Raising awareness of the benefits of certification and assurance services


Accredited certification benefits

Is an environmental management system able to influence environmental and competitive advantage?

Is an environmental management system able to influence environmental and competitive advantage?‘ (Iraldo, F., Testa, F., Frey, M 2009) investigates ‘whether or not an EMS (Environmental Management System) implemented within the EMAS (European Eco-Management and Audit Scheme) Regulation has any effect on firm performance both from an environmental and a competitive point of view.’ The first way of testing this is to ascertain if the EMS has produced a perceived improvement in environmental performance as judged by the organisation implementing it.’ The second key investigation is so see if this performance is enhanced by third-party certification and produces competitive advantage in four key areas: innovation, marketing, productivity and intangible assets.

The first hypothesis the research tests if there is a positive relationship between a certified EMS and environmental performance improvement. The second hypothesis is set against a background of ‘The application of an EMS scheme may not be a sufficient condition to guarantee improvements in an organisation’s environmental performance. In order to render it an effective tool, a ‘new philosophy’ must permeate all the hierarchical levels in the organisations that adopts an EMS: from the upper management to operational personnel.’

The evaluation for this research was based on data in the EVER study (IEFE Bocconi, Adelphi Consult, IOEW, SPRU e Valor & Tinge, 2006), a study carried out for the European Commission. A sample of these is taken , 101, of which 70 organisations were EMAS adopters.

The results show that ‘The organisations involved in the EMAS scheme clearly showed different attitudes when considering their EMS. The two opposites being ‘certificate-orientated’ approach (to obtain EMAS registrations and preserving it as a reputational tool) and a more’strategic’ approach, aiming at using the EMS to guarantee legal compliance and gradually improving the environmental efficiency of corporate activities. It is rather clear, from our results, that the more an organisation considers its EMS as an integral part of its whole management system and includes the environmental targets and programmes in the day-to-day operational planning activities, the more it is able to effectively achieve a highly environmental performance.

The report concludes, ‘the EMSs seem to be implemented in a more comprehensive and effective way by EMAS-registered organisations. For instance, environmental planning capabilities are usually stronger and better ‘rooted’ in the EMAS-registered organisation and consequently, they are able to generate positive effects on environmental performance. This confirms that an actual performance improvement can be achieved only when those elements of an EMAS which can be fully integrated in the management dynamics of a firm start to work effectively.’ The conclusion adds ‘in order to improve the use of EMAS and ISO 140001 as competitive tools, on one hand, registered organisations should strengthen their external communication within the EMS and the policy makers should support the market potentials of these certification scheme, by increasing the awareness of customers and citizens on their environmental guarantees (e.g. through public communication campaigns).

Paper available to purchase


  • Iraldo, F., Testa, F., Frey, M (2009), ‘Is an environmental management system able to influence environmental and competitive performance? The case of the eco-management and audit schemes(EMAS) in the European Union’, Journal of Cleaner Production, Vol. 17, Issue 16,  pp 144-1452
  • IEFE Bocconi, Adelphi Consult, IOEW, SPRU e Valor & Tinge, (2006), ‘EVER: evaluation of eco-label and EMAS for their revision – research findings, Final report to the European Commission – Part I-II’, DG Environment European Community, Brussels

The Sant Anna School of Advanced Studies, Pisa (Iraldo); Bocconi Univeristy (Testa, Frey)