Academic journal article Public Administration Quarterly

Seizing Global Opportunities for Accomplishing Agencies' Missions: The Case of ISO 14000

Academic journal article Public Administration Quarterly

Seizing Global Opportunities for Accomplishing Agencies' Missions: The Case of ISO 14000

Article excerpt


The development of the international environmental management standards (ISO 14000 series) offers a unique challenge for public managers to promote self-regulation worldwide to improve environmental performance of private and public entities. For policy-makers at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the ISO 14000 series could help save enforcement costs, ensure continual improvement of environmental performance, and generate new regulatory reform ideas. In general, the extent to which these benefits could be materialized depends largely on how EPA goes about adopting a holistic approach to protecting the environment. Some specific measures for capitalizing on these benefits include the establishment of a link between ISO 14000 certification and environmental performance, development of guidelines for possible regulatory relief, and preferable procurement policy.


Public administrators are constantly facing new challenges from our rapidly changing international environment and evolving domestic concerns. The increasing integration of financial markets, the rise in global trade, and increasingly prominent transboundary environmental problems all demand that policy-makers take global trends into account when designing and implementing domestic policies. Failure to do so may result in the development and promulgation of ineffective policies.

The changing expectations of citizens and changing economic realities have given rise to new public management movements. Citizens demand quality public services but hesitate to grant more financial resources to their governments. Competition among governments and businesses to attract increasingly free-flowing capital in an ever more global economy to strive to find ever more effective and innovative policy instruments to accomplish their agencies' missions. To be effective, any framework for designing these policy instruments needs to include a careful examination of both the incentives and the constraints that are posed by changing realities on both international and domestic levels.

In the area of economic and fiscal policy, there are some new studies that offer policy prescriptions for governments to be able to work more efficiently in these new environments. However, with respect to regulatory policies, few studies have explored the potential that exists for public administrators to utilize the vast opportunities made available through the increasing globalization of economies.

The primary purpose of this study is to examine self-regulation as one mechanism through which to capitalize on these opportunities. The recent development and implementation of the international environmental management standards, ISO 14000, constitute an especially interesting case of self-regulation. The ISO 14000 standards grew out of the increasingly globalized economy and their continuing growth depends upon the same momentum of globalization. The adoption of such voluntary standards by organizations is believed to lead to their improved environmental performance.

Since the certification of adherence to these standards is primarily a private matter, it does not impose financial burdens on public agencies. Public managers, with carefully designed incentives, could encourage adoption of the ISO 14000 standards that help to protect the environment. This analysis focuses on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in an effort to see how the agency could utilize the self-governance scheme of the ISO 14000 standards to achieve some of its goals.

This article begins with a description of recent changes on both global and domestic levels. In particular, it focuses on the dimensions that public administrators need in considering to make informed policy decisions. Against this backdrop, the relationships between self-regulation and the achievement of agencies' missions will be discussed. The following section deals specifically with international environmental management standards and begins by introducing the features of the ISO 14000 standards and describing the EPA's mission. …

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