The Certification Scheme

Eco-Lighthouse is Norway's most widely used certification scheme for enterprises seeking to document their environmental efforts and demonstrate social responsibility.

Eco-Lighthouse enterprises work towards satisfying requirements and implementing environmental measures on a systematic and ongoing basis in order to create more environmentally friendly operations and safer work environments.

The Eco-Lighthouse Foundation has prepared industry-specific requirements for a range of different industries. Enterprises are certified subject to independent assessment and must undergo a recertification process every three years. They are also required to submit annual environmental reports. The Eco-Lighthouse certification scheme has been approved by the Norwegian public procurement authorities.

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.

Recertification

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 2017 developed the following measures:

  • Observation of certifiers by an independent third party
  • Even tighter control of certificates issued by the certifiers
  • Revision of major Industry Criteria
  • A compulsory course in certification based on the ISO 19011 standard for Eco-Lighthouse certifiers, to be launched in 2018

Conclusion

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.