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EMAS to have

EMAS to have
Photo: © Roland Schneider

How does an organization become sustainable? One possibility is EMAS certification. Christoph Hügelmeyer, Technical Director of the Federal Cultural Events in Berlin, explains what this involves.

INTERVIEW  Jens Thomas


CCB Magazine:Mr. Hügelmeyer, you are the Environmental Management Officer and Technical Director of the Federal Cultural Events in Berlin. What exactly is your job?

Christoph Hügelmeyer:I'm responsible for the technical departments of the federal government's cultural events which include the Haus der Kulturen der Welt, the Haus der Berliner Festspiele, the Martin Gropius Bau and the Berlinale. This means that I handle tasks relating to human resources, the budget and structural maintenance, as well as the renovation of the properties. In addition, I also take care of employment protection and safety and sustainability issues.

CCB Magazine:And what are those last issues?

Christoph Hügelmeyer:I perform the task of the Environmental Management Officer, and in this role I'm responsible, among other things, for maintaining the EMAS environmental management system. To this end, I initiate the necessary steps for the internal environmental audits. I also chair the regular environmental team meetings and coordinate change processes towards more sustainability. This includes, for example, coordination with the internal auditors, revising the existing management structure and providing impetus for sustainable improvement of the entire company. And, of course, I act as a communicator both internally and externally to present and discuss the tasks and results. 

EMAS is a European environmental management system that was introduced by the EU in the 1990s to establish a new environmental standard for European companies. In my opinion, it makes sense for cultural institutions in particular

CCB Magazine:For all those who do not yet know what EMAS is: What is it? How does such a certification work? Which items are checked and who checks the whole thing at the end?

Christoph Hügelmeyer:EMAS is a European environmental management system, it stands for Eco-Management and Audit Scheme. It was introduced in the `90s by the EU with the aim of establishing a new environmental standard for European companies - for this purpose, participating organizations publish an environmental statement and report on their direct and indirect impact on the environment as well as on environmental performance and environmental targets. Certification, of course, requires a long preparation process. The company must position itself on several topics. Designating an environmental team to lead this process is the first step. Followed by several others.

CCB Magazine:What steps are these?

Christoph Hügelmeyer:First, determining the context of the organization: Who am I as an organization and what do I want to achieve. Then the interested parties involved in the process are to be named. Next, the binding obligations have to be identified, then the direct and indirect environmental aspects be recorded and evaluated. This is followed by an examination of previous incidents. Opportunities and risks will be evaluated. Finally, a mission statement will be developed and an environmental program drawn up, from which concrete measures for improving environmental performance follow. 

CCB Magazine:And then? 

Christoph Hügelmeyer:After that, data collection begins on energy consumption, emissions, materials, water, waste and land use. All parameters can be broken down: How much and what kind of electricity is used? How high is the paper consumption? Where can things basically be saved? Even fuel bills can be evaluated - EMAS as a whole is a system that sometimes works with flat rates to simplify matters. The audit is carried out on the one hand by an internal team of auditors, and on the other hand by an external auditor who is subject to state supervision. Recertification takes place every three years - in the years in between, a surveillance audit takes place. Depending on the size and capacities of the company, certification is completed within one year.

CCB Magazine:Can you give us an example? Who in the cultural sector has already undergone EMAS certification?

Christoph Hügelmeyer:We ourselves have created an EMAS certification. In addition to us, there are another small number of cultural institutions that have implemented EMAS or are on the way to implementing EMAS. The KBB, for example, had itself certified in 2013 in a process that lasted about 1 year. The Kulturstiftung des Bundes (KSB) and the Evangelischer Kirchentag have also implemented EMAS. To my knowledge, PACT Zollverein and SPK (Stiftung Preußischer Kulturbesitz) are currently in the introduction phase. In Germany, about 1200 organizations were certified in 2018. Due to the decision that the highest federal authorities also have to implement EMAS, this number will certainly increase in the coming years.

CCB Magazine:It is said that EMAS is often out of the question for many cultural professionals. Who would you advise against EMAS certification? 

Christoph Hügelmeyer:I would not advise anyone against it. Of course, EMAS is not primarily tailored to events. It is a business ecology concept and is aimed at institutions. That's why it's often considered too big and too bulky. But I can only partially understand this. It's true that the procedure is somewhat more complex than, for example, the ISO 14001 environmental management system, since EMAS also involves a comprehensive environmental statement that has to be published. But it is based on ISO 14001. EMAS offers cultural institutions a great deal of flexibility in its design. The presentation of events would also be possible in principle, but requires a more precise adaptation. For such an adaptation, the question arises as to what is to be achieved with certification: Which areas do I want to look at and what is my focus? Where do I have the greatest need for action and what are the biggest emission drivers? Based on these answers, a very individual system can be tailored to your own cultural institution.

CCB Magazine:What does EMAS certification cost? Is it possible to put a precise figure on that? 

Christoph Hügelmeyer:No, that cannot be quantified exactly. The largest item probably relates to the personnel costs for developing the system. In the ongoing process, costs are incurred primarily in booking the auditor and carrying out the audit. These amount to a low four-digit sum.

CCB Magazine:Where do most of the problems arise? And what is still holding cultural institutions back from EMAS certification? 

Christoph Hügelmeyer:Most problems arise in the implementation due to the large number of topics and due to the lack of staff capacity. Since it's not yet common practice in the cultural sector to make work positions available for sustainability, some projects simply fail due to the time factor. The use of grants has also been a problem to date: There is not yet an EMAS-specific funding pot. For example, if a cultural grant is tied to the staging of cultural events, it has to be paid for somehow. This is why many stakeholders are also calling, correctly, for funding to come from other pots rather than cultural ones in the future. 

CCB Magazine:Are applicants also rejected? Is it then possible to make improvements? What is the rate of those who do not receive certification?

Christoph Hügelmeyer:I can't answer that. In principle, certification is open to everyone. I can only imagine a rejection in the context that the criteria for certification were not met and must be reworked. I also have no information about the quota. You would have to ask this directly via 

CCB Magazine:Recently, 19 cultural institutions prepared a climate balance sheet in a pilot project of the German Federal Cultural Foundation. What exactly is the difference to EMAS certification?

Christoph Hügelmeyer:The difference lies in the fundamental structural embedding in the company. As part of the pilot project, the institutions carried out a climate assessment. The project does not answer the question of how to deal with this result at the end and what further steps might look like. Thus, a guideline for further processing is missing. This is exactly what EMAS offers. But I do not want to say that the climate assessment is useless, on the contrary. In fact, the pilot project of the German Federal Cultural Foundation has an important benefit because, unlike EMAS, it offers a concretely measurable CO2 value through balancing. I think that sooner or later all cultural institutions should improve their ecological footprint - whether through climate accounting or through EMAS. 

CCB Magazine:Final question: We are currently seeing that many institutions are under enormous pressure to become ecological or climate-neutral. And the question is always, who will pay for it? What specific support would you like to see from policymakers?

Christoph Hügelmeyer:New funding programs are needed that not only draw on cultural resources, but also tap into the economic, energy and climate policy pots. And in addition to purely financial support, knowledge and networking are needed. Here, reference is made to the Green Party's resolution on the "Green Culture Desk" and "Green Culture Fond". And in the area of networking, the Aktionsnetzwerk Nachhaltigkeit in Kultur und Medien (Action Network for Sustainability in Culture and the Media) needs to be consolidated and expanded. Finally, politics cannot avoid providing climate budgets in addition to monetary budgets in the future. Institutions need a benchmark to quantify the environmental impact of their cultural work. As with monetary budgets, it must be possible to shift items within the institution. This is the only way to make projects with a high environmental impact possible. 

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