The Sectoral Reference Document provides guidance and inspiration on how to improve environmental performance

One of the main changes of the second EMAS revision in 2009 (“EMAS III”) was that EMAS shall promote best environmental management practices within specific economic sectors. For this purpose the Joint Research Centre, the European Commission’s in-house scientific service, has been developing Sectoral Reference Documents (SRDs) on best environmental management practices.

On 29 August, a new SRD was published for the Food and Beverage manufacturing sector. The SRD contains sector-specific Best Environmental Management Practices (BEMPs), environmental indicators and benchmarks of excellence that can be used by every organisation within or outside the European Union to improve its environmental performance. To manage their supply chain for instance, the SRD recommends entrepreneurs in the Food and Beverage manufacturing sector to apply green procurement, adapt recipes to remove unsustainable ingredients, and support existing suppliers in improving their environmental performance.

Apart from the SRD for the Food and Beverage manufacturing sector, SRDs are also available for the tourism and the retail sector. For other sectors, the development of SRDs is on-going and preliminary documents exist that organisations may use as a source of information. All available documents can be accessed via the sections “Sectoral Reference Documents”.

Every SRD is based on a technical report (Best Environmental Management Practice Report) that details each BEMP, the relevant indicators, and benchmarks of excellence. Each report provides real-life examples of BEMP implementation as well as information on the environmental benefits achieved, the cross-media effects, the applicability and economic value of the technology, and the reasons why companies adopt BEMPs. The reports are designed to help organisations to identify and implement the most relevant BEMPs for their individual needs. The technical reports are available on the EMAS website.

How do you use the Sectoral Reference Documents (SRDs) correctly?

While organisations that are not registered under EMAS may use the SRDs as a source of inspiration, EMAS registered organisations have to take SRDs into account when developing and implementing their environmental management system (Decision (UE) 2016/611 of April 15th/2016). That means that an organisation should:

  • Compare its internal processes with the recommended best environmental practices and benchmarks of excellence of its sector. Relevant improvement points should be included in the organisation’s environmental programme for the following year;
  • Consider the relevant sector-specific environmental performance indicators in the SRDs when choosing the specific indicators for its environmental reporting (in addition to the environmental core indicators);
  • Mention in the environmental statement how it has taken into account the relevant best environmental management practices and, if available, benchmarks of excellence;
  • Consult the SRDs on specific topics to find inspiration about which issues to tackle next when reviewing its environmental performance.

Implementing the best environmental management practices listed in the SRDs or meeting the identified benchmarks of excellence is not mandatory for EMAS registered organisations. However, during its environmental audit the organisation needs to provide evidence on how it used the SRDs when developing and implementing its environmental management system.

The environmental verifier will validate this evidence, yet given the voluntary nature of EMAS, no disproportionate burdens should be put on the organisations to provide such evidence. That means that verifiers will not require an individual justification for each element that is mentioned in the SRD but that the organisation did not consider relevant. The verifiers could, however, suggest additional elements for the organisation to take into account in the future as further evidence of its commitment to continuous performance improvement.

Further information on SRDs can be found here on the EMAS website and here on the website of the Joint Research Centre.

If you have any questions, do not hesitate to contact the EMAS Helpdesk!

Source: EU EMAS