The promises and pitfalls of ISO 14001 for competitiveness and sustainability: a comparison of Japan and the United States

Lead author: Eric Welch       Year: 2003      

Publication Abstract

This paper investigates the theoretical and empirical reasons why Japan leads the world in adoption of ISO 14001, while the US lags, and the comparative effect of ISO 14001 on environmental performance of adopters in both countries. Findings suggest that institutional barriers to adoption are much higher in the adversarial policy climate of the US than in the more reciprocal policy climate of Japan. Expected benefits of adoption are lower than the reported realisation, and this finding is significant for some categories such as competitive market advantage and relationships with regulators. Findings regarding the effect of ISO on environmental performance are mixed, but generally point to a relatively limited effect. We conclude that, even if ISO 14001 has a moderate effect on firm environmental action, the structural barriers in the US generally limit the viability of these types of voluntary policy.


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  • Publication type:

    • Journal article
  • Other authors:

    • Eric Welch
    • Ashish Rana
    • Yasuhumi Mori
  • Countries:

    • United States
    • Japan