EcoCertSMEs

FAQ’s

What is so different about EcoMerit?

Conventional certification schemes operate by having an auditor assess the organisation against an extensive set of requirements. The focus is on compliance rather than cost savings. Usually this also means employing a consultant to get you ready for the auditor, along with a lot of in-house time and effort.

With €coMerit there is no auditor, and virtually no preparation. An advisor helps identify cost-saving improvements and then helps you meet the certification requirements. The requirements themselves are very straightforward and easy to verify. They also give the organisation a framework for further improvements, year on year.

How much time will I be expected spend on EcoMerit?

Half a day during the advisor visit, and then some time finalising your policy and improvement plan. Typically a man-day of time to set up. Of course, the actions on the improvement plan will vary from company to company.

What do I need to be ready for the advisor’s visit?

The advisor’s visit is quite informal, takes around half a day, and is geared to finding cost savings for you. It should be hosted by someone who is familiar with the running of the organisation, including the arrangements for energy, waste and water.

You should have to hand information on your energy waste and water, ideally covering the previous year. Copies of bills are sufficient. Other information on your environmental performance or issues of concern to you would also be helpful.

Will my bills, etc be Confidential?

Absolutely.  Everything your advisor sees and all information received is completely confidential. The only performance information made public  is the totalled performance figures for all the €coMerit certificate holders combined. Your Local Authority steering group member (where that applies) does have the right of access to your certification related records for oversight purposes.

What happens if I can’t implement the suggested improvements?

Generally, your €coMerit advisor will produce a draft improvement plan which you will treat as a ‘menu’ of options. There will be emphasis on practical zero-cost and low-cost measures. You will choose which measures you will implement, and the timescale over which you will do it. Provided your choices are reasonable and credible (taking into account the size and nature of your organisation) you will be granted certification.

During annual surveillance, the advisor will review progress on the plan with you. As long as your overall performance is credible, failure on any given improvement need not be a problem. Of course, if it becomes clear that there is no commitment to the requirements, the certificate will be suspended, and ultimately withdrawn.

Why would I pay the renewal fee when I have identified and made cost savings – what incentive is there for me to continue?

You get the continued recognition from the €coMerit certificate and the discipline of the improvement plan to keep seeking cost savings and improvements. Also, the support and advice of your environmental advisor, particularly during the surveillance visits. You also publicly share in the performance of your fellow certificate holders. There are other advantages such as regular newsletters and assistance with grant applications.. However, if these advantages are not worth the renewal fee for you, then you don’t need to maintain your certification.

What will I gain when I get certified – i.e. will EcoMerit be recognised by anyone or help me get more work?

€coMerit is supported by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the other partner organisations. The presence of the EPA and the local councils on the steering group which oversees the whole €coMerit scheme is a key factor in establishing widespread acceptance of the value of each and every certificate.

In terms of getting work, many larger companies already ask their potential suppliers for information about their environmental performance.  This is a trend which can be expected to increase. An €coMerit certificate will be a tangible way of answering these questions (and is 80% cheaper than the ‘conventional’ option of ISO 14001 certification). It is fair to point out that we cannot force any customer to recognise €coMerit as meeting their needs. Nor can any other scheme provider.

What accreditation does EcoMerit carry?

Certification providers often offer a national accreditation as part of their certificate. This means that their auditing systems and their auditors are assessed and qualified under a national scheme. These national schemes generally have mutual recognition, and so you effectively have an international accreditation.

€coMerit is not accredited. We don’t have auditors because our focus is on cost savings and performance improvement rather than compliance. Our certification requirements are simple and transparent, so auditing (and hence also accreditation) would be an expensive and time-consuming addition – contributing nothing to the real value of the service. Instead, we are monitored by the Environmental Protection Agency and our other partner organisations on the €coMerit steering group.

If you require an accredited certification, €coMerit is not for you. Whatever certification you decide upon, we do strongly recommend that you look closely at your own requirements, and the value for money each option gives.

How seriously will my EcoMerit certificate be taken in the business world?

We believe we have struck the right balance between the cost of participation, the benefits arising, the simplicity of the scheme and its credibility to customers and other interested parties. Modern buyers, whether individuals or organisations, want their suppliers to be environmentally responsible, but they don’t want to pay more as a result.  Having the EPA and the local councils as partners carries huge weight with the business world. We would suspect that this innovative approach is likely to be copied elsewhere, precisely because it meets the needs of business customers so well.

What about other green business schemes such as Greenbusiness.ie?

There are a whole range of ‘green’ schemes available to businesses. Each scheme is designed for a particular purpose and it is worth taking time to ensure the option you select meets you own requirements. In brief, the main schemes available and their key characteristics are as follows;

Greenbusiness.ie is a free web-based support scheme applicable to all sectors, and does not include certification. Participants can avail of a free consultant support visit.

€coMerit is a low-cost, high-value support and certification scheme.  It is advisor-based, applicable to all sectors and designed particularly for use by SME’s (although we are finding more and more that larger organisations are also adopting €coMerit).

The above schemes are both Irish-based and supported by the EPA. Another Irish scheme, for the food industry, is Bord Bia’s Origin Green.

ISO 14001 is the most widely known environmental certification scheme, and is applicable to all sectors. It is audit based with a comprehensive set of requirements. It is therefore high cost. Implementing organisations tend to use consultants to help them prepare for audit. It is most suited to large organisations.

EMAS is a European environmental certification scheme, with requirements which exceed those of ISO14001. As with ISO14001 it is most suited to large organisations.

The above is a very brief summary, and users should research these or other options to their own satisfaction before deciding to proceed with their selection.

What are the EcoMerit Certification requirements?

The requirements for achieving €coMerit certification are the same core requirements as for any recognised environmental certification scheme. You must have;

  • An environmental policy
  • An improvement plan
  • Performance monitoring (e.g. utilities usage).
  • A commitment to pollution prevention.

Full details can be found on the €coMerit application form.

Can I upgrade from EcoMerit to other certifications?

Yes. €coMerit uses the same basic principles as all recognised certification schemes for environmental management systems. So, €coMerit holders are well placed to upgrade their systems to suit any of these schemes.

How can you give a certificate for work you have been involved with?

Conventional certification schemes do require an independent auditor, uninvolved with the preparation – one reason these schemes are so expensive.

With €coMerit the requirements are simplified and transparent, and so don’t require an independent auditor. €coMerit is partnered by the Environmental Protection Agency and various local councils, who oversee all certifications under the €coMerit scheme.

How do I apply?

Just fill out the application form and send it to us. We will contact you and take it from there.

How do I find out more?

If you would like more information, just contact us and we will be pleased to help.

Related Pages