The research carried out for ‘Identifying the Factors Which Affect the Decision to Attain ISO 14000’ (Curkovic, S., Sroufe, R., Melnyk, S.A., 2005), ‘looks to understand the implications of ISO 14000 for environmental management and to see if the reasons for attaining ISO 14000 certification can lead to competitive advantage’.
The research was carried out by in-depth interviews with several managers responsible for the ISO 14000 implementation process at each of 16 companies sites in the US, 14 of which were certified.
The conclusion of the research is that, ‘If well implemented, ISO 14000 can result in less pollution, greater efficiencies, cost reductions, and improved productivity. Clearly, the extent of the improvements and the amount of the savings depend on several factors independent of ISO 14000’.
The in-depth nature of the research enabled a greater understanding of how ISO 14000 certification enables companies to improve. For example, ‘The ISO 14000 certification process forced companies to examine all areas to determine potential environmental impacts and set improvement objectives. As companies explored territories which went beyond manufacturing, opportunities to reduce pollution and cut costs frequently turned up. As goals were set in areas outside the traditional manufacturing/environmental arena, there was a reexamination of accepted norms and practices resulting in unanticipated business benefits’.
One of the research’s key conclusions is that there are benefits, but ISO 14000 certification should be adopted as a tool integrated with the company; ‘for those companies who wish to remain competitive and improve their environmental systems, it (ISO 14000 certification) can be an invaluable tool. Many managers warned that ISO 14000 certification can result in non-value added costs if it is pursued only for its marketing or regulatory appeal. The true commercial value associated with ISO 14000 can only be achieved when it is made consistent with a company’s strategic direction [This means using the ISO 14000 standards as a foundation for a much broader system such as TQEM]. The experiences of these companies can serve as an illustration for organizations contemplating pursuing certification. Through its standardization of environmental systems, ISO 14000 can help an organization not only reduce waste, but also gain a competitive advantage in the international marketplace’.
Haworth College of Business, Western Michigan University (Curkovic), The Wallace E. Carroll School of Management, Boston College (Sroufe), The Eli Broad Graduate School of Management, Michigan State University (Melnyk)