See also

For further information, please consult:

The Enterprise Directorate-General website on standardisation.

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