The Role of Environmental Management Systems in Hungary - Theoretical and Empirical Insights*

Article excerpt

Environmental and social aspects, Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and Environmental Management Systems (EMS) play an increasingly important role in Western societies. Their role in the Hungarian business sphere has been growing continuously since the removal of the Socialist regime at the end of the 1980s. CSR and EMS are strengthened by two main factors: Hungary's EU accession and the German-oriented Hungarian economy. Recognizing this process, the aim of this paper is to give an insight to the reader regarding the present state of environmentally-conscious company management in Hungary, taking a strategic approach, on the basis of empirical research carried out at the end of 2004.

Umweltbezogene und soziale Aspekte, Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) und Environmental Management Systems (EMS) spielen eine zunehmend wichtige Rolle in den westlichen Gesellschaften. Ihre Rolle in der ungarischen Wirtschaft hat ebenfalls seit dem Ende des sozialistischen Systems Ende der 1980er Jahre kontinuierlich zugenommen. Dieser Prozess wird durch zwei wesentlichen Faktoren bestärkt: Ungarns EU-Beitritt und die Deutschland-orientierte ungarische Wirtschaft. Vor diesem Hintergrund versucht dieser Beitrag, dem Leser auf Basis einer empirischen Untersuchung von Ende 2004 einen Überblick über den derzeitigen Stand des umweltorientierten Managements in Ungarn aus strategischer Sicht zu geben.

Key words: environmentally conscious corporate management, EMS, strategy, competitiveness

1. Introduction

Environmental management is gaining greater importance as opposed to classical environmental protection. One of the major reasons for this is that customers, business partners, and environmental jurisdiction seem to place a growing environmental pressure on companies. In Hungary, this process is strengthened by two main factors: recent EU accession and the German-oriented Hungarian economy.

Although academic researchers still disagree whether green consumerism1 is gaining relevance, industry seems to think so. After analyzing the results of a wide range of empirical research carried out about corporate motivations regarding environmental investments, regulations and consumer pressure were found to be the most important drivers for such investments (Hall 2001). A recent study from Norway found that consumer demand plays the most important role, while until the mid-1990s, government regulation put the most external pressure on company environmental performance (Doonan et al. 2005). Other empirical research also supports the emergence of "green consumers" (Gerbens-Leenes et al. 2003; Kumar/Malegeant 2005). Reports from the World Business Council on Sustainable Development (WBCSD) give evidence for the view that business success cannot be separated from sustainability efforts; they are becoming increasingly common in international business life (WBCSD 1996a-d, 1997a, 1998a-b, 2000a-b, 2002a-b, 2003a, 2004a, 2005a-e, 2006a-c).

Banks and insurance companies are increasingly developing serious environmental expectations towards firms. Also, the environmental sensitivity of the public and the media has increased. If companies do not want to lose market share, they need to take these facts into consideration.

A variety of developments can be seen in industry regarding environmental protection and measures. There are several industries, such as the chemical industry, where environmental measures mean a definitive competitive advantage. The expense of classical environmental protection technologies (e.g. equipment for reducing end-of-pipe emissions) have grown significantly during the last years. Environmental actions or certificates often mean an advantage in the competition for development support. The motivation of employees has also changed, i.e. more and more workers feel increasingly responsible towards the environment. Together with other factors, the "polluter pays" principle also forces companies to think about measures ranging from consumption reduction to end-of-pipe solutions. …