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Brussels, 23 September 2009

The eco-management and audit scheme (EMAS) at the Commission: frequently asked questions

What is EMAS?

In a nutshell, EMAS (the eco-management and audit scheme) is a system for environmental management in the workplace. It incorporates tools for evaluating, reporting and improving environmental performance. The scheme, implemented by Regulation No 761/2001, includes the international environmental management standard ISO 14001. In addition, it requires a demonstration, through external verification of regular environmental statements, of the following: legal compliance (local, national and EU environmental rules and regulations), continuous improvement (i.e. actions taken to manage and reduce environmental impact), involvement of all staff, and public reporting, in the form of publication of the "environmental statement". Due to the legal compliance obligation, EMAS is site-specific and the certification bodies are in the Member States. EMAS is the strictest international environmental certification scheme available: the publication of regular statements verified by independent auditors ensures transparency and the scheme requires active communication both with staff and externally. Employees receive training in EMAS and their commitment play an important role in the success of the scheme.

How long has EMAS been applied in the Commission?

Following the extension of the EMAS scheme to public and private organisations in 2001, the European Commission took the decision to implement EMAS gradually to the whole institution. It was a natural progression from the "green housekeeping" scheme which was set up in 1997 by staff members. EMAS was first applied in 2002 through a pilot project in four Brussels departments (Secretariat-General, Personnel and Administration DG, Environment DG and the Office for Infrastructure and Logistics in Brussels). The first EMAS certificate was awarded to these departments in December 2005 and initially covered 8 buildings. Today, the pilot project has come to a successful close after including five departments (DG Informatics was added to the first four departments) and a total of 23 buildings (or 45% of the Commission's office space in Brussels). Thanks to the pilot project there is now experience and best practice examples available for other departments, as the scope of EMAS is extended.

What does it mean to extend EMAS to the whole Commission in Brussels and Luxembourg?

The decision taken in September 2001 to implement EMAS to the whole institution stipulated that implementation would start with a pilot phase and then extend to all Commission services after evaluation.

In October 2008, the EMAS Steering Committee (composed of the heads of the participating services) acknowledged the successful completion of this pilot phase and recommended that the implementation of EMAS be extended to all Commission directorates and buildings not only in Brussels but also in Luxembourg. All directorates and buildings of the Commission in Brussels and Luxembourg are concerned. This represents about 35 000 employees, and over 70 buildings, representing around 1.2 million m2. Activities of the executive agencies and of the JRC (Joint Research Centre) are for the moment excluded from the scope of EMAS.

Official registration of Commission activities by the competent national authorities should be achieved in 2012. The registration of the premises in Brussels should be achieved in 2014. A global registration plan entailing the progressive inclusion of the Commission buildings in Luxembourg will be presented.

How does EMAS work in practice?

Like other management schemes, EMAS is based on a "plan-do-check-act" cycle.

  • An initial environmental review defines significant impacts and provides the basis for management to set an environmental policy for the organisation. The policy then gives rise to specific actions plans.

  • Implementation of the action plans follows, supported by training and awareness-raising to all staff.

  • Continuous progress and improvements are evaluated by internal evaluations and reported upon in regular management reviews.

  • An environmental statement is drawn up which is verified by independent auditors. Upon approval, the organisation is registered for the first time with the competent authorities in the Member State and thereafter for each annual statement.

EMAS activities are included in the Commission's standard action plans and staff should go about their daily business as normal but are trained to include EMAS, particularly in their planning and reporting.

What progress has been made since EMAS was launched within the Commission?

Since the European Commission already had an environmental management system in place since 1997, EMAS grew in fertile ground. The scheme has registered a number of successes in reducing the environmental impacts of the Commission's daily activities. These are divided into four aims: a) reduce CO 2 emissions, b) promote efficient use of natural resources, c) waste prevention, reuse and recycling, and d) promote sustainable consumption and production.

What follows are some concrete examples of achievements, in Brussels.


Note: for comparison reasons, only the 23 buildings currently included in the EMAS scope in Brussels are considered.

Savings per person since 2002 in 19 office buildings:

  • 7% less CO 2 emissions per m2 (= -5 kg/m2)

  • 14% less electricity per m2 (= -23 kWh/m2)

  • 23% less water per m2 (= -132 l/m2)

Total savings achieved in the Berlaymont only since 2005

  • 26% less CO 2 emissions per m2 (saving 3710 tonnes)

  • 21% less combined use of gas and electricity (saving 12477 MWh)

As of August 2009 the Commission has contracted to buy 100% green electricity for high voltage, which represents 95% of its total electricity consumption for the Brussels offices.


Working closely with the Brussels Region, the Commission has supported initiatives in recent years to promote the use of public transport and to encourage the use of other sustainable means of transport, bicycles in particular. A mobility plan for Commission staff in Brussels exists since 2006, although various actions of this nature have been taken already since 1999.

A 2008 survey regarding daily commuting by Commission employees in Brussels confirmed the positive impact of Commission actions to promote sustainable transport.

The main outputs to be noted are the following (period 1998-2008):

  • private car use reduced from 50% to 29%

  • public transport use increased from 32% to 50%

  • walking and cycling increased from 17% to 18%

Over a third of respondents declared that the means made available by the Commission changed their habits.

The Commission has a park of some 300 service bikes; used for more than 26 000 trips in 2008, an increase of 12% over the previous year. Facilities for cyclists, such as bicycle racks or changing rooms and showers are developing rapidly. As a result of its efforts in this field, the European Commission received the 2008 "Bike parking price" (“prix du parking d’or”), delivered by Brussels city.

In terms of public transport, the Commission subsidises two bus routes in Brussels since 1997, provides free bus travel passes to staff in Luxembourg since 2008, and reimburses business travel by metro and tram in Brussels.

Given the international nature of the Commission's work, a certain amount of business travel is inevitable; nonetheless video and teleconferencing facilities are increasingly available at all Commission sites, offering a low-cost, energy-efficient alternative to travelling.

Waste reduction

Fifteen different types of waste are collected in the European Commission ranging from paper to used cooking oils from the kitchens. In 2008, 294 kg/person were generated in total, compared to 331kg in 2002. Even though there was a 34% increase of staff during this period, the total amount of waste has increased only by 20% (= 7 328 tonnes in 2008 for the whole Commission).

54% of all waste collected is recycled. 98% of paper is recycled, as are 64% of toner cartridges. Over 60% of decommissioned computer equipment is donated to charity for reuse or recycling.


The amount of office paper used per person — eco-label recycled paper — has fallen by 41% since 2003 i.e. dropping from 88 sheets/person/day to 51 sheets/person/day (= saving of 435 tonnes of paper per year), in particular thanks to the development of double-sided printing and copying as well as awareness-campaigns towards employees.

Important efforts were also made concerning offset paper used in the print shop - in particular trough the stricter control of colour printing and the use of lighter paper. Volume decreased by 48% from 2002 till 2008 (a saving of 343 tonnes of paper per year).

Sustainable consumption

Information and communication technology is another area in which the implementation of the EMAS scheme has led to significant and recurrent energy savings. This is achieved through a "green procurement" policy, where environmental criteria are included in the technical and financial selection of hardware. A striking example is provided by the purchase of desktop PCs: when the Commission applied environmental criteria to it in 2007, the selected model of PC is both cheaper and more powerful than the previous three lots, whilst consuming less energy than the PCs bought in 2003.

Steady progress has also been recorded in the area of office automation, where more environment-friendly devices have been selected and made available to the ICT users for their daily work. For instance, the installed base of paper-demanding devices is gradually renewed with multifunctional networked photocopiers/printers/scanners which are set to automatic double-sided printing. Another example is set by the monitoring of the activity and the use of desktop PCs and printers, so as to optimise their energy consumption.

100% of hardware contracts prepared by the Informatics DG include environmental criteria.

What are the challenges to applying EMAS in the Commission?

The management of over 70 buildings of varying ages, more than 25% rented, and with a multitude of technical installations means that technical services cannot take a "one size fits all" approach. To take one example, a mixed-use building like the Berlaymont is a special case, and not comparable to other buildings. The Commission obviously cannot interfere with how staff travel to/from work – including bringing children to school on the way — and being centrally located in a major European city entails dealing with the usual problems of a congested city centre.

Is EMAS implemented in other European Institutions or bodies?

Since EMAS is a Europe-wide scheme a great number of different organisations participate. For instance, the European Environmental Agency in Copenhagen was EMAS registered in 2004 and the European Parliament in 2007 for its three sites in Brussels, Luxembourg and Strasbourg. The Committee of the Regions as well as the European Economic and Social Committee are also implementing EMAS and are expected to be registered in 2010.

All organisations' environmental statements are available on the EMAS website: (under Tools | environmental statement library | section 99)

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