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Are 'soft' policy instruments effective? The link between environmental management systems and the environmental performance of companies


Author Info

  • Julia Hertin

    (SPRU, University of Sussex)

  • Frans Berkhout

    (SPRU, University of Sussex)

  • Marcus Wagner

    (2Centre for Sustainability Management, University of Luneberg)

  • Daniel Tyteca

    (Universite Catholique de Louvain, Institut d'Administration et de Gestion)


Based on the analysis of a large dataset on the environmental performance of European companies in selected industrial sectors, the paper examines the question of whether the presence of an environmental management system (EMS) has a positive impact on the ecoefficiency of companies. It begins with a review of current evidence about the link between EMS and environmental performance, finding that despite much research into EMS there is still very little quantitative research on their actual environmental outcome. The second part of the paper uses three different statistical methods to assess whether companies and production sites with EMS perform better than those without and whether performance improves after an EMS has been introduced. Identifying only a weak link between EMS and eco-efficiency, the authors propose a number of possible explanations and warn against an overly-positive view of EMS as an autonomous driver of environmental performance.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by SPRU - Science and Technology Policy Research, University of Sussex in its series SPRU Working Paper Series with number 124.

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Length: 23 pages
Date of creation: 01 Sep 2004
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:sru:ssewps:124

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Keywords: environmental management systems; environmental performance; eco-efficiency;

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  1. Richard G. Newell & Adam B. Jaffe & Robert N. Stavins, 1998. "The Induced Innovation Hypothesis and Energy-Saving Technological Change," NBER Working Papers 6437, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Schleich, Joachim, 2007. "The economics of energy efficiency: barriers to profitable investments," EIB Papers 10/2007, European Investment Bank, Economics Department.
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Cited by:
  1. Dietrich Earnhart, 2013. "Effect of Systems to Manage Environmental Aspects on Environmental Performance," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 5(6), pages 2557-2588, June.
  2. Anja Schaefer, 2007. "Contrasting Institutional and Performance Accounts of Environmental Management Systems: Three Case Studies in the UK Water & Sewerage Industry," Journal of Management Studies, Wiley Blackwell, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 44(4), pages 506-535, 06.


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