“If an organization wants to become green, there’s no need to re-invent the wheel,” said Harri Moora from SEI Tallinn. “The EMAS eco-management system is already in place to reach that goal. However, currently not many Estonian organizations apply it and thus the potential benefits of the scheme have largely been unused by the local organizations.”
“This was one of the reasons why over the last four years we have prepared a package of policy measures that support and motivate companies to implement an environmental management system in accordance with the EMAS regulation, in cooperation with the Ministry of the Environment and Estonian Association for Environmental Management. We created this motivation package as a part of the project ENHANCE (EMAS as a Nest to Nurture Circular Economy). In compiling it, we have primarily relied on the examples of best practices in European countries,” Moora added.
Two of the measures from the planned package have already been implemented.
Firstly, EMAS-registered organizations in Estonia now automatically meet the energy audit obligation set for large organizations by the EU Energy Efficiency Directive. This means that EMAS-registered organizations do not need to carry out any additional audits and only need to provide their environmental statement.
“This measure has had positive feedback among many companies, and so it can be assumed that it will motivate several of them to implement EMAS,” commented Tõnis Meriste, Environmental Development Manager at Eesti Energia, the state-owned energy company.
Secondly, since the beginning of this year, an amendment to the Estonian Waste Act exempts EMAS-registered companies from needing a warranty or financial guarantee related to waste disposal. “This measure has given a very strong impetus to the implementation of EMAS, especially in the sector related to waste management and the circular economy. As of now, most of the major waste management companies in Estonia are in the process of getting an EMAS-registration,” said Moora.
The Ministry of the Environment is also analyzing the implementation of other proposed measures. “We are considering providing incentives for EMAS-registered packaging organizations to simplify their packaging reporting and self-monitoring, and to harmonize the EMAS audit compliance and national environmental monitoring activities. However, these measures still need to be specified and coordinated with the relevant authorities,” said Kadri Koemets, Chief Specialist of the Environmental Management Department at the Ministry of the Environment.
All in all, the proposed measures have contributed to the promotion of the circular economy through a sharp increase in the implementation of EMAS by local companies. This has been due, in particular, to companies in the waste management sector, but also to resource and energy efficiency requirements. Therefore, the ENHANCE project in Estonia has had a direct policy impact and given strong impetus for the “renaissance” of EMAS, and thus for the promotion of resource efficiency, in Estonia.