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Opportunism and environmental management systems: Certification as a smokescreen for stakeholders

  • Lannelongue, Gustavo
  • González-Benito, Javier
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    This paper sets out to explain how the implementation of an environmental management systems (EMS) conditions the way firms respond to environmental pressures exerted by their stakeholders. While the most common approaches to be found in the literature consider the certification of such systems to be an indicator of proactivity and cooperation with stakeholders, this article posits that it is also a mechanism firms use to discriminate between stakeholders, allowing firms to react to the pressure of certain stakeholders only. Specifically, the analyses conducted on a sample of 3748 plants reveal that the implementation of an EMS responds to pressure from stakeholders, but once this system has been certified a firm's environmental actions basically respond to the pressure from internal primary stakeholders, ignoring pressures from external primary and secondary stakeholders and regulators. The key element in the theoretical line of reasoning regarding these results is the opportunistic behavior associated with certification, given that the certification by itself represents incomplete information. Thus, an EMS can serve as a valuable shield against a majority of stakeholders, since only the pressure of those stakeholders who can verify the effects of such pressure will have an influence on the environmental behavior of firms with a certified EMS.

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    File URL: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0921800912003084
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    Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Ecological Economics.

    Volume (Year): 82 (2012)
    Issue (Month): C ()
    Pages: 11-22

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    Handle: RePEc:eee:ecolec:v:82:y:2012:i:c:p:11-22
    DOI: 10.1016/j.ecolecon.2012.08.003
    Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/ecolecon

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    1. Harold Hotelling, 1931. "The Economics of Exhaustible Resources," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 39, pages 137.
    2. Seema Arora & Timothy N. Cason, 1996. "Why Do Firms Volunteer to Exceed Environmental Regulations? Understanding Participation in EPA's 33/50 Program," Land Economics, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 72(4), pages 413-432.
    3. Arimura, Toshi & Hibiki, Akira & Katayama, Hajime, 2007. "Is a Voluntary Approach an Effective Environmental Policy Instrument? A Case for Environmental Management Systems," Discussion Papers dp-07-31, Resources For the Future.
    4. Matthew Potoski & Aseem Prakash, 2005. "Covenants with weak swords: ISO 14001 and facilities' environmental performance," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 24(4), pages 745-769.
    5. Darnall, Nicole & Henriques, Irene & Sadorsky, Perry, 2008. "Do environmental management systems improve business performance in an international setting?," Journal of International Management, Elsevier, vol. 14(4), pages 364-376, December.
    6. North, Douglass C. & Weingast, Barry R., 1989. "Constitutions and Commitment: The Evolution of Institutions Governing Public Choice in Seventeenth-Century England," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 49(04), pages 803-832, December.
    7. Nicole Darnall & Irene Henriques & Perry Sadorsky, 2010. "Adopting Proactive Environmental Strategy: The Influence of Stakeholders and Firm Size," Journal of Management Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 47(6), pages 1072-1094, 09.
    8. Nishitani, Kimitaka, 2009. "An empirical study of the initial adoption of ISO 14001 in Japanese manufacturing firms," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 68(3), pages 669-679, January.
    9. Petra Christmann & Glen Taylor, 2001. "Globalization and the Environment: Determinants of Firm Self-Regulation in China," Journal of International Business Studies, Palgrave Macmillan;Academy of International Business, vol. 32(3), pages 439-458, September.
    10. Petra Christmann & Glen Taylor, 2006. "Firm self-regulation through international certifiable standards: determinants of symbolic versus substantive implementation," Journal of International Business Studies, Palgrave Macmillan;Academy of International Business, vol. 37(6), pages 863-878, November.
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