The overall aim of this thesis is to increase the understanding of the relationship between standardised environmental management systems (EMSs) and the environment, focusing on the use of such systems by companies and on systems in accordance with the ISO 14001 and/or EMAS standards. Another purpose is to investigate how standardised EMSs fit small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and to examine a special EMS solution called the Hackefors model, used by a group of SMEs, to find out how this model has affected the environmental efforts and business of these enterprises.
To gather knowledge on the connection between EMSs and environmental impacts, two main roads have been followed. Firstly, empirical studies (and a few literature reviews) have been conducted, among other things, aiming to clarify how the standards' requirements are interpreted and applied in reality, and uncover what this means in terms of environmental impacts. For the most part, external environmental auditors and environmental managers have been interviewed. An important purpose is to illuminate what an ISO 14001 certificate, or an EMAS registration, guarantees. This means that the minimum level is emphasised to a large extent. Secondly, a literature review has been conducted to collect knowledge on the selected issue from the international research arena. One intention is that this review will contribute information about the average use of EMSs and thus serve as a good complement to the empirical studies.
It has to be concluded that a standardised EMS does not guarantee a good environmental performance and defmitely not reduced environmental impacts. Without any doubt, EMSs can be used to structure and strengthen a company's environmental efforts, and many companies surely have achieved important reductions in terms of environmental impacts by using an EMS. However, the standards' formulations are very indistinct and they can be interpreted and applied in many different ways. It is clearly possible to be certified and registered without improving very much at all. The effects of EMSs are to a very large extent dependent on how companies choose to use them. To capture the potential that EMSs have, issues of credibility should be observed. Therefore, the thesis includes some recommendations in the form of discussion points.
The Hackefors model clearly can be used to overcome many of the common barriers forimplementing an EMS at SMEs. In the studied case, the EMS implementation had led to severalimportant environmental improvements and also to other types of improvements.
Linköping: Linköpings universitet , 2003. , 112 p.
2003-12-12, Sal C3, Hus C, Linköping Universitet, Linköping, 13:15 (Swedish)