ISO 14001 in the United States: Good News on the Question of Hype versus Hope


Political Science and International Affairs

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In December of 2000, Environmental Practice published an article by Robin Shoal in which she concluded that ISO 14001's ability to reduce negative environmental impacts depended largely upon the strength and sincerity of the environmental commitments of those firms choosing to adopt an ISO 14001 environmental management system (EMS). According to Shoal, the jury was still out on whether ISO 14001 would move beyond hype and offer true hope for improved environmental performance of firms worldwide. Building on the work of Shoal and others, this article draws a more definitive conclusion about the ability of ISO 14001 to actually improve the environmental performance of American firms and the motivation of those firms seeking certification. Data from a mailed survey of randomly selected ISO 14001 certified companies in the US reveals that the majority of firms became certified out of a desire to "be a good neighbor" and to establish themselves as environmental leaders within their industries. While managers hope that ISO 14001 will help them increase profitability, they generally say that they care even more about ISO 14001's ability to improve environmental performance. Data from this study show that the vast majority of respondents reported environmental improvements related to the implementation of an ISO 14001 EMS, regardless of their reasons for becoming certified.

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Environmental Practice

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