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Competing Environmental Management Standards: How ISO 14001 Outnumbered EMAS in Germany, the UK, France, and Sweden

Roeland Bracke and Johan Albrecht

Environment and Planning C, 2007, vol. 25, issue 4, 611-627

Abstract: In the middle of the 1990s two international environmental management standards became available for European companies: the European Eco-Management and Audit Scheme (EMAS) and the International Organization for Standardization's ISO 14001. Companies that wanted to implement a standardized environmental management system were confronted with the choice between their national standard, the European standard, or the international one. In the past decennium, the national standards have been abolished and the number of ISO 14001 certified companies has outnumbered the number of EMAS-registered organizations. The speed at which and the extent to which ISO 14001 has outnumbered EMAS differs, however, between countries in the EU-15. We argue that a country classification based on the degree of statism of the collective agency on the one hand, and the degree of corporatism of society's organization on the other, offers a valuable perspective for analyzing the evolution of the uptake of both standards in a country. We present the cases of Germany, the UK, France, and Sweden, and conclude that in countries characterized by a more societal organization of authority, private alternatives for national regulations like ISO 14001 are welcomed and adopted with enthusiasm. In countries characterized by a rather statist organization, such alternatives are looked upon with more suspicion resulting in delayed uptake. Whereas ISO 14001 is a purely private initiative, voluntary registration to the EMAS regulation creates a link between the company and the authorities. In contrast to corporatist settings, this frightens off business participation in associational countries.

Date: 2007
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