The reference document for the Public Administration sector

constructionThe sector

The engagement of the public sector in driving our society towards sustainability is absolutely key. On the one hand, public administrations taking a leading role can show the way, demonstrate what is possible and stimulate others to follow. On the other hand, public administrations themselves have a very large direct or indirect influence over activities with significant environmental impact.

For instance, at the local level, municipalities and local authorities are responsible for activities ranging from land use planning to waste water treatment or local transport and mobility. Implementing best practices in all these areas can result in a substantial reduction of environmental impact.

Within its work on identification of best environmental management practice and development of EMAS Sectoral Reference Documents for different sectors, the JRC has been developing a sectoral reference document on best environmental management practice for the public administration sector, with focus on municipalities and local authorities.

The document aims to provide cities and towns with detailed, practical descriptions of techniques, measures or actions that they can implement to minimise their environmental impact, based on the experience of municipalities that are sustainability frontrunners in different areas.

On top of the description of best practices, the document presents environmental performance indicators that municipalities can use to monitor their environmental performance, as well as benchmarks of excellence that allow benchmarking their performance against frontrunners and understand their environmental performance improvement potential.

The scope of the document is rather comprehensive, covering the different services and areas of responsibilities of the local authorities, as shown in the following picture, on top of the reduction of their in-house environmental impact.

Best environmental management practices which are broadly applicable to local public administrations in different areas of their activities have been identified. These range from the environmental management of the office buildings of the public administration and the adoption of green public procurement, to services provided by local public administrations (such as water supply and municipal waste water treatment) and, more broadly, how to address the main environmental aspects of the territory administered by the local authority. In this last area, BEMPs cover what municipality can do in the fields of sustainable energy and climate change, mobility, local ambient air quality, land use, noise pollution, green urban areas, and environmental education and dissemination of information to citizen and businesses.

Work plan

  • Contact with stakeholders and setting up the Technical Working Group (TWG): May - June 2009
  • Kick-off meeting of the Technical Working Group (TWG): Seville, 24 June 2009
  • Development of the background document and first draft of the best practice report, July 2009 – May 2012
  • Final Meeting of the TWG: Seville, 28-29 June 2012
  • Final draft of the best practice report: June 2015
  • Adoption of the official Sectoral Reference Document: December 2018
  • Publication on the Official Journal of the Sectoral Reference Document: January 2019
  • Publication of the final Best Practice Report: May 2019

Current status

Based on several preparatory studies carried out by by ICLEI (Germany) together with Ambiente Italia (Italy) and Lake Constance Foundation (Germany), by Bioregional (UK) and by Rupprecht Consult (Germany), and the inputs and feedbacks received from a Technical Working Group comprising experts from the sector, the JRC produced the best practice report for the public administration sector.

On the basis of the best practice report, the European Commission developed and adopted the related EMAS sectoral reference document on best environmental management practice for the public administration sector.

Project Team and Contacts

The following people are part of the JRC EMAS SRD team:

  • Paolo Canfora
  • Marco Dri
  • Ioannis Antonopoulos
  • Pierre Gaudillat

If you have any question on the work carried out in this area or if you would like to contribute to the identification of best environmental management practices in one of the areas under study, please feel free to contact us. The best way to do so is sending an e-mail to JRC-EMAS-SRD@ec.europa.eu