Raising awareness of the benefits of certification and assurance services


Accredited certification benefits

ISO 14001 in environmental supply chain practices

ISO 14001 in environmental supply chain practices
‘ISO 14001 in environmental supply chain practices‘ (Nawrocka, Brorson, Lindquist 2009) examines the contribution ISO 14001 makes in environmental supply chain practices, with research carried on in Sweden. In particular to understand the management of environmental supply chain, the research looks at: ‘the communication of environmental requirements between a customer and a supplier; motivation and enabling of a supplier to comply with the requirements; and mechanisms for control and follow-up.

The research was carried out based on surveys to 29 sites belonging to two companies, as well as focus groups and interviews. The two companies were quite different in their approach to environmental certification and supply chain policy: one of the companies had 86% of its sites certified to ISO 14001, with the majority of these sites having environmental requirements for its suppliers; the second firm only had 13% of its sites certified to ISO 14001 and in turn one of these required the implementation of ISO 14001 by its suppliers and three sites informed their suppliers of their environmental policy.

As regards the monitoring and enforcement of environmental requirements at suppliers, ‘the ISO 14001 certificate was believed to be able to communicate the supplier’s overall environmental performance and was also reported to be a sufficient control. According to some of the managers there are certain limitations to this approach as the value of the ISO 14001 certificate is related to the performance of the certification body. It was concluded that it was more likely that major and globally famous certification bodies would provide the expected quality, as opposed to other less known bodies.’

The report concludes positively on the role of  ISO 14001: ‘First, ISO 14001 has a facilitating role in the environmental activities between a customer and a supplier. For example, if both organisations are certified according to the standard, this creates confidence and brings companies closer and thus, communication of environmental requirements will be facilitated. Moreover, a closer relationship with suppliers was seen as beneficial both for the successful outcomes of projects and a s facilitator for environmental work.’

However, it also suggests that wider implementation of the standard within an organisation could pay greater dividends: ‘The purchasing function and its interplay with the environmental function and other company functions, was seen as important for engaging in supply chain activities. However, this interaction was not always sufficiently achieved in the framework of ISO 14001.’

Paper available to purchase
  • Nawrocka, D., Brorson T., Lindhqvist T., (2009), ‘ISO 14001 in environmental supply chain practices’,  Journal of Cleaner Production, Vol. 17, Issue 16, November 2009, pp 1435–1443

International Institute for Industrial Environmental Economics at Lund University