Skip to content. | Skip to navigation

Personal tools


You are here: Home / Matrix 4.1 (en) / Handbook / E3 Reduction of environmental impact

E3 Reduction of environmental impact

A)  Goal of the indicator

Common-Good oriented enterprises 

a)    actively examine their ecological impact;

b)    adequately assess and document direct and indirect environmental impact in accordance with the size / activities of their company;

c)    have a programme in place aimed to reduce negative impact on an ongoing basis;

d)    have a programme in place aimed to boost their positive impact and make it known to the public.

Entrepreneurial activities should follow the “quartet (four principles) of sustainability” [1]:

  • Consistency is the necessity to design all (economic) activities in such a way that they can be assimilated to natural cycles (use of eco-friendly technologies).
  • Efficiency is the necessity of using resources such as energy, materials, space and financial means more efficiently (resource productivity).
  • Sufficiency is the aim to reduce consumption of resources through a reduction in demand for goods.
  • Resilience means stabilizing the buffer capacity of our systems (natural as well as technical and economic ones) to such a degree that they can remain relatively stable even in cases of disruption.

B) Prompt questions

  • How are potentially detrimental environmental effects identified and avoided?
  • Which concrete ecological goals and strategies exist?
  • Which ecological aspects are actively controlled?
  • Which measures are taken to reduce ecological effects?
  • Which parameters are available for which ecological aspects and what has their trend been over recent years (use of materials, energy and water consumption, emissions, waste, mobility parameters)? Do these hold for the entire company or only for parts of it?
  • Which forms of energy are used?
  • Does certification in accordance with ISO 14001, EMAS or equivalents exist?
  • Are environmental data recorded and published?
  • Does a system exist which is used to determine ecological footprints?

 C) Evaluation table



First Steps








In regard to absolute impact [1], the company…


Relevance: moderate

… knows the use of its P/S and the source of its consumables and production goods

+ knows its resource utilization and its emissions (OEF1 Guide points 4 and 5 or equivalent)

+ conducts OEF analyses on a routine basis (OEF Guide points 6-9 or equivalent)

+ publishes the data and enters into cooperation with other companies in the sector on the basis of the results

Concerning relative impact (sectoral comparison) in terms of state of technology and legal regulations, the company… 


Relevance: high

… is above-average in regard to several ecological effects

… is above-average in regard to several ecological effects and is taking clear improvement measures

… is above-average in regard to essential ecological effects and is taking clear improvement measures

… is far above-average in regard to essential ecological effects (innovation leader, sectoral leader, etc.)

In regard to management and strategy, the company…


Relevance: high

… takes initial steps towards identifying key ecological effects and risks (clear responsibilities,  institutionalized processes, identifiable environmental accounts)

+ … collects data on its environmental accounts in accordance with parameters and has  optimization strategies in place + …

+ … as for box on left but long-term reduction / substitution strategies

+ … as for box on left + clear assessment of “quartet of sustainability” in regard to environmental accounts


Evaluations should follow the ecological footprint for enterprises or equivalent environmental accounts, [OEF=Organisation Environmental Footprint.].

At the EU level ( an EOF Guide (guidance for determining a company’s environmental footprint) has been published

D) Special aspects regarding the evaluation

Absolute environmental impacts as well as relative ones (in a sectoral comparison or in comparison to benefits for society) are to be taken into account for the evaluation.

  • Resources: absolute use of materials (raw materials, source products, paper, etc.), use of secondary raw materials, substitution of ecologically superior raw materials, water consumption, reuse and material recycling etc.
  • Energy & climate: greenhouse emissions in a sectoral comparison; percentage of renewable energy carriers; reduction of energy consumption per employee; mobility statistics
  • Other emissions into the air, water and soil: SO2; NOx, VOC, PM, heavy metals, carcinogens/mutagens/radioactive materials, allergens, dioxine, furane etc.
  • Waste such as residual waste, organic waste, waste glass, waste paper, packaging, electronic scrap, hazardous waste, toxins, radioactive waste, production waste, slaughterhouse waste, etc.

Specifics of the sector, the state of technology and applicable law must be considered as well for categorizing evaluations. Assessment of absolute impact should correspond to the ecological footprint of the enterprise (OEF), a method which is still in an early stage of development) or to an equivalent environmental account.

Special aspects concerning sector / size of company:

In general, the larger a company is, the higher its environmental impact will be. The types of P/S involved  have a different effect too. The latter aspect is treated in D3. It is certainly also reasonable to expect large enterprises to participate in asserting and applying higher standards (D5).

Indicator E3 primarily aims to motivate companies to make their manufacturing processes more “eco-efficient,” the basis for comparison always being the sectoral standard and of course the P/S offered by the sector.

As regards absolute impact (Sub-indicator 1), a “per-capita equivalent” can be applied to compare companies of varying sizes. Sub-indicators 2 and 3 are oriented to the technical standards of the sector, irrespective of the size of company in question.

It is true that companies in different sectors have an easier or a harder time getting “Common Good” points, but within sectors auditors should make efforts to harmonize evaluation practices.

Differentiation from other indicators

C3 Promotion of ecological behaviour on the part of employees

C3 addresses the ecological behaviour of employees. Here we find some overlapping regarding mobility behaviour in connection with getting to work; double evaluation should be avoided. Ecological behaviour (for ex. dietary habits) of employees can be influenced in the direction of ecological awareness-raising through advanced training measures.

D3 Ecological design of products and services

D3 addresses the respective product level in the overall life cycle, whereas E3 assesses the entire enterprise as a production site. Some overlapping occurs here. Moreover, the quartet of sustainability also provides an orientation scheme for E3.

E1 Societal impact of products/services

E1 primarily assesses the product level and the entire life cycle in a sectoral comparison, but it also takes manufacturing methods into account, which leads to some overlapping at this point.

D5 Increase in social and ecological sectoral standards

In E3 the standard is not the developmental goal; reduction of environmental impact is.

E) Definitions + Background

At the global as well as the regional level, societal activities have contributed to disruption and in part degradation of eco-systems.[2] Thus, measures must be taken to sustainably counteract such effects, their aim being to reduce resource consumption and emissions (in particular greenhouse gases [3]) and to limit the use of hazardous substances, technologies, processes and activities.

To transform the current state into an ecologically sustainable economy, each sector and each enterprise is thus called upon to detect its ecological impact and make improvements in the sense of the Common Good.[4]

Detrimental environmental impact (environmental pollution) are, for ex., water pollution, air pollution, soil pollution, acoustic pollution. Examples of contaminating substances are chemicals (in general), heavy metals, minerals such as asbestos, oil, fertilizer and pesticides when improperly used, exhaust fumes, pharmaceuticals, antibiotics…[5],[6]

F) Implementation

“You can’t manage what you don’t measure.” A process-oriented approach involving an environmental management system adapted to size and sector is an advisable means for evaluating and reducing ecological impacts. Use can be made of established standards here. In the following, you will find a list of the major environmental management systems:

Information supplied by the Austrian Life Ministry on EMAS at:

The German website regarding EMAS:

The EMAS Guidelines (containing ISO 14001:2004):

  • easyEMAS: environmental management oriented to EMAS and tailored to the needs of SMEs:

For sole proprietorships and very small businesses with practically no production processes (for ex. consulting businesses), there is less need for information; for purposes of evaluation, at least quantitative figures concerning energy consumption (electricity, gas), mobility expenditure (approx. number of km travelled and means of transportation used) and resource consumption (see E1) should be taken into account, however.

The following provides some background information on key standards:

Best Available Technology: EU BAT -

CO2 calculator: tools for calculating operative CO2 emissions:

Eco-Business-Plan of the City of Vienna:

Abfallvermeidung (

G) Best practices

No data

H) Bibliography/ Links /Experts

Ecological footprint:

Websites on water equivalents:


Editor: Lutz Knakrügge,; preparation: Christian Loy; assistance: Christian Rüther

[1]           Cf.

[2]           Also see the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment of the UNEP (United Nations Environmental Program) -

[3]           see for ex. Treibhausgase – die Seite des Bundes Umweltamts (Germany)

[4]           for ex. reduction of climate-relevant emissions in Central Europe by > 75% (cf. Special Report 2009 by the WBGU;, absolute reduction of resource consumption and its impact (cf. UNEP 2011, Decoupling Natural Resource Use and Environmental Impacts from Economic Growth;, avoidance of hazardous materials (cf. The International Chemical Secretariat; etc.

[5]           also see:

[6]           also see REACh – Verordnung, in particular Chap. 57

Supplements and elucidations

(addendum from a discussion with auditors in Oct. 2013, not published in Manual 4.1)

Regarding the OEF Guide

The guidelines mentioned in Sub-indicator 1 were transformed into a “legal regulation” (non-legislative in nature) of the European Union in May 2013: 2013/179/EU,

  • Points  4 to 9 of the sub-indicator have been adopted in accordance with the chapter headings. Summed up in the form of key words they mean:
    • 4/5: the company has a plan for implementing an OEF as well as a data collection system
    • 6-9: in addition impact assessment (6,7) exists, as does a (public) report (8) which has been validated by an external auditor (9)
    • Note for auditors: validation of the existence of points should suffice here; in my view no substantive examination is necessary (also see Point 9 of the legal regulation)

Concerning aspects of the Balance Sheet / environmental accounts in general, environmental accounts are kept concerning the following Balance Sheet aspects of a company:

  • Emissions (air, water, soil)
  • Noise
  • Waste
  • Circulating materials (goods used for production)
  • Energy
  • Water (use, wastewater)
  • Soil, property (built up?)

All accounts must use measurable units for reporting (kg, m3, KWh ...) and make it possible to calculate annual consumption: warehouse stock (end of year / beginning of year) + purchased goods

In addition, parameters should be developed which can be applied to document improvements in environmental impact.

Editor: Lutz Knakrügge,; preliminary work: Christian Loy; assistance: Christian Rüther