How do standardised environmental management systems affect environmental performance and business?

Abstract: This thesis aims to increase the understanding of what a standardised environmental management system (EMS) is, can be, and is not. The EMS infrastructure, i.e. the standards for EMSs and corresponding systems for their application, is analysed to find out how"ft affects the environmental efforts of companies. Furthermore, the topic of how standardised EMSs fit small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) is discussed. A special EMS solution used by a group of SMEs is examined to clarify how this model has affected the environmental efforts and business of these enterprises.The thesis is based on three studies. Firstly, external environmental auditors were interviewed. Secondly, the environmental reviews for the group of SMEs were studied. This study also involved a literature review on how to measure environmental performance. Thirdly, the environmental co-ordinators working at the mentioned small enterprises were interviewed.It can be concluded that it is too early to draw any general conclusions on how standardised EMSs affect environmental performance. How ISO 14001 is interpreted and applied is largely left to companies and external environmental auditors. In practise, 14001's requirement concerning continual improvement is often restricted to a few environmental aspects and does not say anything about the total environmental impact. Furthermore, there is an inconsistency in the standard text and its implementation concerning which criteria are approved when assessing environmental aspects. Some auditors allow the inclusion of criteria regarding economy and quality, etc. To ensure the credibility of ISO 14001, the standard and the systems for its application should be improved.The EMS model studied seems to be a cost-effective solution for SMEs that removes the most important barriers for EMS implementation and maintenance at small firms. Also, it appears to have led to significant environmental improvements.

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