محصولات در سیستم های مدیریت زیست محیطی : نقش حسابرسان
|کد مقاله||سال انتشار||تعداد صفحات مقاله انگلیسی||ترجمه فارسی|
|6454||2005||15 صفحه PDF||سفارش دهید|
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Publisher : Elsevier - Science Direct (الزویر - ساینس دایرکت)
Journal : Journal of Cleaner Production, Volume 13, Issue 4, March 2005, Pages 417–431
For standardized environmental management systems (EMS) to be environmentally effective tools, they should affect important environmental aspects related to flows of materials and energy, which for manufacturing companies are closely connected to their products. This paper presents how external environmental auditors interpret and apply important product-related requirements of ISO 14001 at manufacturing companies in Sweden. The results indicate that the link between EMS and products is rather weak. Products are seldom regarded as significant environmental aspects and are therefore not within the main scope of many EMS, which are mainly focused on sites. However, all of the interviewed auditors require that some kind of environmental considerations be incorporated into product development, but these considerations are to large extent site oriented; how they are prioritized in relation to other factors such as economics and other customer priorities appears to be up to the companies. The paper includes some recommendations to strengthen the role of products within the framework of standardized EMS.
Several recent studies indicate that it may be fruitful for companies to integrate concepts of design for environment (DFE) into environmental management systems (EMS), although there are many important barriers to overcome . DFE thinking might enrich EMS by contributing with a life cycle perspective, thereby helping the organization to identify the most important flows of materials and energy upon which to focus. On an organizational level, this integration could induce better relations with stakeholders. At the same time, EMS may be useful to make corporate DFE efforts more permanent, i.e. lead to consistent and systematic DFE activities (ibid.). Some empirical findings indicate that EMS certified in accordance with ISO 14001 lead to increased DFE activities ,  and , while other results are more pessimistic and bear witness to a weak link between EMS and DFE ,  and . From this perspective, and as the number of standardized EMS increases rapidly around the world , it is of utmost importance to study what is required concerning product development for an ISO 14001 certified company. Karlsson  has pointed out external environmental auditors as important actors regarding the integration between EMS and DFE. In addition, Ammenberg et al.  and  argue that such auditors are key players concerning the connection between standardized EMS and environmental performance. The relevance of this study rests upon four fundamental cornerstones. Firstly, the societal relevance of environmental issues is taken for granted. Secondly, the fact that standardized EMS is frequently used in many parts of the world makes them important to study from an environmental (and business) point of view. Thirdly, EMS certification is voluntary, the formulations in ISO 14001 leave a lot to be interpreted by its users and the results to large extent depend on the aspirations of the companies and the role of external environmental auditors. In addition, there is an ongoing debate concerning the trustworthiness of EMS, for example, regarding regulatory relief for certified companies. Fourthly, for EMS to be effective and efficient environmental tools, these systems have to encompass and affect important aspects from flows of materials and energy. For a manufacturing firm, in general, many of these flows are directly linked to its products. Combining these four cornerstones, it seems important to illuminate how EMS are connected to DFE activities, thereby getting a better grip on how they affect the most relevant resource flows. To illuminate these issues, this paper focuses on the role and perceptions of external environmental auditors, who could function both as a driver and as a barrier for the integration of DFE concepts1 into standardized EMS. This study is based on interviews conducted with auditors representing all nine Swedish certification bodies.2 It presents how auditors interpret and apply the central requirements of ISO 14001 and their experiences and visions within this area, focusing on manufacturing companies. The paper consists of three main parts. Firstly, it is shown what ISO 14001 and the related standards include concerning products and product development. Secondly, the methodology for the interviews is described, including information on the central questions used. In the third and final section, the results are presented and discussed, which leads to some conclusions and recommendations concerning the future application of standardized EMS, focused on integration with corporate DFE activities.
نتیجه گیری انگلیسی
It is the authors' experience that EMS, without doubt, can be very useful tools from an environmental point of view. However, since many companies, authorities and individuals seem to regard certification according to ISO 14001 as a guarantee for good environmental performance, it is vital to show that companies within a wide spectrum of ambitions and performance can be certified. This means to counterbalance the many success stories that exist, which concern the effects of EMS. Therefore, the discussion within this section is mainly concentrated on weaknesses.22 This discussion is also intended to function as a good base for recommendations to improve standardized EMS. The significant environmental aspects are the foundation stones around which EMS are built. Consequently, the environmental effectiveness of these systems to large extent depends on the extent to which products and product-related aspects are classified as significant. The answers relevant for this issue indicated that issues concerning the whole product seldom are judged as significant aspects and sometimes are not considered as environmental aspects at all. This means that attention is seldom paid to product characteristics such as resource demands during the use phase, impacts during the end-of-life phase, recyclability, etc. However, incoming goods and energy appear normally to be among the environmental aspects, which is positive. For instance, a few of the auditors emphasized that companies improve their purchase procedures and handling of chemicals. Nevertheless, many answers also revealed that the requirements posed to suppliers sometimes tend to be very weak; the case appeared even worse concerning information to customers. One important issue clearly is the companies' possibilities to influence. To ensure that the most important flows of materials and energy are included in EMS, the standard requirements, or at least their application, should be altered so that product issues are always regarded as environmental aspects.23 The assessment of environmental aspects is a more delicate question. It is worrying that product aspects seldom are judged as significant and that some companies are reluctant to assess product aspects as significant. Generally speaking, many important resource flows are clearly connected to the products, which is why, according to the existing standard formulations, they ought to be considered as significant aspects. A problem is that the standard does not and probably cannot, define the scope of an EMS and inform on how to weight aspects that exist along the life cycle. For example, when assessing a process chemical, one company may consider it as harmless if it does not lead to any toxic emissions at their site. On the other hand, this chemical could cause serious environmental impacts when it is produced or when the manufactured product is disposed of. To conclude, there are many important issues that should be discussed and clarified. Obviously, the auditors have clearly different opinions regarding many of these issues. Concerning the complete EMS, an absolute majority of the interviewees stated that they are focused on a specific facility. This means that a dominant part of the EMS activities and procedures apply to the certified site. To what extent these activities and procedures are based on a life cycle perspective, and are complemented with EMS parts that are focused on other phases in the life cycle, varies. The auditors' views ranged from allowing a narrow perspective to demanding a more holistic approach. A few of them described a process where companies first focus on their own sites, which includes the legal requirements and often such aspects as emissions, toxic chemicals, risk prevention, waste, and then after a few years can manage to widen the scope. These respondents saw signs of companies reaching this state today, i.e. a stage where they reflect on products and product-related issues as environmental aspects and start to gather and use more information from the life cycle. However, commonly mentioned bottlenecks are complicated tools, difficulties in receiving useful information and lack of resources in terms of staff and competence. An important comment was that legal requirements steer companies towards a site-oriented perspective. It is unfortunate that many EMS seem to have a narrow scope. Since legal requirements and authority control to great extent focus on the facilities, it would be advantageous if EMS could cover a wider perspective. Seen from a societal environmental perspective, many pollution problems related to specific sites (point sources) have been solved or clearly reduced. Instead, environmental impact caused by the consumer market, e.g. in the form of diffuse emissions, stand out as vital. Consequently, from an environmental point of view, EMS covering a wider scope would be preferable and make EMS a more useful tool when striving for a sustainable development. Focusing on product development, a majority of the auditors require environmental considerations to be included in this process and the remaining part try to influence the companies in that direction through discussions, since they are of the opinion that the standard does not support such requirements. However, how these environmental factors are prioritized in comparison to other factors, e.g. concerning economy and quality, seem to be an issue for the companies. Moreover, the scope of the environmental considerations apparently varies. Some auditors allow a scope dominated by site-specific aspects, while others require a wider perspective. Two of the auditors suggested the interesting idea of extending ISO 14001 with a special section that covers products/product development. This idea seems fruitful and important and could probably solve or reduce many of the problems identified during this study. A product section could include requirements concerning environmental considerations during the product development process. Even if it cannot include specific demands concerning environmental criteria, it could specify that environmental issues must be regarded and that it shall be stated how the different areas in the product development process have been prioritized. Concerning whether EMS engage the right staff categories having products in mind, many auditors recognize that it is sometimes problematic to involve and motivate product designers regarding the environment. This means that there are many certified enterprises where the EMS do not properly influence the designers, whose decisions to large extent affect the flows of material and energy and thereby the accompanying environmental impacts. As within almost every category of questions, the answers cover a wide range of opinions. Other respondents indicated that they require that the right persons are involved and that this is not usually a problem. The opinions on the meaning of continual improvements vary. About one-half require that some improvements are of an operational character, while one-third approve progress solely of a management type. This means that the auditors disagree regarding how closely connected the improvements should be to direct environmental impacts. The key commitment of continual improvement seems to be weakly linked to products. For instance, environmental targets are seldom directed at products. However, the answers showed that the auditors approve improvements all over the supply chain, which means that the standard and its interpretation do not prevent wider perspectives. The divergence in interpretations, and thereby requirements, suggests that the standard should be clearer on the meaning of environmental performance. It seems important to emphasize that performance regarding improvements is often calculated as ratios, where for example the amounts of raw materials are divided by profit indicators. The improvements seldom involve total environmental impacts and the companies have great possibilities to influence how performance is calculated. Consequently, deterioration in environmental impacts can be compensated by business improvements. Here again, the standard should be clearer. From a societal perspective, it is crucial to monitor total numbers as well. About one-half of the auditors do not believe that companies save improvements to ensure future progress, while others admit that this sometimes is the case. These results indicate that EMS normally function as a driver for progress, although mostly facility-oriented progress. Nevertheless, they sometimes block innovations, which seems to be most common at small firms. Therefore, it is important to establish support for small enterprises, which are important actors concerning the environment, to help them to work effectively on environmental issues. A majority of the respondents classified their possibilities to strengthen the connection between EMS and DFE as great. Only a few of them asked for tougher standard formulations regarding products, while others wanted clarifications rather than stronger requirements. Judging from the impressions and comments, it is a hot issue concerning to what degree auditors are allowed to function as consultants. Many interviewees spontaneously mentioned that they transfer information between companies that are not competing. To strengthen the connection between EMS and DFE, customer demands seem to be of crucial importance. This includes consumers as well as business customers. Large multinational companies were mentioned as important actors within this field, since they have a big influence over smaller suppliers. Other mentioned areas included better legislation and increased competence and knowledge. In summary, to strengthen the trustworthiness and environmental effectiveness of standardized EMS, it is vital to strengthen the link to products and product development. To achieve this, the formulations in ISO 14001 should be tougher and clearer. Probably, the trustworthiness of EMS, and thereby also the situation for companies, auditors and the environment, would gain if the product-related requirements were interpreted and handled more equally. Today, standardized EMS in many areas of interest appear to be non-standardized. The mentioned factors that influence the use of EMS are mainly within the frames of EMS and their application. In addition, how well EMS and DFE activities can and will be incorporated to large extent depends on many societal factors, e.g. market demands, legislation and the availability of useful tools and information . These external factors have to be emphasized by governments, authorities, the academia and the public in order to strengthen the incentives to implement product-oriented environmental management systems (POEMS).