This study examines the motivations of mainland Chinese facilities in seeking ISO 14001 certification and examines the linkages between these motivations and self-reports of the effectiveness of major environmental management system (EMS) components. In a sample of 128 facilities in Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou, the main drivers for certification were reported to be to ensure regulatory compliance, to enhance the firm’s reputation, and to improve environmental performance, in that order. Although motivation to achieve cost reductions were least emphasized, a broad range of motivations appears to be considered in the decision to seek certification to ISO 14001. Regression models linking these motivations to the EMS components suggests that internal motivations have an influence on most EMS components. One interesting exception to this, however, is that no significant relationship was observed between internal motivations and the promulgation of environmental objectives and targets. The relationships associated with external motivations for certification (i.e., those in response to customer and other stakeholder pressures) and EMS components, on the other hand, are weaker and tend to occur earlier in the process cycle. No significant relationships were found between motivations to reduce costs and perceptions of the effectiveness of EMS components. Overall, these findings suggest that ISO 14001, as currently being implemented in mainland China, may have a modestly useful role when used in combination with other policy mechanisms to move the Chinese economy toward more sustainable practices. It is asserted that the ISO standard could provide even greater benefits if Chinese registrars were more proactive in developing EMS in conjunction with even more rigorous third-party audits.
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