EMAS – the Eco-Management and Audit Scheme of the EU is a voluntary management instrument. It helps organizations to assess, manage and continuously improve their environmental performance. KLINGER Dichtungstechnik was recently recognized by the Austrian Federal Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, Environment and Water Management for its long-term participation in the EMAS program. We asked Stephan Piringer, amongst others also responsible for environmental
and safety matters at KLINGER Dichtungstechnik, to tell us more.
KN: Mr. Piringer, Federal Minister Elisabeth Köstinger recently named KLINGER Dichtungstechnik one of the country’s EMAS pioneers. Can you tell us why you have been awarded this title?
SP: EMAS was opened for participation in 1995. KLINGER Dichtungstechnik obtained its registration as an EMAS company in 1998. Looking at the register, there are only 20 companies left today that can point to an earlier registration date. We were among the first Austrian companies to embrace its environmental protection principles. And according to the Federal Minister, that makes us pioneers.
KN: What exactly is EMAS?
SP: EMAS is a regulation, created by the European Union. Meeting the requirements of EMAS, which can be summarized as successfully taking an active stance for the environment, i.e. conserving resources and reducing waste, leads to the company being entered into the register of the Federal Environmental Agency. Last but not least, the ISO 14001 certification, which specifies the standards for an environmental management system, is itself an integral part of EMAS.
KN: What are the most important pillars of EMAS?
SP: An EMAS company must have an environmental policy, an environmental management system, and an environmental program. The environmental statement of a company – and EMAS stipulates it must be accessible by the public – is a key item: It ensures that everybody can check what the corresponding EMAS company is doing to protect the environment.
KN: So how does one go about becoming an EMAS-registered company?
SP: The environmental statement is at the core of the process. It requires the listing of mandatory figures, for example the amount of waste generated, or the amount of electricity or water consumed. This information has to be determined, assessed and ultimately published. An independent auditor is called upon to validate the results. He examines how the company has compiled its data by analyzing the processes, for example by inspecting the electricity meters and so forth. If everything checks out, he confirms the submitted key figures and the applying company is added to the register.
KN: Why are environmental certificates and regulations such as EMAS important for KLINGER Dichtungstechnik and other KLINGER companies?
SP: We have committed ourselves to preserving the environment for future generations with our company value
“Sustainability”. Some KLINGER companies, first and foremost KLINGER Fluid Control, KLINGER Schöneberg and Kempchen Dichtungstechnik, have already joined us. We hope that our role as EMAS pioneers will encourage others to follow suit. Last but not least, next to being the right thing to do, EMAS also offers advantages with regard to Austrian Environmental Management Law.
KN: Such as?
SP: Plant approval processes, for example, require significantly less administrative effort. The reasoning behind this is that a wide range of relevant factors, such as for example noise levels, toxins or other emissions, are already annually checked by a trusted auditor in the course of the EMAS registration. As a consequence, a lot less documentation has to be submitted, which greatly simplifies matters. The other main benefit has to do with the so-called consolidated decision. KLINGER Dichtungstechnik has been the recipient of uncountable decisions over its 130 years of existence: “The company is hereby authorized to do this… The company is hereby authorized to erect that facility et cetera.” EMAS companies are allowed to combine individual decisions into consolidated decisions, which results in legal certainty for all our activities.
KN: How do your customers profit?
SP: Our high-quality gaskets significantly contribute to keeping the environment clean. That said, our resource conservation and environmental protection efforts, which have been validated by an independent third party, are documented in the environmental statement we have to make public. This level of transparency regarding the effects of a business is rarely found outside the framework of EMAS and creates trust. Eco-aware customers can therefore review our environmental performance published online and decide whether we are a suitable candidate for their orders.
KN: How well does EMAS work with your other certificates?
SP: We operate an integrated management system that comprises all our ISO certificates as well as EMAS. This allows us to apply a single view, in which all our subsystems are interlinked. In our gasket manufacturing process, for example, quality assurance has a direct effect on our environmental management system: If the quality of a gasket meets our high standards, then the performance in the field will be as expected and the emissions will also be reduced to a minimum.
KN: Do you have any closing words you would like to share with us?
SP: 20 years of EMAS is a long time and involves a lot of effort. I would like to thank Ingo Denniger for his major contributions. And Walter Kubista: More than two decades ago, he convinced the management to embrace EMAS. I think we can be proud of how far we have come since then. And we are fully committed to remaining a part of EMAS.
Pictures: © Zelislav Rudolf Slamaj