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Can a Values Reframing of ISO14001:2015 Finally Give Business an Effective Tool to Tackle Climate Change?

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Abstract

This chapter argues that the revised ISO14001:2015 environmental standard for business constitutes a fundamental reframing of business engagement with environmental management. Drawing on the values framework of Shalom Schwartz, it is demonstrated how the revised standard represents a values shift-away from self-limiting approaches based on power, control and conformity. Instead, the revised standard frames environmental management into the language of achievement and openness where managers are encouraged to work together, make a difference, lead, inspire, engage and find innovative and creative solutions. Drawing on empirical research with small and medium enterprise managers, the significance of this values reframing is illustrated. Managers drawing on power and conformity to engage with environmental actions tended to focus on short-term actions that demonstrated quick financial payback or reputations wins. This is contrasted with managers drawing on achievement and self-direction values who took a longer term view to making a difference and working with others to find innovative solutions to complex problems. It is posited that this reframing represents a significant opportunity for business generally and for the environmental profession specifically to develop the skills and approaches required to tackle climate change and other sustainability related concerns.
Redefining Corporate Social Responsibility
Can a Values Reframing of ISO14001:2015 Finally Give Business an Effective Tool to
Tackle Climate Change?
Sarah Williams,
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To cite this document: Sarah Williams, "Can a Values Reframing of ISO14001:2015
Finally Give Business an Effective Tool to Tackle Climate Change?" In Redefining
Corporate Social Responsibility. Published online: 21 Aug 2018; 15-26.
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CAN A VALUES REFRAMING OF
ISO14001:2015 FINALLY GIVE
BUSINESS AN EFFECTIVE TOOL
TO TACKLE CLIMATE CHANGE?
Sarah Williams
ABSTRACT
This chapter argues that the revised ISO14001:2015 environmental standard
for business constitutes a fundamental reframing of business engagement
with environmental management. Drawing on the values framework of
Shalom Schwartz, it is demonstrated how the revised standard represents a
values shift-away from self-limiting approaches based on power, control and
conformity. Instead, the revised standard frames environmental management
into the language of achievement and openness where managers are encour-
aged to work together, make a difference, lead, inspire, engage and find
innovative and creative solutions. Drawing on empirical research with small
and medium enterprise managers, the significance of this values reframing is
illustrated. Managers drawing on power and conformity to engage with envi-
ronmental actions tended to focus on short-term actions that demonstrated
quick financial payback or reputations wins. This is contrasted with man-
agers drawing on achievement and self-direction values who took a longer
term view to making a difference and working with others to find innovative
solutions to complex problems. It is posited that this reframing represents a
significant opportunity for business generally and for the environmental
Redefining Corporate Social Responsibility
Developments in Corporate Governance and Responsibility, Volume 13, 1526
Copyright r2018 by Emerald Publishing Limited
All rights of reproduction in any form reserved
ISSN: 2043-0523/doi:10.1108/S2043-052320180000013003
15
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profession specifically to develop the skills and approaches required to tackle
climate change and other sustainability related concerns.
Keywords: ISO14001:2015; business greening; values; climate change;
motivation; SMEs
INTRODUCTION
While voluntary standards such as ISO14001:2004 have undoubtedly helped
to embed environmental consideration within business systems (Zhang and
Zwolinski, 2017), the approach has failed to keep pace with the changes
demanded of business by science and wider society. This is particularly appar-
ent in how business responds to, or even takes the lead with, the social, envi-
ronmental and economic challenges presented by climate change. The focus of
ISO14001:2004 on control and conformity placed an artificial ceiling on com-
pany environmental engagement (Schuler et al., 2017). As a motivation for
driving improved environmental behaviour, ISO14001:2004 is similar to legal
requirements; once the legal box has been ticked, the requirement conformed
to, no further action needs to be taken. Understanding the real significance of
the revised ISO14001:2015 standard, and how it now offers a real tool for tack-
ling climate change, comes through a recognition of how the whole approach
of the system has been reframed. This reframing is more than the move from
operational to strategic thinking that the revised standard embodies and which
introduces a High Level Structure (HLS) across the family of ISO standards.
Indeed, we posit that ISO14001:2015 represents a complete values shift-away
from the closed, limiting effects of conformity and control and towards the cre-
ative, open values of influence, innovation and working together. This shift in
values can be understood through the values framework of Shalom Schwartz.
In this chapter, we argue that using Schwartz’s value system as a lens,
ISO14001:2015 is fundamentally reframed from control (power) and confor-
mity values to achievement and self-direction. The implications of this refram-
ing are explored by drawing on empirical evidence with small and medium
enterprise (SME) managers in the East of England to demonstrate the signifi-
cance of different approaches between managers drawing on the different
value-sets. In particular, it is clear that managers drawing on power (with con-
formity) may be focused on short-term actions with direct financial payback,
whereas managers drawing on achievement (with self-direction) are seen to
focus on longer term projects that look to make a difference to causes of
concern. The willingness of the two different value-sets to be Open or Closed
to working with others will also be shown to reflect the reframed nature
of ISO14001:2015 and management impact on environmental and social
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behaviours. Finally, implications for business and the environmental manage-
ment profession are discussed.
LITERATURE REVIEW
Climate change is likely to affect every aspect of business operations over the
coming years (Howard-Grenville et al., 2014). This may be due to the direct
impact of extreme and changing weather on premises or production systems, or
indirectly through impacts throughout the value chain or within wider socio-
economic systems (Crichton, 2009). In order to address this, business needs to
take a holistic approach that understands potential impacts and seeks to both
mitigate against these risks and adapt to what cannot be changed. Certainly, in
terms of an evolution in business/environment thinking, the next few years will
move business quite logically from resource efficiency and zero waste to zero
net carbon and circular resource use thinking (Lacy and Rutqvist, 2016). How
business responds to these challenges is likely to affect what the rest of society
is able to achieve.
The introduction of various voluntary environmental management schemes
in the 1990s2000s that took a system-based approach, including EMAS and
BS8555, helped business to identify the most significant impacts of business
operations on the environment in order to manage and minimise these. Indeed
ISO14001:2004 has undoubtedly helped to embed environmental consideration
within business systems (Zhang and Zwolinski, 2017). Certainly between 2007
and 2014, the number of worldwide certifications has increased from 150,000 to
over 320,000,
1
there has been a rise in the development of environmental man-
agement as a profession, and a generally wider awareness of environment as a
business issue, not least perhaps through greater understanding of the impact
of climate change. However, environment has still remained a poor cousin com-
pared with quality
2
and even health and safety, with their comparable ISO sys-
tems, and so has failed to keep pace with the changes demanded of business
behaviour by increased scientific understanding.
The failure to meet the severity of environmental challenges is, at least in
part, linked with ISO14001:2004 as a blunt, paper-driven instrument (Curkovic
and Sroufe, 2010). The focus on control and conformity placed an artificial ceil-
ing on company environmental engagement. There were too many opportu-
nities for meeting the requirements by ticking boxes without necessarily
demonstrating a real commitment to improving environmental performance or
minimising the impact of the company on the environment (e.g. Boiral, 2011;
Curkovic and Sroufe, 2010). For example, a company could choose as to which
part of their operation or which facility would be certified by ISO. Although a
business was supposed to focus on aspects of the business that had the greatest
environmental impacts, this did not need to be so. This meant that a
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manufacturing operation could be relocated to countries with lower national
environmental requirements while the company still held certification; or the
high impact of logistics could be excluded from a distribution company, with
the certification gained for the service function. A focus on conformity could
mean meeting the letter, rather than spirit, of the standard and limited innova-
tion beyond that which was required.
As a motivation for driving improved environmental behaviour, ISO14001:
2004 is similar to legal requirements; once the legal box has been ticked, the
requirement conformed to, no further action needs to be taken. Business as
usual can return. The environment can remain an externality that neither
needs to be properly costed or accounted for, reflecting earlier ideas where legal
and compliance-based approaches were the main drivers for engagement
(Naude et al., 2012). Indeed, Coglianese and Nash (2001) refer to the effect of
ISO14001 as ‘regulating from the inside’ (cited in Prakask and Potoski, 2011,
p. 3) with perceived benefits relating to improved regulatory compliance,
improved organisation of compliance systems, and compliance facilitating
improved investor confidence. Compliance, motivated by the avoidance of not
conforming, limits environmental engagement and innovation by encouraging
low standards so that conformity is assured (Sullivan, 2005, p. 22; Williamson
et al., 2006, p. 324; Fineman, 1996, p. 496).
While ISO14001:2004 does include the notion of continuous improvement,
this too can be limited by the focus on conformity. The need for annual
improvement in each metric, measured within the management system, can
limit improvement to small incremental changes that could be added to year on
year. For example, dramatic improvements in energy saving one year are to be
avoided if the same degree of improvement could not be expected the following
year: far better to pace change at a manageable 2% improvement per year than
raise expectations following one good year!
To understand the real significance of the revised standard and how it now
offers a new tool for tackling climate change, it is important to recognise how
the whole approach of the system has been reframed. This reframing is more
than the move from operational to strategic thinking that the revised standard
embodies. ISO14001:2015 represents a complete values shift-away from the
limiting effects of conformity and control in favour of influence, innovation
and working together throughout the business and value chain. The revised
standard shifts the focus from looking inwards to aspects of the business that
are under the direct control of the organisation to looking outwards, beyond
the organisation to understand its wider context and those interested parties
(openly and broadly defined) that the business can influence. This means going
beyond the prescriptive to explore effective long-term thinking, working
together throughout the value chain to develop innovative solutions and new
ways of working. This is important because climate change is taking business
into the unknown and well beyond existing boundaries, where only creativity,
passion and innovation may lead to real change. This shift in values can be
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understood through the values framework of Shalom Schwartz. This chapter
argues that, using Schwartz’s value system as a lens, ISO14001:2015 is
fundamentally reframed from power and conformity to achievement and self-
direction. Furthermore, this chapter draws on empirical research to demon-
strate how managers drawing on these two different value-sets act on climate
change and how the reframing is likely to enable business to better meet the
challenges of climate change.
The UK-based Institute of Environmental Management and Assessment
(IEMA) is a worldwide alliance of environment and sustainability profes-
sionals. IEMA’s support to the development of the profession illustrates the
skills the environmental management profession view as important to tackle
future challenges. Outward facing and innovative skills are emphasised as
well as the need to lead change and build relationships. The shift in values
encourages managers to think big and outside of the box. It encourages a whole
new mindset and skillset within the sector and facilitates a whole new breed of
environmental practitioner who embodies the values inherent with the new
approach. No longer is the job description of an environmental manager pri-
marily about the ability to control and conform to a system. No longer is it
enough to give the role to whoever manages the Health and Safety standard
because they are good at measuring and monitoring a system. With the revised
standard, the focus shifts to the ability to lead and communicate with others. It
is now about having the skills to influence, to engage, to be innovative, to find
creative solutions by working with others, to really understand what the system
is trying to achieve and why, and how this links to what the business is about.
This not only enables business to deliver against environmental challenges but
creates exciting new opportunities for the environmental management sector,
with new skills, new people, new partnerships and new technical innovations
developing.
SCHWARTZ’S VALUE SYSTEM
The work of Shalom Schwartz is of interest to this chapter in two ways. Firstly,
Schwartz (see, e.g. Schwartz, 1996, 2012) identified 10 groups of human values
along with clear individual level marker values that help to define each value.
For example, the self-enhancing value of power can be recognised through the
need for wealth, social status/social power, control and authority. Secondly,
Schwartz developed a relational ‘Circumplex’ model (Schwartz and Boehnke,
2004) to demonstrate how the 10 different marker values conflict or comple-
ment each other across two axis concern for self versus concern for others;
openness-to-change versus the need for conservation.
In a study of 50 different nations, Ralston et al. (2011) demonstrated the
reliability, validity and generalisability of the Schwartz Value System (SVS) and
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in doing so positioned the SVS as a well-defined construct relating to motiva-
tional needs. It provides a useful way of mapping, identifying and understanding
the structure of individual human values regardless of culture. The Schwartz
Circumplex Model illustrates the argument that some values are closely related
and thus compatible, whereas other values stand in opposition to each other
(Schwartz, 1994;Schwartz and Bilsky, 2004). The value types are classified
according to two dimensions: self-enhancement versus self-transcendence and
conservation versus openness-to-change. The value system is represented as
the Schwartz Circumplex Model (Schwartz, 1996). Note that ‘the circular
arrangement of the values represents a motivational continuum. The closer any
two values in either direction around the circle, the more similar their underlying
motivations; the more distant, the more antagonistic their motivations
(Schwartz, 2012, p. 10).
METHODOLOGY
The research design takes a qualitative approach based on in-depth case studies
with 31 managers of different types of SMEs, in different industries and of vari-
ous degrees of environmental pro-activeness within the East of England during
2011 and 2012. Respondents were engaged to the study via a number of routes,
including promotion by third-party business support agencies along with the
main researcher’s own face-to-face and online networking. Respondents were
predominantly white males (60:40 male-to-female with 8% of other ethnic
origin), most frequently in the 4550 age group running a company with an
average of 35 employees.
The interviews were analysed using Narrative Analysis (see, e.g. Wiles et al.,
2005) where codes were used based on the SVS to explore what values could be
ascertained by managers’ talk. The interviews explored how managers made
sense of their environmental approach at work, including their reasons for act-
ing and the actions they took. Following this, the study continued by working
with an additional group of 20 managers belonging to the Bedfordshire Green
Business Network to explore how a qualitative approach to understanding
values could be used by them in their organisations to engage staff with envi-
ronmental issues.
During the initial interviews (see Williams et al., 2017 for detail), the individ-
ual level values and their associated individual level marker values were used to
code interview data. This method of attempting to access values via narrative is
very much in the tradition of Rokeach (1968) who, as the ‘father of modern
values’ (Ralston et al., 2011, p. 4), used narrative samples to check the consis-
tency of his values theory by counting references to ‘freedom’ and ‘equality’
(Rokeach, 1968, p. 171) and went on to give in-principle support for qualitative
methods as a way of ‘reliably identifying’ values (Rokeach, 1979, p. 58). In this
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study, in order to recognise both the explicit and ‘hidden meanings’, a decision
was made not to use an electronic coding, storage and retrieval tool, such as
Nvivo. This allowed for immersion in the data and growing awareness of the
subtle differences and nuances that can be lost using electronic systems (Wiles
et al., 2005).
FINDINGS
The empirical findings posit two key ideas. Firstly, that managers’ values could
be identified through their speech. In this, it was clear that there was a differ-
ence between how managers drawing on the self-enhancing value of power
differed from those who drew on the self-enhancing value of achievement. As
might be expected from Schwartz Circumplex Model, those managers drawing
on power also tended to draw on closed, conservation-based values and in
particular on conformity: Whereas managers drawing on achievement drew on
the complimentary openness-to-change and self-direction values (see Williams
et al., 2017, for a fuller discussion).
Secondly, and in supporting the argument of this chapter, it was clear that
there was a difference in the environmental approaches taken by the two groups
(power vs achievement). Managers drawing on power tended to focus on short-
term actions that demonstrated compliance (with legislation, customer needs or
system requirements), produced fairly immediate financial or reputational bene-
fits and did not require significant investment in time or finances. However,
managers drawing on achievement tended to take a longer term view and were
prepared to go beyond ‘quick wins’ to take a more holistic and creative
approach to environmental challenges at work.
The following sections will demonstrate the difference in how the two groups
discussed their environmental approach and the actions they undertook.
DRAWING ON POWER AND CONSERVATION VALUES
The 10 managers (nine male and one female) who drew on power values
referred to cost savings and improving competitiveness as motivations for busi-
ness greening. The language reflected the motivations framed within the idea of
win-win (e.g. Vickers et al., 2009) that encourages managers to save money and
save the planet (Table 1). In this regard, managers could be ‘very keen on how
we can drive down costs and get a quick bang for our buck’ (M21), but this
needed to be without financial investment. So where managers were aware of
potential actions, they were only carried out if they did not require investment
in terms of time or finance. For example, recycling ink cartridges was an idea
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that M21 was ‘quite happy to go along with because it’s not a big overhead’.
This was explained by M17, M21, M25 and M26 in terms of how, ‘It’s me and
my business. Everything I buy it’s my money and I regard it as my money’. As
money is ‘hard earned’ (M26), this meant that managers would ask of environ-
mental initiatives ‘how does it benefit me, what does it put on my bottom line?’
(M26). Being motivated by how other people saw them could be reflected in
wanting to be seen to be green in the eyes of customers in order to win more
business.
Alongside power values, the conformity value of ‘obedience, dutiful, meeting
obligations’ described actions that would meet external legal and customer
requirements. The prevalence of conformity may reflect how environmental
Table 1. Summary Showing How Managers Drew on Power and Conformity
Values as a Motivation for Business Greening.
Individual level Power
Marker Values
Competitiveness, Cost Savings and Compliance as a Motivation
for Environmental Actions
Social power ‘From a commercial point of view, we recognise there’s a
movement coming, that green will grow, and we need to be there
and be offering products that have value and fit with that model.
There’s no point in doing it unless you add commercial value;
you’re in it to make money at the end of the day’ (M23)
Public image ‘One of the incentives for this for me was actually to make
myself look good, so I don’t end up on the dole queue. We’ve
also been looking at is having a tree logo on our boxes so we
could actually go for looking to appear environmentally friendly
and start boasting about it[].’ (M26)
Authority, the right to lead and
command
‘The ground source heat pump project gave me the chance to
make decisions and be in the lead again. And I thought, well this
is great so I drew up the plans and I spoke to planning and
English Heritage and I decided that we needed a local
archaeologist and I did it all’ (M13)
Wealth, material possessions,
money
‘I tend to use both sides of a piece of paper not because I want to
save the planet but because everything costs money. If you went
at me with a green microscope, you could say I was ticking a few
boxes but I’m not ticking them for environmental reasons, I’m
ticking them for economic reasons’ (M17)
Conformity: obedience, dutiful,
meeting obligations
‘There needs to be a driver there for us to go in that direction, a
business driver or a legal driver. At the moment we’re working
on a bar coding system for our products because we know that is
going to have to be in place in four or five years, it will be a
requirement’ (M21)
‘If you deal with supermarkets now, you are audited on your
environmental credentials because they don’t want the Daily
Mail on their backs. So it’s not necessarily caring for the
environment or the world, whether they do or they don’t they
have to now’ (M23)
22 SARAH WILLIAMS
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issues have been subject to legislation and why compliance with legislation is
noted as an important motivation for greening (e.g. Gadenne et al., 2009;
Calogirou et al., 2010;Babiak and Trendafilova, 2011;Hofmann et al., 2012).
Of the managers who made reference to environmental legislation as a moti-
vation, there was some confusion as to what they needed to do, reflecting Petts
et al.’s (1998) idea of ‘vulnerable compliance’, where managers want to do the
right thing but do so rather by luck than judgement. For example, M16 sug-
gested they had an environmental policy because it was legally required, which
is not correct.
Managers motivated by conformity also described a need to meet external
supply chain requirements and references were also made to ‘being sold the
idea of getting some formal qualification’ (M19) in order to meet future supply
chain requirements. Here references were made to being told by organisations
such as the Chamber of Commerce that environmental accreditation to
ISO14001 would be important for their competitiveness but their experience
with other systems did not support this. For example, despite being ‘scare-
mongered’ into implementing the quality standard ISO9000, M23 had never
actually been asked to demonstrate it. He explained that accreditation to the
environmental standard ISO14001 would be a big, expensive project and the
only reason for doing so would be to tender for work in the public sector.
DRAWING ON ACHIEVEMENT AND
SELF-DIRECTION VALUES
The 21 (12 male and nine female) managers who drew on achievement values
were motivated to act on business greening rather differently to those motivated
by power. Rather than talking about cost savings and competiveness, they
described wanting to make a difference through influencing others, to improve
business controls through better efficiency, to reduce wastefulness and to
achieve goals through better controls. The shift from control to influence is an
important reframing in the ISO14001:2015 standard.
Managers motivated by achievement and self-direction thought beyond
short-term cost savings to think about reducing wastefulness, demonstrating
confidence in their business through being capable and working with their
supply chain to influence others and to show just what SMEs could do.
Commercial considerations were still part of their attention but managers
believed there was a balance between cost, efficiency and the environment and
that in the long term the environmentally efficient option would be the best
business option too. Wastefulness included reducing unnecessary costs but also
included reducing wastefulness in terms of time inefficiencies, process inefficien-
cies and resource inefficiencies. Managers also described working with their
supply chains to show what it was possible for SMEs to achieve and they were
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happy to use requests from customers for information as an opportunity to
demonstrate or improve robustness. They looked for creative solutions, invited
the opportunity to work with and learn from others and were continually curi-
ous about how they could do things better (Table 2).
SUMMARY AND CONCLUSION
Using the findings from the empirical research, it is shown how managers drawing
on power/conformity were motivated to green their business in different ways to
those drawing on achievement/self-direction, where the former focused on saving
money and being seen to be green to improve competitiveness; those managers
motivated by achievement/self-direction wanted to influence others by working
with customers and employees to engage them with continuous environmental
improvement. They needed to be capable and efficient and this could mean
improving efficiency throughout the business to go beyond quick financial savings
Table 2. Summary Showing How Managers Drew on Achievement and
Self-direction Values as a Motivation for Business Greening.
Individual Level Achievement
Marker Values
Making a Difference, Effectiveness and Creativity as a
Motivation for Environmental Actions
Influential, having an impact ‘We did all we could, we made conscious choices on everything
we did. I suppose we wanted to influence others through here
and so we tried to do what we could as a business to involve
ourselves in sustainable energy things’ (M19)
Successful, achieving goals ‘Starting off and saying we want 5% renewable content then
leads us into a future where we can have higher renewable
content. It’s good to achieve this in steps, it’s Kaizan, it’s
14001; continuous improvement in attainable steps’ (M1)
Capable, competent, effective,
efficient
‘We decided to go with Mercedes rather than Ford: they are a
lot more expensive but it wasn’t a cost, it was investment.
Being green isn’t expensive, it doesn’t have to cost more in the
long term. We always weigh up cost with efficiencies with
carbon footprint in order to come to the best solution’ (M9)
Self-direction values: creativity,
uniqueness, imagination
‘We’re into some very complicated projects, each of which
needs a unique solution, so the idea of change and innovation
is not new to us []. We see ourselves as very much on the
leading edge of that’ (M10)
Curious, interested in everything ‘We tried everywhere to get the hydrogen-fuel cells and
I became fascinated by the whole idea and learned a lot of new
things. In terms of the climate and global warming, I learned
that even doing small things you can achieve quite a difference,
it just needs a little bit of time, a bit of creativity and curiosity,
just to see what you can do, and, yes I think it changed me as a
person as well’ (M7)
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to think longer term about the impact of decisions. The implications of this are
twofold: Firstly, by reframing ISO14001:2015 from control (a power value) and
conformity to influence, openness and innovation, the standard is encouraging
values that take a longer term, more open and collaborative approach to environ-
mental engagement. The managers in our study show how that different mindset
can facilitate environmental actions at work that go beyond business as usual.
Secondly, the reframing of ISO14001:2015 challenges the profession to
develop new skills and values and, in effect, to reframe itself. The environmen-
tal manager of the future needs to be an inclusive and inspiring communicator
and leader; someone who can see big opportunities, understand and respond to
risk; bring interested parties from inside and outside the organisation together;
facilitate creative innovative solutions, and be prepared to invest in long-term
gains. Undoubtedly, there will still be those who are reluctant and look to
maintain a focus on the short-term quick wins but an overall movement
towards change might just be the most exciting and significant opportunity
business has had for helping society to tackle sustainability for the future.
NOTES
1. Increase in business certification to ISO14001 has risen from 150,000 businesses in
2007 to over 320,000 in 2014. ISO 2014 Survey (at www.iso.org/iso-survey).
2. The 2014 ISO survey finds 1,138,155 businesses certified to ISO9001, the quality
management system (compared with 320,000 for ISO14001).
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26 SARAH WILLIAMS
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... In 2015, the standard was revised to fit the common high-level structure of ISO standards, apply a risk-based approach, and set new requirements to the context of the organization as well as top management commitment and support (ISO, 2015). Williams (2018) argue that this change is not only a shift from operational to strategic thinking, but more so a shift towards the 'creative, open values of influence, innovation and working together'. ISO14001 is one of the most widely used voluntary approaches to EMS and in 2017, more than 360.000 organizations were certified (ISO, 2018), however, in 2018, this number decreased to 307.058, mainly due to changes in the way certification bodies reported and lack of participation in the ISO survey by some important certification bodies (ISO, 2019). ...
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