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Averting Environmental Justice Claims? The Role of Environmental Management Systems


Daniel (David) Edwards, Jr., is a research and evaluation analyst at the North Carolina Department of Correction. He examines correctional interventions and the factors influencing offenders' transition from supervision back into the community.

Nicole Darnall is an associate professor of corporate sustainability and public policy and associate professor of public and international affairs at George Mason University. She investigates the reasons why companies adopt sustainability strategies, whether companies that adopt these strategies improve the environment, and whether companies that improve the natural environmental also derive business value.


Today, more regulatory provisions are in place for protecting low-income minority populations who shoulder a disproportionate amount of environmental risk. Recognized as communities of “environmental justice,” industrial facilities located within these areas bear greater legal liabilities for and societal scrutiny of their environmental impacts. The authors offer compelling evidence that, in an effort to avoid regulatory and societal claims that they are disproportionately harming minority and ethnic populations, businesses operating inside environmental justice communities tend to adopt an environmental management system (EMS). The article probes whether industries actually improve the environment as a consequence of EMS adoption or whether such systems are simply used to avoid greater governmental scrutiny without necessarily reducing overall environmental risks.