A Critical Review of Environmental Management System as a Tool for Sustainability

Publication: Research - peer-reviewBook chapter – Annual report year: 2012

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Purpose: The aim of the article is to make a critical review of the environmental management system as a tool for sustainability in local authorities. Background: As a point of departure sustainability is outlined as an ambivalent term that has been interpreted in a number of ways, which is important as the understanding informs the choice of societal response to the ecological crisis. Approach (Theory/Methodology): Action research has been used as the primary methodological approach for the empirical work and the empirical material has been analysed with respect to reflections on environmental management and the notion of sustainability. Results: The main conclusion is that the environmental management system does not support an understanding of sustainability beyond a highly instrumental focus on specific environmental issues, nor does it support the everyday practice for sustainability in a local authority FM-context. As a branding tool it might have some potential but there is a risk that the tool legitimizes non-sustainable practices as sustainable, which can lead to frustrations and resignation among employees willing to actually make a difference. Practical Implications: Facilities managers in local authorities must be aware that when using management technologies as e.g. the environmental management system other means than the system are needed if they aim for sustainability in a broader sense. The instrumental rationality on which the systems are based can lead to alienation and restrict innovative thinking in relation to solutions that could potentially contribute to a sustainable society, as it is very difficult for employees to think beyond the system in their everyday work life. One possible alternative arena for innovation towards sustainability is workshops designed and facilitated in a way that allows for a life world perspective to emerge.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationFacilities management research in the Nordic countries : Past, present and future
Number of pages351
Place of publicationKgs. Lyngby
PublisherPolyteknisk Boghandel og Forlag
Publication date2012
Pages133-143
ISBN (print)978-87-50210337
StatePublished

Keywords

  • action research, sustainability, Environmental management, local authority
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