Construction of a Decision Analysis Tool for Choosing Corporate Environmental Management Systems

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Environmental managers are continually faced with new challenges to improve stakeholder relationships, save money and reduce the organization’s environmental footprint. Many of these challenges can be efficiently addressed by implementation of an environmental management system (EMS). However, there are a number of different environmental management systems which are available. Selecting the system that is the best fit for an organization can be difficult.

Fortunately, multicriteria decision analysis is well-suited to this type of decision problem. The objective of this project was to construct a decision analysis tool to differentiate among environmental management systems based on organizations’ preferences. The project focused on three environmental management systems: ISO14001, Eco-Management and Audit Scheme (EMAS) and The Natural Step (TNS). The tool was built using the expertise of environmental management system practitioners to evaluate the systems on criteria representing financial, logistical and environmental goals. I tested the tool using the preferences of environmental managers at two chemical and two manufacturing facilities to show that the tool is useful. I improved the tool’s user-friendliness based on comments from a typical user.

The results showed that the Eco-Management and Audit Scheme system scored best on the majority of attributes, and was the preferred alternative for three out of four sample cases. Additionally, the most important attributes amongst all respondents were verification reliability and environmental stewardship. Slight similarities in the importance rating of attributes were seen between the facilities of equivalent size.

Overall, the process demonstrated that how an EMS is implemented at an organization will be based on the preferences of the organization and what they are hoping to accomplish with their system. While some organizations want to focus on saving money, others choose to focus on a reduction in emissions. The decision analysis tool I developed is flexible enough to accommodate such differences in priorities.

Finally, this research showed that none of these three systems scored perfectly on all company objectives. It is possible to identify the single system that best matches a facility’s preferences, but the best environmental management system may be a hybrid among the three.





Bomher, Mary Pat (2010). Construction of a Decision Analysis Tool for Choosing Corporate Environmental Management Systems. Master's project, Duke University. Retrieved from

Dukes student scholarship is made available to the public using a Creative Commons Attribution / Non-commercial / No derivative (CC-BY-NC-ND) license.