Rental housing companies benefit from environmental management systems - policies associated can be transferred under certain terms

Tiina Haaspuro writes about the results she got when she studied EMS in Finnish and Sweadish rental housing companies in her Master's Thesis.

A recently published study (Haaspuro 2018, pro gradu thesis) revealed that rental housing companies benefit from environmental management systems (EMS), especially in form of improved performance, economical gains and improved company image. In case of policy transfer (i.e. copying practices associated with an EMS) taking into account different background factors is essential.

The aim of the study was to evaluate if environmental management systems are beneficial and functional in rental housing companies and to examine what kind of aspects need to be considered in case of policy transfer (regarding EMS). The study aimed to identify what kind of benefits and impacts EMS generate in rental housing companies and how and under what terms policy transfer is feasible.

The benefits observed were the same as the ones previously detected in other kinds of companies. The benefits regarding improved performance were the most abundant in this study. The most common benefit detected was improved effectiveness in company management and more explicit practices, especially concerning management of environmental issues. Of economic benefits, reduced energy consumption, increased effectiveness in resource use and reductions in amounts of waste were the most common benefits.

All companies involved in this study also mentioned improved company image as one benefit of an EMS. Companies reckoned that environmental issues have more value in the society than before and that’s why it is important to show that these issues are taken into account by using an EMS. Also increased motivation and awareness of environmental issues were among mentioned benefits. Even some health benefits and benefits for the surrounding community were detected. These had to do with reductions in use of chemicals and improved risk management. These benefits were though in minority.

Even though the aim of an EMS is to help companies to reduce the negative effects their actions have on the environment, the benefits concerning the quality of the environment and positive environmental effects were the least abundant in this study. These benefits mentioned had to do with improved risk management and increased pressure to improve management of environmental issues and to reduce environmental effects. Though, companies felt that the improved effectiveness in management of environmental issues has a positive effect on the environment as such, which can explain why positive environmental effects were not that often mentioned separately.

In case of policy transfer, i.e. when practices are copied to other organizations, it is essential to consider certain background factors. When these are taken into account, it is possible to create recommendations for good practices. Successful policy transfer requires similar conditions and structure in organizations and causal relationship between practices and benefits. This was taken into account in this study by surveying also background factors that influence the use of an EMS and have led to good results, and by taking them into account in formulating recommendations.

The determinants surveyed were factors that make initialization easier, factors to keep an EMS active, how to involve the tenants, the sources of good ideas, politics and contacts and bad experiences and failures. Most abundant factors in these classes were: using an external consultant and involving staff, constantly updated action plans and internal and external audits, effective communication, ideas from staff and other companies using an EMS, co-operation with municipalities and colleagues, and lack of time, respectively. The role of finance was also surveyed, but it didn’t seem to play a big role.

This study was conducted using semi-structured (theme) interviews and an analytical framework, which consisted of factors that indicate functionality and effectiveness of an EMS and factors that contribute to successful use of best practices (policy transfer). The study objects were rental housing companies in Finland and in Sweden that have an EMS.

Haaspuro T. 2018. Ympäristöjärjestelmät vuokrataloyhtiöissä - tapaustutkimus suomalaisten ja ruotsalaisten vuokrataloyhtiöiden järjestelmistä. Pro gradu tutkielma, Helsingin yliopisto