The use of standardised environmental management systems in Swedish local authorities

University dissertation from Linköping : Linköpings universitet

Abstract: This thesis focuses on one of many tools that can be used for enhancing  environmental management in local authorities; standardised environmental management systems (EMSs). EMS is a strategic environmental management tool that originally was designed for and mainly used by industrial organisations. The tool provides the basis for designing an environmentally focused management system that is compatible with and possible to integrate into the general management procedures in an organisation, and it helps an organisation achieve its environmental and economic goals (ISO, 1996). Several studies examine how well standardized EMSs serve their purposes (e.g., Strachan, 1999; Steger, 2000; Ammenberg, 2001; Berkhout et al., 2001). Although several results have been reported, it has proven difficult to evaluate the efficiency of EMSs in organisations. Despite the fact that EMSs have been extensively used by industrial organisations since the tool was introduced on the market, this ground breaking process has been a little slower for local authorities and it has taken some time for EMSs to become common among these kinds of organisations. Studies from different countries report some outcomes from EMS implementation in local authorities (e.g., Aall, 1999; Bekkering and McCullum, 1999; Honkasalo, 1999; Darnall et al., 2000; Burstrom, 2000a; Cockrean, 2001). So far, however, the studies about EMSs mainly describe and comment on the implementation process and it is little questioned whether or not the tool is appropriate for the organisations of local authorities or what it does to improve the environmental state. This could be because EMS is a recent phenomenon and it requires some time to settle before the experiences can be gathered and outcomes studied. Hence, it becomes more and more interesting to study whether EMS implementation in local authorities really leads to environmental improvements and if standardised EMSs are appropriate for their organisations. This thesis concentrates on Swedish local authorities and conditions. To this date, there is little academic experience concerning how common EMS implementation is in Swedish local authorities and no studies that generally describe the Swedish local authorities' use of EMSs. Therefore, this thesis builds a general knowledge baseline by mapping ongoing EMS activities in Swedish local authorities. This map becomes a point of departure for forthcoming and more in depth studies regarding the appropriateness of EMSs and the environmental effects of EMS implementation.

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