Behind the ISO 9000 and ISO 14000 certificates : an investigation of quality and environmental management practices in Swedish organisations

Abstract: The past decade witnessed a remarkable growth in the number of organisations worldwide seeking to implement the ISO 9000 and ISO 14000 series. More than 160 countries have adopted ISO 9000 and the number of certificates grew by around 70,000 per annum in the last five years. Also ISO 14001 is one of the most accepted environmental management systems worldwide. The growth is even more remarkable, because research hasn't provided any consistent evidence of the benefits achieved from the standards. There is a general confusion and uncertainty regarding the effectiveness of the standards and their long-term contribution to the organisations.This research project is an attempt to look behind the certificates and explore the practice of implementing and operating the quality- and environmental management systems (QMS and EMS) in Swedish organisations. The thesis aims to contribute to the improvement of the practices of operating QMS and EMS. From the scientific point of view, this research should help to explain the partially contradictory results on the systems' effects found in literature.The study consists of three stages. First, a questionnaire survey was aimed at exploring the motivation, implementation factors and benefits of ISO 9000 and ISO 14000 in Swedish organisations. Second, an analysis of the requirements aimed to build an understanding of the management practices implied in the standard Third, the aim of the case studies was to investigate the practice of operating a QMS/EMS within an organisational context.The study showed that the standards are very often viewed as a tool for improving company image, and not as a means of adding value to the organisational processes. The requirements are very general and organisations decide themselves what kind of practice complies with them Organisations do not need to change their practice, but they can claim that their processes already comply with the standards. Furthermore, auditors, which are only focused on finding nonconformities in the documented system, may become an obstacle to the improvement work Finally, an important conclusion drawn from this study is that questionnaire surveys might not be an appropriate method to study the effects of ISO 9001 or ISO 14001 systems.This project is financially supported by the Centre for Studies of Humans, Technology and Organization (CMTO) and International Graduate School of Management and Industrial Engineering (IMIE).

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