Environmental effects and organizational experiences of Environmental Management Systems

University dissertation from LuleƄ : LuleƄ tekniska universitet

Abstract: The global environmental impacts of industrial activities e.g., depletion of the ozone layer and global warming, have come to be growing worldwide concerns. Similarly, catastrophic accidents have raised global worries regarding industries' impact on the environment and generated a global interest in preventing pollution. These conditions and accidents have, among other things, motivated and accelerated the use of Environmental Managements Systems (EMS) in order to prevent the pollution caused by organizations. However, the views about whether EMS is an efficient tool or not for pollution prevention and improvement of environmental performance of organizations still differ. The purpose of this thesis is to explore and describe environmental effects and organizational experiences of working with EMS in order to generate knowledge about the contributions of EMS implementations. Different sources of data collection methodologies have been used, i.e., literature review of existing evaluations of EMS, interviews with EMS experts, a national questionnaire survey and a case study. The main conclusion of the thesis, which is in agreement with earlier published results, is that the establishment of international standards for EMS has led, during the relatively short time since their introduction, to important environmental improvements of organizations. The strongest environmental effects can be found in fields where environmental improvements and cost- savings go hand in hand, i.e., waste, recycling and energy. It has been found that the most important indirect environmental contribution of EMS is that it raises the awareness of environmental issues. The results presented in this thesis do not support the hypothesis that EMS generally influences product development activities or transports. The results also show that EMS fulfils many of the expectations within important implementation motives regarding legal compliance, improvement of environmental performance and systemization of environmental activities. It does not however, fulfil the expectations regarding image and cost reduction potentials. However, some improvements of the work with EMS have to be made before EMS can be seen as a tool that not only leads to environmental improvements but also promotes environmental sustainability. Indications were found that organizations sometimes establish environmental targets that are not earlier defined to have significant environmental impacts. Therefore, there is a need to examine more closely the ways in which organizations establish environmental targets.