Article 5 of Polish Constitution provides for the principle of sustainable development, according to which the state shall ensure protection of the environment, guided by the principle of sustainable development.
The ecological aims and priorities that shape the actions necessary to ensure protection of the environment are set out in the following strategic documents adopted by the Polish Parliament:
The Minister of Economy, as a coordinator for the implementation of the “Europe 2020” strategy in Poland, makes every effort to ensure the economic policy covers environmental and social matters.
High asset-intensity may be an obstacle to the development of modern and innovative economy; therefore, the National Reform Programme indicates several activities relating to the sustainability priority of the “Europe 2020” strategy. They include investments in the environment protection, power industry and transport infrastructure, as well as in the development and implementation of environment technologies. Investment in modern and more efficient power grids, support of renewable energy sources, new water, wastewater and waste management regulations aim at reducing energy consumption and asset-intensity of Polish economy. Transport investments, aiming at reducing the negative impact of transport on the environment, are also planned.
These activities promote the development of a more resource-efficient, more environment-friendly and more competitive economy. They contribute to meeting the aim of the “Europe 2020” strategy on climate and energy and form a part of the flagship initiative “A resource-efficient Europe”.
Corporate social responsibility (CSR)
The CSR concept, which is considered to be a response of business to the challenges of sustainable development, is based on the principles of voluntary participation and dialogue between stakeholders.
The Polish CSR team, which was established by the Order No. 38 of 8 May 2009 issued by the Prime Minister, is responsible for:
- proposing solutions aimed at supporting coordination of the activities of public administration bodies in respect of the promotion and implementation of CSR principles;
- analysing and using experience as well as disseminating CSR good practice from other countries;
- creating conditions for better communication and dialogue between administration, business, social partners and NGOs in respect of the CSR.
In order to ensure efficient implementation of the Team's mission, four working committees have been established, concentrating on the CSR promotion system, responsible investments, sustainable consumption, as well as CSR in education. The committees’ task is to work out recommendations for the Team aimed at facilitating the creation of conditions for CSR development in Poland. A pool of experts working at the committees are involved in the promotion of ideas representing the government, NGOs, producer and consumer associations, scientific and academic environments, as well as society.
Quality management standards
ISO 9001:2008 standard sets out the requirements of quality management systems. It enables organisations to demonstrate their ability to continue to deliver products that meet customer expectations as well as legal and other requirements, thereby enabling them to increase the level of customer satisfaction. Both internal and external bodies, including certification bodies, can use it to assess the ability of an organisation to meet customer expectations, the requirements stipulated in regulations as well as the organisation’s own requirements. It is the fundamental quality management standard.
ISO 9000, ISO 9004 and ISO 19011 (guidelines on the principles of auditing management systems) are other basic standards aimed at assisting organisations at the implementation and efficient operation of quality management systems.
ISO 9000:2005 describes fundamentals of quality management systems, and defines the related terms employed in these standards. It plays an important role in the understanding and application of other standards of the ISO 9000 series.
ISO 9004:2009 provides guidelines aimed to assist organisations to achieve sustained success within a complex, demanding and ever-changing environment through a quality management approach. It can be applied as a complementary standard to ISO 9001, or used separately.
Alongside these standards, the ISO 9000 series includes the so-called auxiliary standards (ISO 10000 series) which support specific concepts and elements of the quality management system, such as documentation, training, economic aspects, customer satisfaction, measurement management, and statistical methods.
All standards from the ISO 9000 series that constitute the basis of quality management are implemented in Polish Standards.
Environmental management standards
The Eco-Management and Audit Scheme (EMAS) is a Community instrument that enables organisations to voluntarily evaluate their environmental impact and improve their pro-environmental activity.
The Regulation on the voluntary participation by organisations in a Community eco-management and audit scheme lays down the basic requirements and principles of the EMAS scheme operated within the European Union.
Properly constructed and effectively implemented environmental management systems can lead to a reduction in production costs, for example by:
- reducing energy and material consumption;
- reducing waste production;
- including environmental matters at the stage of product design;
- creating a positive image of companies;
- improving Community relations.
The ISO 14000 standard series addresses environmental management. The standards help organisations manage and minimise the environmental impact of their operations, products and services, and effectively use the resources at all stages of their operation.
The ISO 14001:2004 standard contains requirements and guidelines on environmental management systems that are a strategic tool allowing organisations to reduce their environmental impact and cover all matters relating to their operations, products and services. The requirements of the standard can be objectively audited for the purpose of certification or declaration of conformity.
ISO 14004 provides guidelines on establishment, implementation, maintenance and improvement of a quality management system as well as its coordination with other management systems.
In addition to the requirements and guidelines on environmental management systems, the ISO 14000 standard series includes many auxiliary standards, such as:
- ISO 14031 which is concerned with environmental performance evaluation;
- ISO 14063 which is concerned with communication;
- ISO 14040 and ISO 14044 which contain guidelines and specify the requirements of life cycle assessment (LCA).
The method of life cycle assessment considers all factors that may potentially influence the environment and health in relation to a given product or production process, which makes it possible to establish which production stages entail the highest risk.
In addition to these standards, the ISO 14000 series contains documents relating to:
- related audits and tests;
- environmental labels;
- environmental aspects of the design and development of products;
- greenhouse gases;
- carbon footprint of products.
All standards from the ISO 14000 series that constitute the basis of environmental management are implemented in Polish standards.
Health and safety management standards
The health and safety management standards of the PN-N-18000 series support activities aimed at improving health and safety at work.
PN-N-18001:2004 specifies the requirements for health and safety management systems that enable legal and other requirements to be met, ensure health and safety of employees, as well as allow for efficient implementation of the constant improvement process. These requirements can be objectively audited for the purposes of certification or declaration of conformity.
The following are also included in the PN-N-18000 standard series:
- PN-N-18004 provides guidelines and practical suggestions supporting the implementation of rules of systematic health and safety management in business
- PN-N-18002 contains guidelines for carrying out an occupational risk assessment
- PN-N-18011 is concerned with auditing
The law requires businesses to comply with minimum social and environmental rules.
Standard on Social Responsibility
PN-ISO 26000:2012 standard “Guidance on Social Responsibility” contains regulations on:
- concept, context, trends and typical features of social responsibility;
- principles and practices related to social responsibility;
- main areas and issues related to social responsibility;
- integration, implementation and promotion of socially responsible behaviour in the organisation and in its impact area;
- identification and involvement of stakeholders;
- communication of obligations, activity results and other information relevant for social responsibility.
It applies to all organisations, irrespective of their ownership type, size, type and location. It is not limited to corporate social responsibility (CSR).
Entities that launch products onto the market (manufacturers, authorised representatives, importers or distributors) often need to confirm that products comply with the requirements set out in the relevant specification (for example, standards, directives, regulations or other specifications indicated by the product recipient).
The need to confirm product compliance, as required by legal regulations (directives, regulations), makes certification obligatory.
For obligatory certification, the relevant legal regulations determine the scope of activities, the third parties authorised to undertake them, and the competencies that these parties must have. Competencies of third parties are governed by legal provisions (by law) or by the requirement of accreditation. Regulations or directives are such provisions within the European Union. In case of New Approach Directives, in order to confirm compliance of a product with the essential requirements set out in legal provisions, entities are required to carry out the conformity assessment and place CE marking on the product. In some cases, compliance assessment requires the participation of a third party, meaning a certification body. Relevant standards may also be referred to in legal regulations. In this case, certification covers compliance with these standards.
Standards may always be used as an efficient tool to prove compliance with EU (directives implemented by domestic legal regulations, regulations of the European Parliament which are directly in force in a member state) and domestic regulations. In case of New Approach Directives, application of a harmonised standard grants a producer/importer a privilege to claim that the product is compliant with the standard’s key requirements.
If a product is not covered by harmonisation, Polish law can require that an authorised certification body issue a certificate of compliance; the certification body shall be specified in a relevant regulation.
In case of products for which CE marking is obligatory, the mutual recognition principle shall be applied. It should be remembered that in case of construction materials regulations on the required parameters and applications often differ in particular EU member states.
If obtaining a certificate of compliance with standards is not required, a supplier and recipient may sign an agreement based on civil law. The Agreement shall include a clause under which the supplier is obliged to confirm the product’s compliance with a reference document (e.g. Polish Standard) by means of any certificate issued by a third party.
The product’s supplier may submit a product for certification voluntarily and obtain the relevant certificate of compliance with Polish Standards as well as the right to place the compliance symbol (PN symbol) issued by the Polish Committee for Standardisation on the product.
The term Polish Standard refers to both national standards and to each European standard (EN) and international standard (ISO, IEC) implemented and added to the group of national standards. The PN symbol or reference number cannot be placed on products that have been assessed as compliant with a Polish Standard based solely on producer’s declaration. In this case, Polish Committee for Standardisation does not confirm the product’s compliance with a Polish Standard.
The Ministry of Economy in cooperation with the Public Procurement Office has prepared the following document:
The Guide to Sustainable Business contains information on CSR tools and practices available to the Polish business sector. It highlights the opportunities connected with sustainable development and indicates the areas in which it is possible to gain a competitive advantage.
According to the main assumption behind the works on the National Programme for Development of Low-Emission Economy, transition to low-emission technologies should be an opportunity for economic growth. The philosophy of the document consists in securing economic, social and environmental advantages (pursuant to the principle of sustainability) resulting from emission-reducing activities, including increase of innovativeness and implementation of new technologies, decrease of energy consumption and creating new jobs, which as a result promote economy competitiveness.
The document is created basing on a bottom-up approach, so the reduction target for 2050 has not been specified on the beginning of work, but it will be determined upon identification and comparison of various areas of human activities, which are called ‘areas with a low-emission transition potential’. From the overall list of areas, only those will be implemented which in the long term constitute no burden for the economy, and priority shall be granted to those which, while reducing emission, contribute to economic growth.
In order to make the list of areas as comprehensive as possible, the Ministry of Economy is going to involve all stakeholders in the works on the document. In autumn 2012, a competition for the best area was held on Facebook. The areas were evaluated by portal users and experts and they were awarded (announcement of results: 5 December 2012). Taking part in the competition and submitting one’s idea how to reduce emissions with an advantage for economy, everyone could have become an author of the Programme. According to the logics of works, best awards can be obtained by ideas which reduce emissions and contribute to Poland’s economic growth.
The programme "Polish Ecology Leader" of the Ministry of the Environment rewards companies that help to protect the environment and try to develop in a sustainable way. The aim of the programme is to reward examples of commercial success achieved in an environmentally friendly way.
The programme "Clean Business" of the Polish Environmental Partnership Foundation, showcases SMEs that try to protect the environment and implement innovative solutions in order to achieve that.
The programme "Fair Play Business" of the Polish Chamber of Commerce promotes companies that operate on the basis of the social responsibility principle.
Businesses that plan to acquire an ecological symbol under the Infrastructure and Environment Programme can obtain financial support.
Environmental Compliance Assistance Programme (ECAP) aims to:
- reduce the administrative burden on SMEs;
- promote the implementation of individually adapted environmental management systems;
- finance sustainable production in SMEs;
- develop competencies and improve communication, including access to information.
The Ministry of the Environment runs the Work Clean campaign which aims to:
- involve employees and management of companies and institutions in carrying out internal education campaigns that promote pro-environmental behaviour;
- reward the best educational campaigns about environmental protection in companies and institutions.
The mission of the National Cleaner Production Centre is to promote environmental management systems, both formal (ISO 14001, EU Eco-Management and Audit Scheme - EMAS) and informal (Cleaner Production), as well as relevant educational activities.