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Perceptions of core elements for sustainability management systems (SMS)

Javier Esquer‐Peralta (University of Sonora, Sonora, Mexico)
Luis Velazquez (University of Sonora, Sonora, Mexico)
Nora Munguia (University of Sonora, Sonora, Mexico)

Management Decision

ISSN: 0025-1747

Article publication date: 1 August 2008




The concepts of sustainable development (SD) and management systems (MS) are finding increasing acceptance in a variety of fields, including academy, politics, and non‐governmental organizations. These concepts are also being used by the general population. This paper aims to describe the perception of different experts by discussing the usefulness of sustainability management systems (SMS) as holistic systems that might integrate environmental, social, and economic elements.


This research was framed by the general systems theory and its nature is totally qualitative and exploratory in order to understand the significant attributes that affect or benefit a management system to reach sustainability. A total of 14 interviews were conducted with several experts around the world. Some are professional persons in sustainability issues in general, and some in environmental, health and safety (EHS) issues in particular.


The results shows that, although there is a continuous debate on the sustainability approach, several core elements can be addressed for sustainability management systems (SMS). For instance, 71.4 percent of the interviewees agreed that management systems are useful for sustainable development, or at least potentially useful, and 42.9 percent of the experts declared that having a clear understanding of the long‐term economic benefits for the company is an important incentive for their implementation.

Research limitations/implications

Interviews were conducted with a limited number of experts and there was no field verification of claims. Therefore, conclusions derived from these sources depend on the veracity of the information provided by participants. Expert bias may also have an impact on the outcomes of this research.

Practical implications

The findings provide management systems' practitioners with key elements when sustainability management systems are being created, maintained and evaluated.


The findings are not results from general concepts, but rather elicited from empirical data from fourteen sustainability, and health and safety experts around the world.



Esquer‐Peralta, J., Velazquez, L. and Munguia, N. (2008), "Perceptions of core elements for sustainability management systems (SMS)", Management Decision, Vol. 46 No. 7, pp. 1027-1038.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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