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Business Stratem and the Environment, Vol. 4, 86-94 (1995)
ENVIRONMENTAL AUDITING:
MANAGEMENT STRATEGY
I
cc
S.J. Carter, D.F. Ball, P.J. Baron and D. Elliott, Leicester Business School, Leicester, UK
A project was carried out to identify the
external influences that affect participation
in environmental audit programmes and
the internal factors which may stimulate
or modify reaction to these influences. The
companies selected for the study were all
in manufacturing or supply and with a
potential to pollute the environment. The
study was progressed by a questionnaire
to the person responsible for environmental matters in 100 companies. There
was a response rate of 48%.The questionnaire sought information on the company,
the beliefs and experiences of the respondents, factors that had influenced the company and how the company had reacted to
these. The responses to the questionnaire
were analysed to try to determine areas
where changes might profitably be made
to the environmental management framework. Potential areas for change include a
recommendation to establish environmental auditing as a fixed requirement to
a fixed standard (BS 7750), with the company’s policy and objectives being agreed
with Her Majesty’s Inspectors of Pollution
on a regular basis and audited to achieve
British Standard certification. The concept
of the environmental crisis portfolio is
introduced.
CCC 0964-4733/95/020086-09
0 1995 by John Wiley & Sons, Ltd and ERP Environment.
INTRODUCTION
T
he work reported here set out to determine
the attitudes of organizations to environmental auditing, the influences on them, the
potential benefits or disadvantages of environmental auditing and the factors affecting success
in converting the audit into appropriate action. In
discussing the results, this study draws on the crisis
management literature to highlight key elements. It
seeks to identify those influences which may be
successful in encouraging effective environmental
improvement programmes which will result in
benefits to the companies and the environment.
The study was carried out against a background of
increasing environmental awareness deriving in no
small measure from new and/or anticipated
legislation.
ENVIRONMENTAL AUDITS
Environmental audit is a generic term covering a
variety of management practices. It is a systematic,
documented, periodic and objective evaluation of
how well the environment, organization, management and equipment are performing. As Polonsky
and Zeffane (1992) have observed, the audit helps to
safeguard the environment by facilitating the
management control of environmental practices
and assessing compliance with company policies
and regulation. A typical audit comprises a site
visit, questionnaire, interviews and documentation
review and covers corporate environmental policy,
systems analysis, procedures and practice and
performance evaluation. However, the term ’environmental audit’ has been used as a generic term for
many ’assessments’ that would better be described
as ’environmental reviews’ (Hunt and Johnson,
1993).
BUSINESS STRATEGY AND THE ENVIRONMENT
S.J. CARTER ETAL.
CRISIS MANAGEMENT THE ROLE OF
THE AUDIT
Within the crisis management field, the most
commonly used frameworks identdy a minimum of
three phases of crisis (see, for example, Turner, 1976;
Smith, 1991; Shrivastava, 1992; Mitroff, 1994). These
include a pre-incident phase, the focal incident and a
post-incident phase of recovery and turnaround. A
basic model of crisis may be drawn as a circle linking
the three phases together (Figure 1).
Environmentalism, the broad process of environmental management, involves an assessment of risks
to the environment from business activities that may
range from inherentdefects in products to manufacturing processes. The environmental audit plays
only one part, albeit an important one, in the process
of environmentalism. Applying the basic model of
crisis management to this, the most appropriate use
of the audit is in the pre-incident phase, where the
potential risks are identified by the prudent organization. The precise form of the audit will be shaped
by a combination of external (eg. customer and legal
pressures) and internal ( e g cultural, structural,
resources) factors. These same factors, it has been
argued (see, for example, Slatter, 1984; Thain and
Goldthorpe, 1989; Shrivastava, 1992; Smith and
Sipika 1993; Mitroff, 1994), are the key in determining both the propensity of an organization to crisis
and its ability to cope in its aftermath.
NORMAL ACCIDENTS: A SYSTEMS
APPROACH
The study of organizations and their processes as
Figure 1. Circle of crises. Adapted from Smith (1991)
systems has been influenced by Perrow’s notion of
‘normal accidents’. Perrow (1984) argued that all
systems have the potential for unexpected interactions of small failures that lead to accidents. Given
this universal potential, Perrow argues that such
accidents should be seen as ’normal’. At the most
basic level, inattention to crisis management will
make an environmental ‘accident’ more likely to
occur. Despite the inevitability of ‘some’ accidents,
Perrow argues that taking a system’s approach
makes organizational systems more reliable - that
is, by focusing on all system characteristics, internal
and external (i.e. those identified above), the
probability of or effect of an accident may be
reduced.
Environmental audits should therefore be seen as
a review of a complex system, of products,
processes and cultures. The predominance of the
limited environmental review, discussed by Hunt
and Johnson (1993), suggests that full systems
reviews are few. The limited review often focuses
on those elements of a system that are perceived to
be the most important because of the activities of a
particular influential or vocal stakeholder group.
For example, a firm preparing for a stock flotation
will ’review’ those areas where investors are
sensitive regarding potential liabilities. Given the
complex and multiple causes of most crises, a
systems approach to environmental management
will help avoid such a focus and the subsequent
technical fix. Indeed, at times of crisis such an
approach is necessary because, unless there is an
understanding of the broader system, actions
intended to prevent or respond to one crisis can
set off another (Perrow, 1984; Mitroff, 1994).
This is exemplified by the case of the UK football
industry, where when faced with increased costs,
falling revenues and hooliganism (initial crisis),
stadia development focused on crowd control to the
virtual exclusion of crowd safety and comfort. A
complacent culture, low opinion of football supporters and flawed technical assumptions led to
’techno’ solutions such as the caging of spectators
inside football stadia. The poorly thought through
solution to one problem, taken in isolation from
other considerations, led to the 1989 Hillsborough
tragedy in which 96 people died. The main
conclusion of this analysis is that at best a nonsystems approach will lead to the partial consideration of key issues; at worst, such an approach will
make things worse. Indeed, the range of crises that
struck football clubs in the 1970s and 1980s should
be seen as manifestations of a wider crisis of
management within the industry (Elliott and
Smith, 1993). This crisis of management is largely,
if not exclusively, dependent on internal weaknesses.
BUSINESS STRATEGY AND THE ENVIRONMENT
87
ENVIRONMENTAL AUDITING
CRISIS AND ENVIRONMENTAL
MANAGEMENT
Mitroff et al. (1989) have argued that organizations
lie on a continuum from crisis-prone to crisisprepared. The core beliefs and assumptions that are
held about their operating environment will
determine their interpretation of signals from it
and, ultimately, organizational behaviour. The
crisis-prone organization, fatalistically, perceives
crises as random or unlucky events. Such a belief
will express itself in the denial of threats (failing to
respond to disturbing stimuli from its environment)
or in it taking a simple, short-term view of its
activities. An obvious example, from the past,
concerns the Titanic. The belief that it could not
sink shaped preparations for accidents (too few
lifeboats) and the crisis response (refusal of ships
observing the Titanic’s flares to countenance that it
might be in distress). This characterizes many such
examples up to the present. The nature of the crisisprone organization is such that although it may not
cause them, it will tend to exacerbate the effects of
crises it encounters. Returning to the Titanic,
although not responsible for the presence of the
iceberg, its sense of invulnerability encouraged it to
ignore warnings.
The crisis-prepared organization does not share
this fatalism. It will anticipate and seek to minimize
the effects of crises. For example, the prepared
organization may seek a full ’crisis portfolio’
assessment. This is a method of controlling risk by
anticipating the range of potential crises and then
spreading corporate preparations across the portfolio or families of possible crises (Mitroff et al.,
1987). Preparedness, however, is not only reflected
in the range of crises prepared for, but in the
preparations themselves: ’prepared groups do not
focus only on technical quick fixes for Crisis
Management but they also believe in adopting
both technical and behavioural actions to prepare
for and manage their way through crises.’(Mitroff et
al., 1989: 276). Alternatively, the crisis-prone
organization will prepare for a limited number of
crises, if any at all.
Core organizational beliefs, or culture, will exert
a great influence over the range and extent of crisis
preparation. The earlier distinction between ’environmental review and audit’ reflects this point. The
brief or limited environmental review, especially
where it is viewed as an end in itself, indicates that
an organization is not properly prepared for the full
range of crisis. Where business units have the belief
that ’being environmentally friendly’ will damage
competitiveness (Stikker, 1992) activities are unlikely to go beyond reviews to ensure compliance
with enforced regulation. As Groenewegen and den
88
Hond (1993: 10) have observed, these ’crisis-prone’
organizations will have pursued a resisting strategy
towards environmental change until it is imposed
through legislation. Once regulations apply, there is
a switch to accepting change because a ‘resisting
strategy is not very rewarding once legislation has
been introduced.
Such companies display what Pauchant and
Mitroff (1988) described as an ’unhealthy narcissism’, where wider stakeholder interests are
ignored and short-term objectives are pursued.
Organizational policies and efforts focus primarily
on regulatory compliance and incident prevention
in a ‘do as little as possible’ strategy (Stikker, 1992).
Conversely, auditing for the crisis-prepared
organization will represent a first step. The audit
will help the organization to develop what is called
an environmental crisis portfolio (ECP). The crisisprepared organization will look to assess its
corporate portfolio of products, businesses and
processes in the light of environmental demands.
The purpose of the ECP is to identify processes and
products that are hazardous and/or polluting. For
the company, the preparation of an ECP will help to
ensure the identification of potential environmental
crisis areas and provide a framework for considering strategic alternatives (see Bhat, 1992; Shrivastava, 1992). The ECP assists in preparing a full
systems view and helps remedy the fact that
piecemeal solutions to complex system’s problems
rarely work. Instead, the stop-gap measure may
create greater complexity and unexpected linkages
between the elements of the organizational system.
Environmental audits, consequently, represent
either a real or an illusory preparedness for dealing
with the effects of business operations on the
environment. Failure to carry out an environmental audit may be seen as a proxy measure of crisisproneness. However, conducting an environmental
audit is no guarantee of preparedness.
The study reported here is concerned with
examining the attitudes of and influences on
organizations and the use of environmental
audits. In particular, the relationship between selfreported preparedness and the behavioural evidence that supports this is assessed. Finally, those
factors, largely cultural, which affect the success of
translating the policy process from audit to
appropriate action are examined.
RESEARCH METHODS
The research was progressed by postal questionnaire. This choice was influenced by the need for
confidentiality and the geographical spread of the
potential respondents. The questionnaire was
BUSINESS STRATEGY AND THE ENVIRONMENT
S.J.CARTER ETAL.
accompanied by a letter that introduced the
research and its aims. It also gave information on
how the results would be utilized, who would
process the data and on guaranteeing confidentiality. A pilot study was undertaken with respondents not included in the final analysis. Feedback
from this small pilot study resulted in some
modification to the questionnaire to ensure a
higher and more accurate response.
The objective was to analyse a minimum of 25-30
questionnaires and on this basis a target sample of
100 was selected. To accommodate a spread of
industries and extremes of ’crisis-preparedness’ a
sample was selected which was indicative of the
range rather than representative of the whole. Ten
companies were selected from attendance lists at
environmental conferences and, to achieve some
sort of balance, 10 companies were selected from
published lists of companies persistently exceeding
prescribed emission limits. The next 40 companies
were selected randomly from UK trade directories,
but paired to include two companies in each of the
same categories (i.e. industry type as the first 20).
The remaining 40 companies were selected randomly from Midlands area directories in pairs for
any industries which could be included in the
population. The questionnaire was sent to the
environmental/ safety officers as they were
engaged within the functional area at which the
survey was aimed.
ANALYSIS
Respondents
Forty-eight completed questionnaires were
returned, but it is not possible to assign these to
constituencies because anonymous responses were
allowed. The responsibilities of respondents are
shown in Figure 2. Of the respondents, 73%claimed
responsibility for health and safety and 58%of these
were also responsible for environmental matters.
Figure 2. Respondents’ job titles
Table 1. Responsibility of respondents
Area of responsibility
Number
Mean crisis
rating
Health and safety only
Environmental only
Both only
Both and other
Other only
Health and safety or
environmental
with other
Total population
5
5
11
9
5
8.2
8.2
7.0
7.2
8.4
12
8.3
7.8
47
Ten per cent of respondents claimed not to be
responsible for either, and as they had returned the
questionnaire without passing it on within their
organization, it suggests that in that company no
person was allocated direct responsibility.
Preparation for crisis
Respondents were asked to indicate what they
believed to be their organization’s state of preparation for a crisis. This was on a 10 point scale, with 1
equalling crisis-prone and 10 equalling crisisprepared. The results are shown in Table 1.
This shows an overall reported preparedness of
7.8. This suggests that respondents perceived
themselves to be well prepared for crises. A
tendency for those who had a dual responsibility
for both health and safety and the environment to
have lower scores was noted. Separation of the
sample into two groups shows those with both
responsibilities and those with only one (regardless
of whether or not they had other functional
responsibilities) to have significantly different
scores of 7.1 and 8.3, respectively (p = 0.01). Those
with such a responsibility may be in a better
position to judge the preparedness of their organization or, alternatively, be aware of a wider range of
potential mishaps. The mean reported preparedness score was also analysed as a function of
company size as measured by total employees.
This showed that there was no significant relationship between these two variables.
Analysis by industrial sector is shown in Table 2.
The highest mean crisis ratings were reported by
the pharmaceutical and food and drink sectors. This
self-perception of a high level of crisis-preparedness may measure the extent of these sectors’
response to a variety of crises of recent years (for
example, Tylenol poisonings, BSE scare, Perrier and
the tampering with Heinz baby food). The only
utility company in the sample had a high mean
crisis rating (9.0), perhaps reflecting its relatively
high resource level and the fact that it was in the
BUSINESS STRATEGY AND T H E ENVIRONMENT
89
ENVIRONMENTAL AUDITING
Table 2. Industrial sector of respondents
~
Industrial sector
No. of
respondents
Mean crisis
rating
Chemicals and
petrochemicals
Manufacturing
Pharmaceutical
Food and drink
Utilities
Engineering
Public sector
Other
14
16
1
5
1
6
0
5
7.85
7.00
9.50
9.20
9.00
7.50
0.00
8.60
public focus. The reported high scores for chemicals
and petrochemicals may derive from their activities
and the need to manage high levels of risk.
Engineering and manufacturing with lower scores
have only in recent times been exposed to rigorous
environmental and health and safety legislation
and, as such, have limited resource and experience
in such programmes.
The experiences of researchers in this field
suggest that, despite these high levels of perceived
preparedness, organizations may have prepared for
specific types of crisis only. For example, the food
industry has experienced a number of product
harm type crises and its high perceived state of
preparedness may reflect preparations for a only
narrow range of potential crisis. This may increase
proneness to other crisis types as the formation of
carefully tailored plans lulls the organization into a
false sense of security. Crisis portfolios identify the
full range of crises. Managers in the chemical
industry will be well aware of the need to prepare
for fires and toxic leaks; however, they have greater
difficulties in planning for human error, erratic
communications or even flawed organizational
culture.
However, these responses indicated that the
respondents considered themselves well prepared
for crises. Given this high level of preparedness, it
was expected that respondents would demonstrate
a high level of commitment through the use of
audits and the development of environmental
policies. This was not so. There was no significant
relationship between reported levels of preparedness and the use of an environmental audit.
Attitude to environmental initiatives
There are many initiatives planned or currently
under discussion and the respondents were asked
their views on such initiatives. The attitudes of
respondents to such initiatives are shown in Table 3.
Noteworthy is the rejection of the common burden
principle, which is levied equally on polluter and
non-polluter; as such it has a limited ability to focus
preventive measures.
Audit potential
When questioned on whether or not their company
had declared a statement of environmental policy,
although only 54% replied in the affirmative; 73%
had programmes for waste minimization and
recycling. Although this may reflect that environmental actions have been initiated at a lower level
than by the senior management, it may also indicate
that companies pursue policies that produce both
cost and environmental benefits. Whichever, a
focus on cost savings may be indicative of a limited
response (Hutchinson, 1992) and fits Stikker’s
(1992) ‘do as little as possible’ strategy. This is
consistent with the view that the sample reflects a
lower level of crisis-preparedness than reported.
Discussion of the findings with organizations
indicated two very different views. For some,
environmental auditing was an essential part of
good management. Reducing energy usage and use
of materials was simply an extension of good
business practice. For others, environmental
audits were a one-off major exercise with a series
of follow-up reviews that simply interrupted the
everyday flow of work. For the former, a focus on
Table 3. Attitudes to environmental initiatives
Environmental initiative
For
Against
43
43
39
39
38
36
36
35
26
24
7
0
2
2
5
2
3
2
5
6
7
27
~
Tax incentives for clean-up
‘Polluter pays’ principle
Greater penalties for polluters
More stringent pollution legislation
Increased research into waste treatment technology
Greater initiatives into cleaner technology
BS environmental audit standard
Government awareness/ clean-up campaign
More frequent HMIP visits
Independent environmental protection agency
Common burden principle
90
-
BUSINESS STRATEGY AND THE ENVIRONMENT
S.J. CARTER ET AL.
cost-saving measures was a sensible introduction to
environmentalism, for the latter an end.
Links with quality standards were explored.
Major changes have taken place in the field of
quality management. One of the key indicators for
quality improvements, and the adoption of qualityassured management systems, has been the
demands placed on their suppliers by customers.
In answer to the question ’does your organization
ask suppliers to meet defined quality standards’,
86% replied in the affirmative. This compares with
only 37% of respondents who ask, or plan to ask,
suppliers to meet defined environmental standards.
In the questions investigating belief in environmental audit, 88% of respondents were in favour,
although only 40% of their companies had done so,
with 56% having plans to do so. This finding
seemingly contradicts the reported high levels of
crisis-preparedness, particularly given that the
implementation of an environmental audit may be
seen as a key step in developing an integrated
environmental policy. In short, without basic
information on the effects of business operations
on the environment, it will be difficult for firms to
assess their real level of crisis-preparedness.
Examining responses about environmental
audits, there are significant variations depending
whether or not the respondent had a formal
environmental responsibility. In answer to the
question of whether an organization had undergone an audit of environmental performance,
significantly more of those with environmental
responsibility replied ‘yes‘: 68% as opposed to
10%. This suggested that where organizations
formally recognize the importance of environmental issues, there is a greater Likelihood of them
implementing an environmental audit. In answer to
’does the company plan to undertake an audit’,
again significantly more with environmental
responsibility said ‘yes’. This may also reflect the
need for an individual in this position to justify his
or her existence. In response to whether or not
companies should undertake an environmental
audit, there was no dissenter among those with
environmental responsibility, whereas 19% of the
others did not think such audits should be carried
out. Clearly, those with an environmental responsibility had a vested interest in the continuation of
these policies. Of the respondents, 56% thought
there were the necessary skills within the company
to carry out an audit. Of those whose companies did
not have the expertise internally, 58%were willing
to use consultants.
Factors influencing company policy
Respondents were asked to identify factors that had
Table 4. Factors influencing company policy
Indicate which of the following
have and which have not
influenced your company to
make improvements:
Impending legislation
Existing legislation
Visits by HMIP
Cost savings
Customer demands
Fear of bad publicity
Others (specified)
Pressure group activity
Environmental consultants
Yes(%)
No(%)
82
80
49
42
42
42
18
9
2
18
20
51
58
58
58
82
91
98
influenced their companies to make environmental
improvements and to select which of these factors
had had the most and least influence. The results
are given in Table 4.
The importance of regulation is demonstrated by
the reported influence of impending and existing
legislation and visits by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate
of Pollution as the three most important factors.
Cost, customers and fear of bad publicity are
reported at lower levels of influence. The importance of legislation as a motivator supports the view
that many companies pursue ‘resisting strategies’
and thus tend towards being crisis-prone rather
than crisis-prepared. The relative unimportance of
other factors also supports this view. These
included: individual within the company (8%);
workforce (4%); trade association (2%);management pressure (2%);and crisis incidents (2%).
Regression runs examined the simultaneous
effect of various variables that might influence
crisis-preparedness. Obviously, there are difficulties over the rationalization of the potential
influences and direction of causation. This is
particularly true of the relationship between crisispreparedness and the respondent’s job, as respondents are likely to be more critical of preparedness
and want to reinforce the need for the post of
specialist in health and safety and/or the environment.
A stepwise regression of preparedness as a
variable suggests only three significant results.
Preparedness scores are lower if (i) the respondent
has both health and safety and environmental
responsibilities, (ii) the respondent approves of
supportive policies and (iii) the respondent
approves of the ’polluter pays’ principle. This
appears to contradict the simple evidence presented in Table 4,which suggests legislative factors
to be the major cause of companies making some
improvements. As has been observed, there is
evidence that contradicts the reported high levels
of preparedness. This evidence suggests that many
BUSINESS STRATEGY AND THE ENVIRONMENT
91
ENVIRONMENTAL AUDITING
organizations share a false sense of security and
thus crisis-proneness. Thus the importance of
legislation as a motivator is consistent with the
evidence if the reported levels of preparedness are
actually indicative of crisis-proneness. Individuals
with dual responsibility for health and safety and
the environment may have a wider and more
informed view of their organization and its
activities.
Achieving improvement
Further questions aimed to solicit the ideas of
respondents on how improvements could be
achieved in both crisis-prone and crisis-prepared
organizations. As the questions were open, the
responses were varied and had to be grouped for
analysis. The responses were divided into recommendations for crisis-prone and crisis-prepared
organizations. The results are shown in Figures 3
and 4. Given the high levels of reported preparedness, we should not be surprised at the popularity
of financia1 support as a means for encouraging
firms to do more.
The response to the question of what factors
prevent a crisis-prone organization from malung
environmental performance improvements is illustrated in Figure 5. The importance of cost, culture
and awareness lends further support to the findings
.
Barrlers to more Improvements
Encouraaemont6 to do more
Publlclry
20
40
Percentage Recommendations
Figure 4. Recommendations for crisis-prepared organizations
92
of Patton et al. (1994) and Hutchinson and Chaston
(1994), whose studies focused on the small firm
sector. Although legislation may provide a useful
means of encouraging improvements from these
firms, the importance of cost and culture suggest
that financial assistance and training will also be
useful policies. The sticking point of cost suggests
crisis-prone firms will resist environmental pressures and do as little as possible. Accepting the
evidence that the levels of crisis-preparedness of the
sample are lower than reported, the size of the
problem is far greater than first appears from our
survey. The importance of cost lends further
support to this.
The responses of crisis-prepared organizations
are shown in Figure 6. The complacent 'done
enough' is indicative of the crisis-prone organization, as is the simple interest in cost. A combination
of complacent culture and focus on short-term costs
has been a key factor in the cause of many crises,
from the Braer, Exxon, Bhopal and Hillsborough to
the small firm dumping waste chemicals into the
local brook. The evidence from Figure 6 questions
further the validity of the reported levels of crisispreparedness.
The next set of questions sought opinions on
some currently controversial points. The response
to whether or not environmental audits should be
ID
10
10
Percentage Recommendations
Figure 6 . Problems for crisis-prepared organizations
BUSINESS STRATEGY AND THE ENVIRONMENT
.o
S.J. CARTER ET AL.
compulsory showed 67% in favour, with 37% of
those indicating it should be a management
decision. Of those who thought the survey should
be compulsory, the average crisis rating score was
lower than those who thought it should be optional
(7.6 versus 8.21, respectively). This may indicate
that insiders who know the company believe that,
unless compulsory, audits will not be carried out.
Asked their view on the impact of increased
legislation on competitiveness, 48% felt that it
would make the UK less competitive, whereas
35%felt it would not. This split did not relate to the
extremes of crisis-prone/ prepared or the number
who had achieved cost savings.
The final question enquired about possible
problems in finding independent sources of information. The response was highly polarized, with
77%claiming that there was not enough being done
to make people aware of new environmental
legislation.
CONCLUSIONS AND
RECOMMENDATIONS
A first aim of this work was to identify the external
controlling influences that affect participation in
environmental audit programmes. The influence of
regulation through pending and existing legislation
and Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Pollution was
clear, reported by over three-quarters of our
respondents. Fear of bad publicity and pressure
group activity featured as the next most important.
The influence of legislation points to the pursuit of
change-resisting strategies, discussed earlier, and
indicates a lack of crisis-preparedness.
Indeed, the most worrying finding of the survey
was that levels of crisis-preparedness were much
lower than reported - that is, respondents considered themselves to be better prepared for crisis than
their behaviour indicated. This lack of preparedness
could be observed in the number of instances where
there was no formal allocation of responsibilities to
any one person. Where audits had been carried out,
there was evidence that these were limited in scope
and scale. Given these limits, there was little
opportunity for the respondents to have developed
ECPs to cover the full range of possible eventualities. Most companies did not have a formal
statement of environmental policy, although there
was an implicit assumption of the existence of one.
In the absence of such statements of policy it is
difficult to see to where the company wants to
progress, to measure that progress and to recognize
any achievements.
The plans, policies and behaviour of the sample,
therefore, are not suggestive of a high level of crisis-
preparedness. Indeed, the overriding influence of
legislation suggests the narcissism of the crisisprone organization. High levels of crisis-preparedness require that organizations are aware of what
potential mishaps they face and that they have in
place suitable strategies that take account of cultural
and technical issues to avoid or deal with them. The
absence of these from the sample and the reported
high level of preparedness may indicate complacency and a lack of understanding of what is
required.
There is considerable opportunity to extend
environmental influences. For example, the vast
majority of companies asked suppliers to meet
quality standards, whereas only just over a third
required environmental standards to be met. Were
BS 7750 to be implemented, there would be
increased pressure on firms to make environmental improvements.
Individuals within the companies appear to have
major influences on achievement, particularly in
effecting minimization programmes. There may be
scope here for government-sponsored schemes to
assist with training and the establishment of
appropriate environmental management systems.
Examining the diversity of replies points to the
need to establish a legal requirement for an
environmental policy statement declaring the aims
and objectives of the organization, together with the
nomination of a person responsible for implementing that policy and organizing the necessary
resources. Annual accreditation to BS 7750 could
constitute a method of policing this.
In summary, despite high reported levels of
crisis-preparedness, there is little evidence to
support this. In the absence of full or comprehensive environmental audits it can be concluded that
environmental crisis planning is not currently
practised by many businesses. The reported
influence of legislation in promoting ’environmentalism’ suggests that increased regulation is one
means of achieving greater environmental
improvement. However, it is unclear whether
legislation will facilitate the much-needed change
in organizations’ deep seated values and beliefs.
Without such change, the likelihood of further
environmental improvement appears limited.
Given the perception of most companies that they
are well prepared for crisis, despite evidence to the
contrary, it can be argued that such change is
unlikely.
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BIOGRAPHY
Stephen Carter recently completed an MBA at Leicester
Business School, where Derrick Ball, Peter Baron and
Dominic Elliott are members of Faculty.
Professor D.F. Ball
Department of Marketing
Leicester Business School
De Montfort University
The Gateway
Leicester LE1 9BH, UK
Tel.: 0116 2551551, ext 8218
Fax.: 0116 2517548
BUSINESS STRATEGY AND THE ENVIRONMENT
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