Comparing symbolic and substantive implementation of international standards – the case of ISO 14001 certification

Mesbahuddin Chowdhury, Daniel Prajogo, Jayanth Jayaram

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


This study compares the effects of substantive implementation and symbolic implementation of the ISO 14001 standard on benefits realised for firms and their satisfaction with the certification. Specifically, we examine whether top management commitment is a precursor to both modes of implementation styles. Also, we compare firms’ benefits–environmental, economic and marketing–emanating from these two modes of implementation and whether they affect the satisfaction levels of firms with ISO 14001 certification. We test the research framework of this study using a dataset that was drawn from 328 firms in Australia and New Zealand. Our findings showed that top management commitment plays an important role as a driver for both symbolic and substantive forms of ISO 14001 implementation. Substantive implementation has wider and stronger effects on the benefits of ISO 14001 adoption than symbolic implementation. Finally, both economic and marketing benefits have a positive effect on the level of satisfaction while environmental benefit, surprisingly, does not.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)339-361
Number of pages23
JournalAustralasian Journal of Environmental Management
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 3 Jul 2018


  • benefits
  • ISO 14001 certification
  • satisfaction
  • substantive implementation
  • symbolic implementation

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