Local business must live up to European standard
Introducing EMAS—Eco-Management and Audit Scheme—to Trinidad and Tobago. According to recent statistics, Trinidad and Tobago is one of the most polluted countries in the world. A 2008 environmental performance ranking from a Yale University study  put this country at 89th out of 149 countries with a score of 70.4 out of a possible 100. (For some perspective, top performer Switzerland was at 95.5, while Niger scored the lowest with 39.1).
Additionally, our carbon dioxide emissions place us in the top ten (No 6) of countries in the world with the highest carbon footprint per capita (1980-2005)—beating out even the United States! It has been a long held belief that larger local companies—particularly those in the industrial and manufacturing sectors—bear the onus of environmental responsibility. But what of smaller enterprises—the restaurants, printers, and smaller manufacturing and retail establishments?
It is probably safe to assume that many small and medium-sized companies (SMEs), particularly those outside of the manufacturing sector have little to no idea what impact their operations have on the environment and have more than likely not taken steps to manage or improve their environmental performance. As business depends on ecosystem services, notably for resource utilisation in order to be competitive, ecosystems are being impoverished by unsustainable activities and resources are therefore being consumed at a rate far exceeding their natural levels of replenishment.
The natural capital is being exhausted and for this business must recognise that long-term sustainable development requires good environmental performance. It has therefore become imperative that companies wishing to remain competitive and conduct business internationally have to show evidence of environmental responsibility. This is particularly true of European countries where local companies may look to obtain business.
More and more European companies wishing to do business with Trinidad and Tobago companies are looking for evidence of environmental sustainability and responsibility. Countries regulations and environmental standards, such as ISO 14001—which is a universally accepted certification proving that a company maintains an environmental management system—may be used. However, enforcement of regulations may be lax and the implementation of standards such as ISO 14001 are often burdensome in terms of cost and resources and therefore out of the reach of many smaller companies Enter EMAS—or more specifically the Eco-Management and Audit Scheme is the most advanced environmental management scheme presently available.
Based on a voluntary choice, companies and other public organisations evaluate, manage and continuously improve their environmental performance. EMAS was first introduced in 1995 by the European Commission as part of the European Union’s goal of sustainable development. It was developed as a voluntary scheme and while it was originally targeted to companies in the industrial sector, today it is open to companies in all economic sectors. EMAS is essentially a tool—an EU standard which allows companies to evaluate, report and improve their environmental performance. To receive EMAS certification an organisation must comply with the following steps:
- adopt an environmental policy containing commitment both to comply with all relevant environmental legislation and to achieve continuous improvements in environmental performance;
- conduct an environmental review, considering all environmental aspects of the organisation’s activities, products and services, methods to assess these, its legal and regulatory framework and existing environmental management practices and procedures;
- in the light of the results of the review, establish an effective environmental management system aimed at achieving the organisation’s environmental policy defined by the top management. The management system needs to set responsibilities, objectives, means, operational procedures, training needs, monitoring and communication systems;
- carry out an environmental audit assessing in particular the management system in place and conformity with the organisation’s policy and programme as well as compliance with relevant environmental regulatory requirements;
- provide a statement of its environmental performance which lays down the results achieved against the environmental objectives and the future steps to be undertaken in order to continuously improve the organisation’s environmental performance;
- and the environmental review, EMS, audit procedure and the environmental statement must be approved by an accredited EMAS verifier, and the validated statement needs to be sent to the EMAS Competent Body for registration and made publicly available before an organisation can use the EMAS logo.”
To be continued next week.