Environmental management systems and sustainable development

McDonach, K. and Yaneske, P.P. (2002) Environmental management systems and sustainable development. Environmentalist, 22 (3). pp. 217-226. (http://dx.doi.org/10.1023/A:1016523611067)

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The idea of sustainable development was first brought to widespread attention as a global issue; however, it is increasingly being applied at more local levels down to that of individual companies. This raises the potential danger that sustainable development will come to be predominantly identified with the preservation of the organisation involved. A likely outcome is that management decision-making will tip the balance too far in favour of people-centred interests as against environmental interests. An initial step in preventing this is to make any bias in the balance of interests transparent to management. To do this, a model of sustainability is set up in terms that provide a context for the implementation of a quality based environmental management system such as that specified by the International Standard, ISO 14001. In response to inherent uncertainty, a precautionary approach is adopted. The implications of this model for the structuring of critical environmental management system elements are then discussed and a way to generate an indicator of bias proposed. The content of an audit, which would measure the extent to which an organisation has a management system competent to measure and monitor this bias, is also discussed and proposed as another useful indicator.