Using ISO 14001 certification to signal sustainability equivalence : an examination of the critical success factors

Ojiako, Udechukwu and Bashir, Hamdi and Almansoori, Houria Hassan Buhindi and AlRaeesi, Eman Jasim Hussain and Al Zarooni, Hassan Ahmed (2024) Using ISO 14001 certification to signal sustainability equivalence : an examination of the critical success factors. Production Planning and Control. pp. 1-28. ISSN 0953-7287 (

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Organisations employ third-party certification for various purposes including to signal commitment to sustainability compliance and equivalence with stakeholders. However, while successful certification implementation requires a focus on its ‘Critical success factors’ (CSFs), its proliferation in the literature impedes its usefulness. To, therefore, gain insights into how individual CSFs can be employed to signal relevant compliance and equivalence, we conduct an in-depth case study with a public sector organisation based in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). We employ a three-staged study consisting of (i) literature-based CSF identification, (ii) interpretive structural modelling (ISM) relationship modelling/visualisation, and (iii) fuzzy Cross-impact matrix multiplication analysis (MICMAC)/Social network analysis (SNA) metric relationship analysis. Five key CSFs (‘Top management commitment and support’, ‘Environmental policies and objectives’, ‘Government policies and Environmental legislation’, ‘Employee involvement’, and ‘Teamwork’) are identified as requiring maximum priority for successful ISO 14001 certification in public sector organisations. Building on the findings, the originality of the paper is twofold. First, we explore the phenomenon of the public sector subjecting itself to certification undertaken by private sector institutions. While this phenomenon is not very unusual, its exploration in an operations context is largely unknown. Second, we explore and explain to what extent information exchange emanating from the intricate and iterative interrelationship between the various CSFs driving successful third-party certification can be employed to signal sustainability compliance and stakeholder equivalence in public sector organisations.