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European Commission

[Check Against Delivery]

Janez Potočnik

European Commissioner for Environment

Our role models and their outstanding environmental contribution

Opening the EMAS Award Ceremony

Hannover, 7 April 2014

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The EMAS Awards – the European Commission's environmental awards – have been given out to private companies and public organisations for outstanding environmental achievements since 2005. This year’s EMAS Awards focus on the excellent work done by private and public organisations on “Eco-innovations improving environmental performance”.

Eco-innovations are not only important to improve the environmental performance of organisations; they also play a major role in moving towards a truly sustainable and circular economy.

A circular economy in which we promote re-use, repair, and recyclability; where one industry's waste becomes another's raw material. Where materials are pumped back into the economy again and again instead of being buried in landfills or burned. Transition to a circular economy is our key to sustained prosperity by enabling economic growth to continue within environmental limits.

That is why the circular economy is increasingly on the agenda in a growing number of cities in Europe. For example when we look at municipal waste management and recycling,
we need to place our policies and initiatives firmly within the wider context of resource efficiency and circular economy.

We want to help Europe's public and private organisations to unlock the potential of the circular economy and we want to help Europe to use its resources more efficiently. EMAS has an important role to play in achieving this aim.

We know that other organisations share the vision of a circular economy with us. One of them is the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). Therefore I take this opportunity to welcome Elisa Tonda, who not only heads the Business and Industry Unit of UNEP in the Division of Technology, but also chaired the EMAS Awards Jury 2014.
A jury comprised of seven independent environmental technology and eco-innovation experts.

I am happy to inform you that the jury of the EMAS Awards has appointed winners in the six categories of this year's EMAS Awards. But you will have to be patient a little longer. I will not reveal the winners until later this evening.

What is worth mentioning now however is that the shared circular economy mission I mentioned also connects the EMAS Awards with the 16th European Forum on Eco-Innovation and the 2nd Environmental Technology Verification Stakeholder Forum. These two events are also taking place here alongside the EMAS Awards and are also organised by the European Commission.

When I looked at this EMAS Awards 2014 booklet I took great pleasure in seeing the levels of creativity, excellence and engagement shown by the entries for this year's EMAS Awards. There are booklets available for everyone, so I invite you all to read about this years' 29 nominees from 14 European countries.

Of these 21 are private-sector organisations and eight from the public-sector. We have separate awards for micro, small, medium and large private companies, and for small and large public sector bodies. So in total this award has six categories in which organisations are recognised for successfully improving their environmental performance.

All the EMAS Awards nominees represent a very clear expression of the growing understanding that sustainability is at the core of visionary and innovative business practices, permeating relationships and engagement with stakeholders and the broader community. It is inspiring that such eco-innovative leaders are to be found widely – in small as well as large organisations, in the public and private sectors, and in all countries across Europe.

A variety of solutions are proposed by participating organisations, addressing the consumption of water, energy and materials as well as waste minimisation. Their approaches also consider sustainability implications over the entire product lifecycle and throughout the supply chain. This, coupled with significant attention to communication and transparency in line with EMAS principles, has provided the basis for the outstanding achievements of all participants.

In short these organisations have come up with eco-innovative solutions that helped them create new products and techniques and provide new services. They were good for business as well as the environment.

Why? Because as we witness increasing demands on our natural resources, increasing supply constraints and increasing prices, it makes more and more sense from the business perspective to gain more value added from each tonne of material, each joule of energy, each cubic metre of water and each hectare of land.

So, by rewarding environmental front runners and encouraging eco-innovation, EMAS contributes to competitiveness and growth, creating ‘green’ business opportunities across the whole economy. All EMAS Award winners and nominees deserve praise for being the pioneers of systematic and innovative environmental management approaches. By implementing EMAS, these organisations are already role models for others across the world – and we are very pleased to be able to recognise this outstanding environmental contribution with the EMAS Awards.

I will now hand-over to Elisa Tonda. She will inform us about the jury's work. After that I will announce the winners in all six categories and we will conclude by celebrating the accomplishments all of them achieved and call for their excellent eco-innovative practices and initiatives to be followed, replicated and disseminated widely.

Keep up the good work!

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