Academic journal article Electronic Green Journal

ISO 14000 Standards: An Environmental Solution or a Marketing Opportunity?

Academic journal article Electronic Green Journal

ISO 14000 Standards: An Environmental Solution or a Marketing Opportunity?

Article excerpt

The key to marketing is customer satisfaction. There is an apparent demand for green products, but these products are not without problems such as high price structure, inaccurate product claims, and so forth. This paper proposes a conceptual model suggesting that ISO 14000 series is market driven and can prompt customer satisfaction. ISO 14000 series has its impediments and although it may somewhat influence product characteristics and the firms' image, if invested discerningly, they will garner dividends in the long run. In general, firms are not fully aware of the potential benefits of these standards and consumers have no knowledge or way of understanding that a product or firm has been ISO 14000 certified. The existence of these standards needs to be more functionally understood to allow positioning strategies aimed to influence the evolving consumer's mind set.

Introduction

In the last 15 to 20 years sustainable development of the environment has become the pivotal political and social issue. Various authors have interpreted the terms sustainable and sustainability. Although some have defined their scope, dimensions, and measurability, these aspects remain debatable (Bebbington & Gray, 2001; Lele, 1991). What is sustainability? Although sustainability is defined in a variety of ways, one common definition is as follows: "Sustainability is more than a scientific concept, sustainability is a focus for a new value debate about the shape of the future. It is a signpost pointing to a general direction we must take, while the debate is engaged about the best path to lead us forward" (Dunphy, et al., 2000, p. 5).

Conversely, there also appears to be a need for explicit consideration and incorporation of sustainability of the environment within corporate strategy. Morrison (2003) indicates that with corporations sustainability involves "an integration of social, environmental, and economic accountability for the purpose of forging a new framework within which leaders make decisions and assume the accompanying responsibilities" (p. 124). While there is no standard definition of corporate sustainability, some authors have made attempts to vaguely define it as "demonstrating the inclusion of social and environmental concerns in business operations and in interactions with stakeholders" (van Marrewijk & Were, 2003, p 107). In other words, today's corporations have to create a new vision of environmental sustainability. They can achieve this by becoming more socially responsible. To assist organizations to achieve this concept of sustainability, institutions have proposed environmental standards and systems.

There has been a range of systems developed to provide management with a body of non-mandatory instruction to satisfy environmental demands from stakeholders such as employees, shareholders, consumers, and the general public. The development of the initial standard was in United Kingdom (BS 7750); this was also compatible with the European Union, Eco-Management and Audit Scheme (EMAS). The two systems contributed to the making of the Geneva based International Standards Organisation (ISO) 14000 series. The International Organization for Standardization was formed in 1946 and is headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland. Its purpose is to facilitate standardization as a means of promoting international trade. It disseminated a series of standards called ISO 14000 that are intended to help businesses around the world voluntarily manage their environmental responsibilities and ensure that policies, procedures, and practices conform to company environmental targets and objectives. The foundation of ISO 14000 standards is its objective to help a company manage, measure, and improve its environmental operations through efficiently complying with mandatory environmental regulations.

ISO 14000 standards can be best described as serving the basic elements of an effective Environmental Management System (EMS); for instance, in creating an environmental policy, setting objectives and targets, implementing a program to achieve those objectives, monitoring and measuring its effectiveness, correcting problems, and reviewing the system to improve overall environmental efficiency. …

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