The Eco-Lighthouse in brief
The Eco-Lighthouse (ELH) certification scheme is Norway’s most widely used environmental management system, with nearly 5000 valid certificates. Through easily-implemented, concrete, relevant and profitable (in the widest sense: local, regional, global) measures, enterprises can improve their environmental performance, control their environmental impact and prove their dedication to corporate responsibility. The Eco-Lighthouse is a valuable tool for authorities and for small, medium-sized and large enterprises in the quest for sustainability and increased eco-efficiency. The Eco-Lighthouse certification scheme integrates environmental management and both internal and external environmental measures, into the Norwegian Regulations relating to Systematic Health, Environmental and Safety Activities in Enterprises (Internal Control Regulations). Being Eco-Lighthouse certified thus equals full compliance with the Internal Control Regulations and with the relevant environmental regulations pertaining to the enterprise.
A short history
The Eco-Lighthouse Foundation started as a local project in Kristiansand, Norway in 1996. In 2000 it was expanded to a national project, funded by the Norwegian Ministry of the Environment. In 2004, when the project period ended, the The Eco-Lighthouse scheme was evaluated and the not-for-profit Eco-Lighthouse Foundation established by central organisations in the Norwegian local and national governance and business community, including several large municipalities and the main business and labour interest organisations. From 2006 onwards, the Foundation has been self-financing.
The scheme has grown and gone through a substantial development from its start in 1996. From certifying small and medium-sized enterprises, today the Eco-Lighthouse certifies most enterprises, offering 72 applicable industry-specific criteria, divided into 14 groups classified according to the Norwegian Standard Industrial Classification (SIC2007). The Norwegian government, through Standard Norge, regards the Eco-Lighthouse as a complementary scheme to the ISO-14001 and EMAS systems since its industry criteria constitute concrete and relevant measures offering an understandable and applicable way for enterprises to implement environmental management. The board of the Eco-Lighthouse Foundation has decided upon the Eco-Lighthouse vision: “Norwegian employees work in environmentally certified enterprises”. http://eco-lighthouse.org/artikler/
The Eco-Lighthouse trains, approves and monitors Eco-Lighthouse consultants, including in-house consultants if an enterprise decides that an employee should undergo training and approval.
An enterprise wanting to become an Eco-Lighthouse is required to hire a qualified Eco-Lighthouse consultant. The environmental statement (Miljøkartlegging) is generated based on the General and Specific industry criteria selected in the ELH web portal (Miljøfyrtårnportalen). The criteria are developed in collusion with relevant government bodies, scientific communities, interest groups and major customers, identifying and addressing the relevant environmental aspects in the industry addressed. The enterprise, through the environmental statement, confirms that the relevant industry criteria have been met before certification is carried out and this is then checked by the certifier. All industry criteria must be met to achieve certification. The enterprise must, with thorough preparation and training by the consultant, complete a detailed annual Climate and environmental report (årlig Klima- og miljørapport) with relevant environmental statistics and a description of implemented environmental actions in the past year as well as those planned for the coming year (this in addition to the industry criteria).
The Eco-Lighthouse Foundations is certified per the ISO-9001:2015 standard.
Municipalities and counties
Out of 430-odd Norwegian municipalities, more than 300 are fee-paying members of the Eco-Lighthouse certification scheme. In addition, several counties (there are 19) are active participants. Membership involves certain responsibilities, including that of providing a certifier (environmental verifier) for enterprises in the area. Certifiers are trained, approved and monitored by the Eco-Lighthouse Foundation. The Eco-Lighthouse Foundation operates with criteria for who can become a certifier (vocational background, education, other relevant experience). A certifier can be employed by the municipality/county administration, or a private firm. It is important to note that, in the Eco-Lighthouse scheme, the municipality constitutes the certifying body, in that certifiers operate on behalf of the municipality, not the Eco-Lighthouse administration. In addition to ensuring access to certifiers, the municipality is encouraged to promote and motivate local enterprises to become certified, and to work towards certification of the municipality itself. By full-scale implementation of Eco-Lighthouse, the municipality operationalizes their transition towards the Green Shift.
The certification process
When the enterprise is ready to be certified, the certifier and the enterprise decide a date for the certification. The certifier gets access to all relevant documents pertaining to the enterprise through the Eco-Lighthouse web portal, to be able to prepare him- or herself beforehand. The Eco-Lighthouse web portal is an interactive tool which guides the certification process step-by-step, and access to the functions relevant to each role (consultant, enterprise, certifier etc.) is strictly regulated by the administration, through the web portal.
The certification meeting involves the certifier checking whether the industry criteria are fulfilled, (a translation of the general industry criteria can be found at: http://eco-lighthouse.org/statistikk/ ), checking the annual Climate and environmental report, on-site inspection of the facilities and interviews with key staff. After the meeting, the certifier sums up his or her findings in the environmental statement. In case of non-compliance with general or specific industry criteria the enterprise is formally notified by the certifier what must be done to rectify the situation, and by which date they must do so. When all criteria are met, the enterprise is approved.
The annual Climate and environmental report
As an integral part of the Eco-Lighthouse web portal, the annual Climate and environmental report consists of environmental performance indicators both general (universally applicable) and specific (generated by the industry criteria applied). The report is managed and developed by the Eco-Lighthouse administration, offering the enterprises an overview of their environmental impacts and their year-by-year progress, as well as constituting the basis for statistics showing how Eco-Lighthouse certified enterprises compare to their uncertified counterparts. With additional indicators, as optional extras, the report can be adapted to individual enterprises. The certifier partly bases his or her evaluation on the environmental report(s) when certifying. It is also valuable to enterprises by making them aware of the actual effects of the measures they implement, providing a tool to monitor progress or regression and the possibility to showcase the efforts they make and the results they achieve to maintain their Eco-Lighthouse certification.
As a general rule the Eco-Lighthouse issues three-year certificates. When 2 ½ years have passed, the enterprise is notified that their certificate is about to become invalid, and they must then make an appointment with a certifier for a recertification meeting. If there have been substantial changes in the enterprise which entail a change of industry criteria, there is a requirement to again hire an Eco-Lighthouse consultant or if they have one, to use their own trained and approved in-house consultant. Otherwise, the recertification process is, in principle, identical to a first-time certification, albeit without the requirement to hire a consultant. The certifier’ focus will be, in addition to the enterprise meeting the industry criteria that continuous improvement has occurred.
The Eco-Lighthouse certifiers
The environmental certifiers in the Eco-Lighthouse certification scheme, (Miljøfyrtårnsertifisør), receive instruction and training as certifiers after submitting their qualifications for approval by the Eco-Lighthouse administration. Some certifiers are employed or self-employed in the private sector; others work in the municipalities or county administrations and are requested by their employer to undergo training and approval as certifiers. Potential certifiers are permitted to undergo training if they fulfill the relevant criteria. Training is provided by the Eco-Lighthouse and the certifier is then encouraged to accompany an experienced certifier on one or two assignments before starting out by him- or herself. The Eco-Lighthouse certifier has a course diploma to prove that training has taken place, and a unique user access to use the Eco-Lighthouse web portal. If the Eco-Lighthouse certifier for any reason ceases to be recognized and approved as such, the user access is removed by the administration and certification – which hinges on access to the web portal – by him or her becomes impossible. Once the certifier has made sure that the enterprise fulfils the industry criteria, the environmental statement and annual Climate and environmental report(s) with relevant documentation is available in the Eco-Lighthouse web portal and checked by the Eco-Lighthouse administration. If everything is in order, the certifier’s work is approved and the enterprise’s certificate issued. If the administration has any queries regarding the documentation submitted by the certifier or other issues relating to the enterprise, this is clarified before approval.
Eco-Lighthouse control routines
When the Eco-Lighthouse administration is notified that an enterprise has been approved (through routine checks in the web portal), the documentation is controlled by the Eco-Lighthouse administration. This control includes checking that information relevant to the enterprise is registered, that all the relevant documentation is available, that the environmental report has been filled out, and that the certifier has checked and approved the enterprise with no deviations from the industry criteria or with deviations rectified. If everything is in order, the administration approves the certifier’s approval, and issues a certificate through the web portal. The certifier then signs the certificate, on behalf of the member municipality on behalf of which he or she certifies, and uploads it into the web portal for the enterprise to access at will.
Room for improvement: measures
To further improve the Eco-Lighthouse certification scheme, the Eco-Lighthouse in 2016 implemented the following measures:
- Even tighter control over qualifications and requirements, and individual training and assessment of new certifiers
- Compulsory courses to further heighten the qualifications of existing certifiers
- Even tighter control of certificates issued by the certifiers
- New, improved General Industry Criteria, offering more standardized implementation
- Further digitalization of the ELH process (the environmental statement was fully digitalized)
Prior to the formulation of this document, the Eco-Lighthouse conducted a thorough comparison of the EMAS’ REGULATION (EC) No 1221/2009 OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL, compared to the Eco-Lighthouse certification scheme. The conclusions from this comparison was that the Eco-Lighthouse Foundation mainly met the specifications required by EMAS, apart from some issues pertaining to transparency and environmental policy, issues which were addressed by the revision of individual criteria.
Furthermore, pertaining to the requirement that certifiers (environmental controllers) should be accredited by their parent body, it is important to note that The Eco-Lighthouse is not accredited as such, but rather controls the Eco-Lighthouse certification system through the general and specific industry criteria, the use of approved consultants when preparing for certification, the digitalization and reporting done through the ELH web portal and through the training, approval and monitoring of the certifiers’ work in the field.