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European Commission recognised for its efforts to green its activities
Commission Européenne - IP/06/563 03/05/2006
Brussels, 03 May 2006
Successful efforts by the European Commission to green its activities have been recognised with four of its departments receiving 'EMAS registration'. Since 2002, these pioneering departments have piloted the EU Eco-Management and Auditing Scheme (EMAS). This has helped improve their environmental performance and spread good environmental practice throughout the Commission. As a result, energy and paper consumption is decreasing, the Commission is recycling more and more, and staff are increasingly turning to public transport to come to work. In 2004 the Commission saved around €500,000 just on toner and paper. Later this year, the Commission will decide how to extend EMAS to all its departments.
"I am encouraged by the successful outcome of our EMAS pilot project and would like to thank our staff for this," said Siim Kallas, Commission Vice-President for administrative affairs, audit and anti-fraud. "This shows that the Commission can actively contribute to sustainable development, not only through its policy proposals, but also in its day-to-day operations."
"It is important that we practice what we preach," said Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas. "With a workforce of more than 25,000, the Commission can make a real difference and set an example. I am very pleased with what we have achieved, but there is room and opportunity to go even further."
"Sustainable development is about changing attitudes and behaviour," said Catherine Day, the Commission's Secretary-General. "EMAS helps us identify the negative environmental impacts of our actions and ways to reduce them. I welcome the enthusiasm that staff have shown in implementing the recommendations."
EMAS in the Commission
The EMAS forerunners include the Secretariat General, the Directorates-General (DG) Personnel & Administration and Environment and the Office for Infrastructure & Logistics in Brussels (OIB), which together employ around 3,500 people. As OIB is responsible for areas such as buildings policy and maintenance, the procurement of supplies and services, waste management and also staff mobility, many of the EMAS actions have been implemented across the Commission as a whole. The Informatics DG is also implementing EMAS since it joined the scheme in 2004.
EMAS requires all participating organisations to evaluate the environmental impacts of their activities and implement strategies to reduce them. They must involve their personnel, put in place an environmental management system, continuously improve their environmental performance and report on it, all under the scrutiny of independent auditors.
The 3,500 staff of the pilot services have been encouraged e.g. to reduce printing; to switch off lights when not needed; to turn off their computers overnight; to use video-conferencing instead of travelling to meetings; and to use public transport or bicycles when commuting to work or travelling from one building to another. Horizontal actions include, among many other things, the procurement of environmentally-sound products and services and the responsible use of products containing chemicals. All this and much more is to be found in the 2002-2004 environmental statement released by the pilot services, based on which they received EMAS registration from the Brussels' competent authorities.
In seven of the main buildings occupied by the four pilot services, there is a decline in energy consumption. There was also a corresponding 4% drop in CO2 emissions between 2003 and 2004 (decreasing from 5,852 to 5,626 tons). Water consumption also shows a slight downward trend.
Significant results have been achieved by the whole Commission due to the dissemination of good practices and to horizontal actions implemented by OIB. As a result of the introduction of recto-verso printing as a default setting, and of individual efforts by staff, there has been a 12% drop in the amount of paper used per staff member and working day between 2003 and 2004. Moreover, since 2001, the Commission uses only recycled and 100% chlorine-free paper. Green procurement practices have also ensured that 80% of the stationary available (700 articles) is recyclable, and environmental specifications were included in the contract covering 14 canteens and 34 cafeterias.
The use of private cars to commute to and from work went down from 50% in 1998 to 44% in 2004, while the use of public transport rose from 32% to 38% during the same period. Staff are encouraged to use public transport, the "Eurobus" lines (which link most European Institution buildings and which are free for Commission staff) and staff bicycles for work related journeys, and this has contributed to leaving the private car behind. Also, thanks to the promotion of video-conferences the number of business trips to e.g. Luxembourg has been significantly reduced.
While the volume of waste generated has slightly increased (by 1.3%) to 6,358 tons between 2003 and 2004 in line with an increase in staff , recycling has been maximised and disposal optimised. For example, the share of non-separated waste in total waste volume was reduced from 51% (3,220 tons) to 46% (2,928 tons) during the same period.
Later this year, the Informatics Directorate-General will become the fifth pilot service to be registered under EMAS. The Commission will also decide how to extend EMAS to its 36 other departments. In total it has 41 departments.
EMAS is a voluntary scheme. It was launched in 1991 and revised in 2001 to be applicable to both private and public organisations. Currently, there are around 3,300 EMAS-registered organisations in the EU. The Commission is today the third organisation to be registered in the Brussels Capital Region.
EMAS in the Commission follows on from Green Housekeeping, an environmental
action programme which has helped it reduce its environmental impacts since
1997. EMAS provides for a more systematic and thorough approach, stricter still
than ISO 14001.