Keywords: environmental management systems, extended producer responsibility, supply chain management, product stewardship, globalisation, corporate social responsibility, fair trade
Beyond systems: a vision for corporate environmental management for the future
The paper sets out how corporate environmental management techniques have become dominated by environmental management systems and the concept of eco-efficiency and how this leads to some rather restrictive outcomes. In a world of globalisation, with an emphasis on free trade, there are many new environmental challenges that need to be addressed. Not least, it is argued that globalisation leads to an increase in the "weightlessness" of corporations as companies externalise more of their production activities. Since systems are essentially an internal management tool, this externalisation means that they cannot manage many of the environmental impacts of the modern corporation. In order to survive in the globalised environment and achieve business performance consistent with sustainable development, it is argued that a new emphasis must be placed on environmental supply chain management and extended producer responsibility running in parallel with new initiatives on social responsibility and fairer trading relationships. In effect, the paper calls for a switch in emphasis away from systems and towards product stewardship along the whole supply chain. This should form the basis of a new competitive advantage through a new emphasis on differentiation of products and company image.