Doing business in Poland: Sustainability02 April 2012
by Ina Dimireva -- last modified 03 April 2012
According to the Polish Constitution, the state has to protect the environment, guided by the principle of sustainable development. In order to contribute to this goal, businesses have to comply by certain sustainability standards.
Article 5 of the Polish Constitution provides for the principle of sustainable development, according to which the state shall ensure protection of the environment, guided by the principle of sustainable development.
The ecological aims and priorities that shape the actions necessary to ensure protection of the environment are set out in the following strategic documents adopted by the Polish Parliament:
The Minister of Economy, as coordinator for the implementation of the Lisbon Strategy in Poland, makes every effort to ensure the economic policy covers environmental and social matters.
The Implementation Document of the Ministry of Economy to the National Reform Program for 2008-2011 includes many crucial tasks, including:
- the promotion of corporate social responsibility (CSR);
- the sustainable development of production and consumption;
- the promotion of environmental management systems (ISO 14001, EMAS);
- implementation of the Environmental Technologies Action Plan (ETAP);
- promotion and development of green public procurement;
- preparation and implementation of the so-called green tax reform.
The overriding goal of the Sustainable Development Strategy is to determine and develop measures which will enable the European Union to ensure a continual increase in the quality of life of the present and future generations. The protection of the environment, social justice and cohesion, economic well-being and the implementation of international obligations are the main goals of the Strategy.
Corporate social responsibility (CSR)
The CSR concept, which is considered the response of business to the challenges of sustainable development, is based on the principles of voluntary participation and dialogue between stakeholders.
The Polish CSR team, which was established by the Order No 38 of 8 May 2009 issued by the Prime Minister, is responsible for:
- proposing solutions aimed at making the coordination of the activities of public administration bodies in respect of the promotion and implementation of CSR principles possible;
- analysing and using experience as well as disseminating CSR good practice from other countries;
- creating conditions for better communication and dialogue between administration, business, social partners and NGOs in respect of the CSR.
In order to ensure the efficient implementation of the Team's mission, which concentrates on the promotion of the CSR system, responsible investments, sustainable consumption, as well as CSR and education, four working committees have been established. The committees work on recommendations for the Team aimed at facilitating the creation of conditions for the CSR development in Poland. A pool of experts working at the committees are involved in the promotion of ideas representing the government party, NGOs, producer and consumer associations, scientific and academic environments, as well as society.
Quality management standards
ISO standard 9001:2009 sets out the requirements of quality management systems. It enables organisations to demonstrate their ability to continue to deliver products that meet customer expectations as well as legal and other requirements, thereby enabling them to increase the level of customer satisfaction. Both internal and external bodies, including certification bodies, can use it to assess the ability of an organisation to meet customer expectations, the requirements stipulated in regulations as well as the organisation’s own requirements. It is the fundamental quality management standard.
ISO 9000, ISO 9004 and ISO 19011 (guidelines on the principles of auditing management systems) are other basic standards aimed at assisting organisations with the implementation and efficient operation of quality management systems.
ISO 9000:2005 describes fundamentals of quality management systems, and defines the related terms employed in these standards. It plays an important role in the understanding and application of other standards of the ISO 9000 family.
ISO 9004:2009 provides guidelines aimed to assist organisations to achieve sustained success within a complex, demanding and ever-changing environment through a quality management approach. It can be applied together with ISO 9001, completing ISO 9001, or used separately.
Alongside these standards, the ISO 9000 family includes the so-called auxiliary standards (ISO 10000 series) which support specific concepts and elements of the quality management system, such as documentation, training, economic aspects, customer satisfaction, measurement management, and statistical methods.
All standards from the ISO 9000 family that constitute the basis of quality management are implemented in Polish standards.
Environmental management standards
The Eco-Management and Audit Scheme (EMAS) is a Community instrument that enables organisations to voluntarily evaluate their environmental impact and improve their pro-environmental activity.
The Regulation on the voluntary participation by organisations in a Community eco-management and audit scheme lays down the basic requirements and principles of the EMAS scheme operated within the European Union.
Well constructed and effectively implemented environmental management systems can lead to a reduction in production costs, for example by:
- reducing the use of energy and materials;
- reducing the production of waste;
- embracing environmental matters at the stage of product design;
- constructing a positive image of the company;
- improving Community relations.
The ISO 14000 series addresses environmental management. The standards help organisations manage and minimise the environmental impact of their operations, products and services, and effectively use the resources at all stages of their operation.
ISO 14001:2004 contains requirements and guidelines on environmental management systems that are a strategic tool allowing organisations to reduce their environmental impact, which cover all matters relating to the operations as well as to the products and services of organisations. The requirements of the standard can be objectively audited for the purpose of certification or declaration of compliance with a standard.
ISO 14004 provides guidelines on establishment, implementation, maintenance and improvement of a quality management system as well as its coordination with other management systems.
In addition to the requirements and guidelines on environmental management systems, the series of ISO 14000 standards includes many auxiliary standards, such as:
- ISO 14031 which is concerned with environmental performance evaluation ;
- ISO 14063 which is concerned with communication ;
- ISO 14040 and ISO 14044 which contains guidelines and specifies the requirements of life cycle assessment (LCA).
The method of life cycle assessment considers all factors that may potentially influence the environment and health in relation to a given product or production process, which makes it possible to establish which production stages carry the highest risk.
In addition to these standards, the ISO 14000 series contains documents relating to:
- related audits and studies;
- environmental labels;
- environmental aspects of the design and development of products;
- greenhouse gases;
- carbon trace of products.
All standards from the ISO 14000 family that constitute the basis of environmental management are implemented in Polish standards.
Health and safety management standards
The health and safety standards, series PN-N-18000, support activities aimed at improving health and safety at work.
PN-N-18001:2004 specifies the requirements for health and safety management systems that enable legal and other requirements to be met, for ensuring the health and safety of employees, as well as making constant improvements. These requirements can be objectively audited for the purposes of certification or declaration of compliance with a standard.
The following are also included in the PN-N-18000 series of standards:
- PN-N-18004 provides guidelines and practical suggestions supporting the implementation of rules of systematic health and safety management in business.
- PN-N-18002 contains guidelines for carrying out an occupational risk assessment.
- PN-N-18011 is concerned with audits
- The law requires businesses to comply with minimum social and environmental rules.
Entities that put products on the market (manufacturers, authorised representatives, importers or distributors) often need to confirm that products comply with the requirements set out in the relevant specification (for example, standards, directives and regulations).
The need to confirm product compliance, as required by legal regulations, makes certification obligatory.
For obligatory assessment, the relevant legal regulations determine the scope of activities, the third parties authorised to undertake them, and the competencies that these parties must have Competencies of the third parties are governed by legal provisions (by law) or by the requirement of accreditation. Regulations or directives are such provisions within the European Union. In the case of the so-called New Approach Directives, in order to confirm compliance of a product with the essential requirements set out in legal provisions, entities are required to carry out the conformity assessment and place CE markings on the product. In many cases, compliance assessment requires the participation of a third party, meaning a certification body. Some legal provisions refer to standards, in which case the certification covers compliance with these standards.
Both the directives and the Act on Construction Law require that in some case certain legal requirement should be met by the application of standards to which they refer. The certification aims to confirm compliance with these standards. The certification aims to confirm compliance with the standards.
If a product is not covered by harmonisation, Polish law can require that an authorised certification body issue a certificate of compliance.
Although the principle of mutual recognition of standards generally applies, it should be remembered that in the case of construction materials regulations on the required parameters and applications often differ in EU member states.
If obtaining a certificate of compliance with standards is not required, it is possible to sign an agreement based on civil law.
For voluntary certification, it is possible to submit a product for certification voluntarily and obtain the relevant certificate of compliance with Polish standards as well as the right to place the compliance symbol issued by the Polish Committee for Standardisation on the product.
The term Polish Standard refers to both national standards and to each European standard (EN) and international standard (ISO, IEC) implemented and added to the group pf national standards. The symbol cannot be placed on products that have been assessed as compliant with Polish standards only.
The Ministry of Economy in cooperation with the Office of Public Procurement has prepared the following document:
The Guide to Sustainable Business contains information on CSR tools and practices available to the Polish business sector. It highlights the opportunities connected with sustainable development and indicates the areas in which it is possible to obtain a competitive advantage.
The programme "Polish Ecology Leader" of the Ministry of the Environment rewards companies that help to protect the environment and try to develop in a sustainable way. The aim of the programme is to reward examples of commercial success achieved in an environmentally friendly way.
The programme "Clean Business " of the Polish Environmental Partnership Foundation, showcases SMEs that try to protect the environment and implement innovative solutions in order to achieve that.
The programme "Fair Play Business " of the Polish Chamber of Commerce promotes companies that operate on the basis of social responsibility.
Businesses that plan to acquire an ecological symbol under the Infrastructure and Environment Programme can obtain financial support.
Environmental Compliance Assistance Programme (ECAP) aims to:
- reduce the administrative burden on SMEs;
- promote the implementation of individually adapted environmental management systems;
- finance sustainable production in SMEs;
- develop competencies and improve communication, including access to information.
The Ministry of the Environment runs the Work Clean campaign which aims to:
- involve employees and management of companies and institutions in carrying out internal education campaigns that promote pro-environmental behaviour;
- reward the best educational campaigns about environmental protection in companies and institutions.
The mission of the National Cleaner Production Centre is to promote environmental management systems, both formal (ISO 14001, EU Eco-Management and Audit Scheme - EMAS) and informal (Cleaner Production), as well as relevant educational activities.
Source: European Commission