Really Changing the Course

The Limitations of Environmental Management Systems for Innovation

Totti Könnölä (Corresponding Author), Gregory Unruh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

51 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

The paper broadens the scope of environmental management system (EMS) research by describing how EMSs can contribute to inertia in present production systems. In conjunction with other factors this inertia can inhibit dramatic shifts toward more sustainable technologies and systems. Our approach builds upon technological lockin theory, which focuses on market coordination and technological interdependencies as generators of inertia in technological systems. Building on this framework, we call attention to previously under appreciated non-market social forces and institutional structures that can further reinforce lock-in. We argue that the co-evolutionary mechanisms that generate increasing returns for physical technologies may also be applied to social technologies, such as management systems. The paper describes the emergence of 'EMS lock-in' as a path dependent evolution occurring within the context of the larger quality management paradigm. While EMS may initially produce improvements in environmental performance, EMS may also constrain organizational focus to the exploitation of present production systems, rather than exploring for superior innovations that are discontinuous. The paper questions the enthusiastic private and public sector support for EMS implementation and instead recommends an ambidextrous management approach that integrates foresight and broader stakeholder collaboration.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)525-537
JournalBusiness Strategy and the Environment
Volume16
Issue number8
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2007
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed

Fingerprint

environmental management
innovation
inertia
production system
public sector
private sector
stakeholder
social technology
Innovation
Environmental management system
present
quality management
systems research
market
management
exploitation
Lock-in
Inertia
paradigm

Keywords

  • environmental management systems
  • increasing returns
  • innovation studies
  • path dependency
  • social technologies
  • technological lock-in
  • foresight

Cite this

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abstract = "The paper broadens the scope of environmental management system (EMS) research by describing how EMSs can contribute to inertia in present production systems. In conjunction with other factors this inertia can inhibit dramatic shifts toward more sustainable technologies and systems. Our approach builds upon technological lockin theory, which focuses on market coordination and technological interdependencies as generators of inertia in technological systems. Building on this framework, we call attention to previously under appreciated non-market social forces and institutional structures that can further reinforce lock-in. We argue that the co-evolutionary mechanisms that generate increasing returns for physical technologies may also be applied to social technologies, such as management systems. The paper describes the emergence of 'EMS lock-in' as a path dependent evolution occurring within the context of the larger quality management paradigm. While EMS may initially produce improvements in environmental performance, EMS may also constrain organizational focus to the exploitation of present production systems, rather than exploring for superior innovations that are discontinuous. The paper questions the enthusiastic private and public sector support for EMS implementation and instead recommends an ambidextrous management approach that integrates foresight and broader stakeholder collaboration.",
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Really Changing the Course : The Limitations of Environmental Management Systems for Innovation. / Könnölä, Totti (Corresponding Author); Unruh, Gregory.

In: Business Strategy and the Environment, Vol. 16, No. 8, 2007, p. 525-537.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

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AB - The paper broadens the scope of environmental management system (EMS) research by describing how EMSs can contribute to inertia in present production systems. In conjunction with other factors this inertia can inhibit dramatic shifts toward more sustainable technologies and systems. Our approach builds upon technological lockin theory, which focuses on market coordination and technological interdependencies as generators of inertia in technological systems. Building on this framework, we call attention to previously under appreciated non-market social forces and institutional structures that can further reinforce lock-in. We argue that the co-evolutionary mechanisms that generate increasing returns for physical technologies may also be applied to social technologies, such as management systems. The paper describes the emergence of 'EMS lock-in' as a path dependent evolution occurring within the context of the larger quality management paradigm. While EMS may initially produce improvements in environmental performance, EMS may also constrain organizational focus to the exploitation of present production systems, rather than exploring for superior innovations that are discontinuous. The paper questions the enthusiastic private and public sector support for EMS implementation and instead recommends an ambidextrous management approach that integrates foresight and broader stakeholder collaboration.

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