Why, how and what do organizations achieve with the implementation of environmental management systems? Lessons from a comprehensive review on the Eco-Management and Audit Scheme

Patrícia Tourais, Nuno Videira

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

25 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

The Eco-Management and Audit Scheme (EMAS) was established in 1993 in the European Union as a voluntary instrument facilitating the implementation of organisational environmental policies and management of environmental aspects. We present a comprehensive literature review on EMAS research, organized according to three broad questions: Why do organisations choose EMAS? How is the scheme implemented and adapted to organisational characteristics? And what results are achieved? We have built analysis matrices to critically review 80 articles published over the past two decades and to identify the recurrent research themes addressing each question. We found that the decision to adopt EMAS is motivated by a set of internal and external factors, compounded by the potential of an organisation to combine the scheme with other EMS standards and environmental management tools. These themes are the ones most extensively covered by existing literature. To answer the question on how organisations implement and adapt to the scheme, two themes have been identified covering EMS planning and operation issues and sectoral approaches. Results show that the focus has been put on development of methods for assessing the significance of environmental aspects, implementing environmental policies and developing indicators for tracking performance and elaborating environmental statements. The development of sectoral approaches that adapt EMAS to characteristics of different economic activity sectors is also emerging as a critical research development. Finally, the themes addressing results achieved with EMAS implementation have only recently surfaced in the literature. The achievement of sustained environmental performance improvements through EMAS adoption is both contested and supported in the reviewed studies. On the other hand, improvements in the relationships with stakeholders arise as one of the most important intangible outcomes of the scheme. We conclude our review by advancing a systematic set of future research opportunities in this field.

Original languageEnglish
Article number283
JournalSustainability (Switzerland)
Volume8
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 18 Mar 2016

Keywords

  • Comprehensive literature review
  • Eco-Management and Audit Scheme (EMAS)
  • EMAS research themes
  • Environmental management systems
  • Organisational environmental performance

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