Environmental Management Systems: Do Formalized Management Systems Produce Superior Performance?

EPA Grant Number: R829440
Title: Environmental Management Systems: Do Formalized Management Systems Produce Superior Performance?
Investigators: Andrews, Richard N. , Amaral, Deborah
Current Investigators: Andrews, Richard N.
Institution: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
EPA Project Officer: Hahn, Intaek
Project Period: November 19, 2001 through November 18, 2003 (Extended to May 14, 2005)
Project Amount: $340,000
RFA: Decision-Making and Valuation for Environmental Policy (2001) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Environmental Justice


Environmental management systems (EMSs) have been promoted as an innovation to improve environmental performance, and many environmental agencies are now encouraging EMS adoption, both by policy and by technical assistance, compliance incentives, and enforcement actions. However, there are as yet few systematic data on factors motivating facilities to adopt such systems, nor on how these motivations affect EMS characteristics, environmental performance, and compliance; nor on the effectiveness of government or other incentives that either assist or coerce EMS adoption.

The objectives of this project are (1) to determine whether there are systematic differences between the EMSs and subsequent environmental performance of facilities that adopt EMSs for self-initiated reasons, or with government assistance or other incentives, or under coercion from enforcement actions or corporate or customer mandates, and (2) to evaluate changes in EMSs over time and their implications for EMS commitments to continual improvement. We hypothesize that different incentives may lead to fundamentally different types of EMSs and, consequently, different levels and kinds of environmental performance improvements, depending also on the characteristics and other motivations of the implementing facilities.


The study will collect data on EMS content, organizational characteristics, and post-EMS environmental performance from a sample of facilities implementing EMSs under (a) self-initiation, (b) government assistance or other public policy incentives, or (c) coercive pressure from government, from corporate mandates or from customer directives. We will use survey and interview protocols derived and abbreviated from those already developed, peer-reviewed, and pilot tested by the National Database on Environmental Management Systems. Protocol data collection will be followed by telephone interviews, to seek clarification and add greater detail for a smaller sample of facilities. Primary data will be supplemented with information from existing government and business databases. We will then use statistical methods to compare EMS characteristics and performance outcomes of self-initiating implementers with those receiving government assistance and those implementing EMSs under government, corporate, and/or customer mandates.

Expected Results:

The results of this research will provide clearer understanding of the contributions of EMS adoption to environmental performance improvement, and particularly of potential differences in such contributions between facilities whose EMSs are influenced by incentives such as government assistance, government or corporate or customer coercion, or self-initiated adoption. If the expected results are achieved, they will allow state and federal agencies to make more cost-effective allocation of their environmental protection resources, both for technical assistance and incentive programs and for enforcement strategies and priorities. They will also provide useful information to the interested public as to what performance results can be expected from EMS adoption, and will help businesses to determine the most effective ways to use EMSs to improve their environmental performance. Finally, they will provide a valuable public database resource to assist other researchers investigating environmental management decision making and environmental performance improvement.

Publications and Presentations:

Publications have been submitted on this project: View all 14 publications for this project

Supplemental Keywords:

risk management (pollution prevention), public policy (public policy, decision making, socioeconomic), business, industry, social science, ISO 14000, Multi-State Working Group (MSWG), voluntary agreements, green track, supplemental environmental projects., RFA, Economic, Social, & Behavioral Science Research Program, Scientific Discipline, Sustainable Industry/Business, cleaner production/pollution prevention, Sustainable Environment, Technology for Sustainable Environment, Economics and Business, Corporate Performance, decision-making, Environmental Statistics, New/Innovative technologies, Social Science, Economics & Decision Making, Market mechanisms, environmental management systems, environmental performance, policy analysis, voluntary regulations, environmental management systems (EMS), policy making, valuation, environmental decision making, risk management, decision making, socioeconomics, environmental impact comparison, environmental Compliance, environmental policy, government regulatory costs, pollution prevention, EMS, enforcement impact, social sciences, statistical methods

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 2002 Progress Report
  • 2003 Progress Report
  • 2004
  • Final Report