New review of EMAS and eco-labelling scheme

The European Commission is to order a major study to evaluate the performance of its two main voluntary environmental instruments - the EU eco-labelling scheme and the eco-management and audit scheme (EMAS).

Both have struggled since their inception to compete with their rivals - national or regional eco-labelling schemes and the international environmental management standard ISO14001.

The fact that the study will look at the two schemes together suggests that the Commission is keen to find synergies between them. Its White Paper on integrated product policy (IPP), issued last summer, suggested that EMAS should have a role under IPP - for example by providing a framework for green procurement or the validation of environmental claims for a product (ENDS Report 342, pp 28-31 ).

Meanwhile, suggestions from the Commission for ways to boost EMAS' flagging popularity have included allowing use of the EMAS logo on products (ENDS Report 345, p 50 ).

The study is due to be completed by the end of 2004 and will be a major influence on the Commission's proposals for revising the eco-labelling scheme. As such, it will supercede the work of the EU Ecolabelling Board's policy management group, which has been pressing for the scheme to be made more inclusive and for its procedures to be speeded up (ENDS Report 340, p 36 ).

It is possible, ENDS understands, that the study could conclude that a new EU Regulation is not the best way to develop such voluntary instruments as eco-labelling and EMAS. It could also propose that the Commission should support a whole range of instruments to allow companies to communicate the environmental performance of their operations and products rather than just eco-labelling and EMAS - an idea in line with the IPP White Paper.

Meanwhile, signs of renewed impetus on IPP have emerged, following Environment Ministers' call in October for the Commission to beef up the White Paper (ENDS Report 346, p 54 ).

At a meeting on 24 February, Member States are to deliver an update on their IPP activities, while the Commission will provide updates on the pilot product exercise and on two ongoing studies into the development of IPP indicators and the provision of life cycle information and tools. A meeting of Member State experts is also scheduled for May.

  • The UK has just awarded its first eco-label for textiles - to iZWool International in Australia for its wool jersey material for active outdoor wear.

    The EU eco-label continues to have very low uptake in the UK. Including iZWool's award, there are just five eco-labelled products available in UK shops. The others are an LG fridge-freezer, Waitrose recycled paper toilet roll and kitchen towel, a paint product made by Finnish company Valtti Joker, and a soil improver from Anglo Eastern Green.

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