Companies see global and national sustainability and climate action targets as both a primary responsibility and an opportunity to position themselves on the market in a sustainable way. How can the political sustainability agenda be implemented at corporate level? And what do existing systems such as the Eco-Management and Audit Scheme (EMAS) contribute to this? An exciting mix of lectures, panel discussions, workshops, and awards for committed EMAS organisations awaited the approximately 100 participants at the atrium of the Federal Environment Ministry (BMU) in Berlin.
Federal government wants to double EMAS sites by 2030
Following an update of the German Sustainability Strategy, the Federal Government is directly following the UN goals for sustainable development (Sustainable Development Goals - SDG). The goals are to be made measurable and transparent through the use of indicators. The Federal Government wants to increase the number of EMAS sites to 5,000 by 2030 - at present there are 2,187 sites (see DIHK). "This goal is ambitious, but feasible. However, all of us, the federal government, the federal states, chambers, associations and trade unions, still have a lot of convincing to do," explains Dietmar Horn, Head of Department for Fundamental Issues at the Federal Environment Ministry during his welcoming address.
Economy is ahead of politics
There has been a lot that has happened in companies recently. Sabine Nallinger, head of the 2 Grad Foundation, explains that the economy is already further ahead than politics. "Since Paris, companies have understood that they need a strategy in the event that the government actually implements the goals that it has set," says Nallinger. The technology already exists. However, a political framework is indispensable if it is to be used efficiently. "I am convinced that we need a meaningful CO2 pricing that is set in discourse with the economy very quickly," said Nallinger.
Digitisation as an opportunity for companies
The challenge of achieving the goals of Agenda 2030 is also reflected in the EMAS figures, explains Dr. Hermann Hüwels, Division Manager at the German Chambers of Industry and Commerce (DIHK). "From my point of view, EMAS is one of the best ideas the EU Commission has ever had in the field of environmental policy," said Hüwels. However, the participating companies must be given the opportunity to better position themselves in environmental policy. Hüwels sees digitalisation as one way of achieving this, as it helps to make entry barriers and continuous improvement easier to implement. He appeals to participants in politics to make EMAS a more consistent public instrument of the state.
Reforming EMAS - or political framework conditions?
In a series of four workshops, conference participants discussed whether political framework conditions need to be improved or whether the EMAS system itself needs to be reformed or adapted to the requirements of politics and companies. It turned out that EMAS, as a "broad-spectrum antibiotic" and holistic approach, can make a major contribution to genuine climate and environmental action. In this way, it helps companies to improve their corporate climate policy or to gain more influence towards a sustainable supply chain.
Policy should make even greater use of EMAS
EMAS can also become a measurable quantity for the financial world when it involves investments in sustainable companies and technologies. However, this requires a political framework that uses, promotes, and supports systems such as EMAS even more than before. It remains controversial whether incentive schemes on a voluntary basis or obligations of the economy are the solution. The Federal Environment Agency is currently investigating which measures promote the attractiveness of EMAS in ongoing research projects. Results are expected in 2019.
EMAS Award for environmentally friendly companies
As part of the conference, Florian Pronold, Parliamentary State Secretary in the Federal Environment Ministry, honoured the participants in the EMAS Environmental Management 2018 competition. The awards highlight special achievements by EMAS organizations in environmental management and are awarded by the BMU and the DIHK in alternating years. The winners of this year's competition, BODAN Großhandel für Naturkost, Leuphana University Lüneburg, the beverage producer Rheinsberger Preußenquelle, the Roth Werke, and the Protestant Church of Bad Mergentheim answered questions about their achievements for the environment.
The winners of this year's EMAS Awards:
· BODAN Großhandel für Naturkost GmbH (Medium-sized companies)
· Protestant Church of Bad Mergentheim (Special recognition)
· Leuphana Universität Lüneburg (Public institutions)
· Rheinsberger Preußenquelle GmbH (Small companies)
· Roth Werke - Buchenau und Wolfgruben (Large companies)
The Federal Environment Ministry and the Federal Environmental Agency in cooperation with adelphi consult and Arqum organised the conference "Sustainable Economics for the Agenda 2030." The results will soon be published in a conference transcript.