Shortcoming in ems

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Shortcomings in Implementing an EMS in a Public University
Luis Velázquez, Nora Munguía, Andrea Zavala, Javier Esquer Industrial and Systems Engineering Department, Engineering College, University of Sonora Email for correspondence:
In Proceedings from Engineering Education in Sustainable Development (EESD) 2008 Conference.Graz, Austria.


This paper is aimed at discussing the role of the ISO 14001 standard in the transformation of a Mexican higher education institution in a sustainable university. In July 2008, the University of Sonora has become the first public higher education institution to get the ISO14001:2004 certification not only in Mexico but also in Latin America. The content in this paper isnot a full explanation about the experience of implementing ISO 14001 on campus; rather it is a discussion of four shortcomings encountered in the implementation of this standard on campus. Environmental management systems (EMS) seem to be a reasonable, systematic, and efficient approach to move towards sustainability, but in the world only few universities have tried to implement EnvironmentalManagement Systems as a tool to compliance with some regulations as well as a mean to improve its environmental performance. Even though, there are several schemes to create an EMS, this paper focuses its discussion on the ISO 14001 standard because, in the last decade, this methodology has been the most preferred standard for establishing an environmental management system in many organizationsincluding universities. ISO 14000 series are applicable to all types and sizes of organizations without matter the geographical, cultural, and social conditions. Findings of this research challenge some of the theoretical concepts about EMS’s that have been discussed during the last decade, providing more insights for enriching the actual debate, and in that way, contributing to the actual stock ofknowledge towards achieving sustainability in universities. Although, it is not certain whether findings in this case-study are fully representative of the whole of Mexican public universities, there is little reason to believe that conditions observed in the University of Sonora will be significantly better in other states of the country. Therefore, it is hoped that this approach will assist allinterested sustainability leaders in Mexican public universities, and even in Latin America, to effectively implement an EMS within their universities.

The ISO 14000 series are international Environmental Management Systems (EMS) standards that provide an effective framework to the integration of the variable “environment” into the daily operations of an organization. They arevoluntary and are intended to be applicable to all sizes and kinds of organization in countries over the world. The usefulness of an Environmental Management System depends of many factors since the outcomes may vary depending, in part, of the objectives of the organization in which it is being implemented and the way in which the implementation is conducted. Although some authors have been consideredthe systems a useful tool to improve environmental efficiency in companies1 others think that “the success of ISO 14001 internationally may depend not on the hopes for environmental improvements but on the fears that this voluntary standard will become a mandatory market condition.”2 Literature on implementing ISO 14001 in industry is abundant.3, 4 On the contrary, just a small number ofuniversities have published their experiences on this standard.5-17 Table 1 shows EMS-certified universities found after a literature review and an alternative search on the world wide.


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Table 1 University around the world holding a EMS certification

Implementing an environmental management system on campus can be insufficient to move towards sustainability. A...
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