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Which Types of Environmental Management Systems Are Related to Greater Environmental Improvements?


Nicole Darnall is associate professor of management and public policy at Arizona State University in the School of Public Affairs and the School of Sustainability. Her research examines firms' sustainability responses to the regulatory and social setting.

Younsung Kim is assistant professor of public policy at George Mason University in the Department of Public and International Affairs and the Department of Environmental Science and Policy. Her research examines firms' collaborative approaches to environmental governance and public policy.


While there is little empirical evidence to demonstrate which types of environmental management systems (EMSs) are associated with greater environmental improvements, governments worldwide are encouraging facilities to adopt them. This research compares the environmental performance of facilities that adopt ISO 14001–certified EMSs, complete (noncertified) EMSs, and incomplete EMSs across multiple environmental media. The authors analyze these relationships for manufacturing facilities in seven countries using a two-stage model to control for selection bias. Findings indicate that the adoption of all types of EMSs is related to improved environmental performance in an international setting. However, ISO 14001–certified EMSs are associated with environmental improvements to a broader array of environmental media. These findings offer important implications about which types of EMSs have greater promise as voluntary environmental governance tools.