We all remember hearing about Agenda 21 and the United Nations’ 1992 Earth Summit in Rio which was where the term “Sustainable Development” came to prominence. The outcome of this was to achieve Sustainable Development by the Year 2000.
Behind the “Sustainable Development” definition
The key issue behind Sustainable Development is that it recognises the importance and relentlessness of development. Nevertheless, it seeks for all parties to agree to regulate development in a way that it recognises the interface between society, economy and environment. The main thinking it puts forward is that any development which takes place must be balanced between these three pillars and must meet people’s needs today whilst also not impeding future generations from meeting their needs too. From legislators’ perspective, this was quite the paradigm shift in thinking and brought about several important changes in governance, international agreements and regulations.
Beyond Agenda 21
Notwithstanding these lofty ideals, the success of the initial aim to achieve Sustainable Development by the new millennium can certainly be disputed. Yet, in spite of this, there is no denying that Sustainable Development is still high on the agenda. So much so that in 2015 the UN held another conference and this time produced “Agenda 2030”, which reaffirmed those original goals and set out some further ones. This new set of goals is known as the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and continues to focus on the aspects of people, planet, prosperity, peace, and partnership. These 17 goals are further subdivided into 169 targets.
Implementing the SDGs
The implementation of the SDGs has been particularly effective in the EU via several internal and external policies and supporting the efforts of the various member states and there are now various mechanisms in place for the different SDGs. However, we most often think that these are matters of legislation and not directly related to our day-to-day business, right? Wrong.
Goal 12 of the SDGs is: “Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns” and one way which organisations can directly contribute to achieving this is via EMAS.
What is EMAS?
EMAS is the Eco-Management and Audit Scheme. It is a management instrument developed by the European Commission for all types of organisations to evaluate, report, and improve their environmental performance, and is applicable worldwide. As a tool designed to reduce organisations’ environmental impacts and increase their sustainability, EMAS can most directly contribute to achieving Goal 12.
How does EMAS contribute to achieving Goal 12?
EMAS focuses on various areas which fall under Goal 12. Among them: the efficient use of resources (target 12.2); the reduction of waste (target 12.5) and good waste management (target 12.4); as well as the adoption of sustainable consumption and production practices (target 12.6).
Aside from Goal 12, EMAS can also help organisations to contribute towards: Goal 7 through promoting the use of renewable energy; Goal 6 via clean production methods; Goal 13 through the regulation and limiting of emissions; Goal 15 by using sustainable and responsibly sourced resources; and even Goal 8 by promoting innovation together with sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth. EMAS also plays an important role in helping a number of public administrations on their path to achieving green and sustainable cities (Goal 11), as noted by the EMAS High Level Conference in November 2015.
By becoming EMAS certified, your organisations will receive recognition by the European Commission and set an example for responsible business practices on a global scale and help to keep Sustainable development on the agenda locally, whilst also being a direct agent of change – a win-win situation for all.