The environmental management systems as a tool for integrating the principles of the circular economy within manufacturing firms

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This thesis analyses the contribution of Environmental Management Systems (EMS)'s in adopting Circular Economy (CE) principles in manufacturing companies. It explores different aspects such as the reporting and communication of environmental performance, the adoption of circularity Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), as well as the possible configurations of organisational and technological practices focused on CE and, consequently, the role played by EMS in such configurations. The dissertation is based on a mixed empirical methodology using, on the one hand, the environmental statements of companies with EMAS registration at a regional and national level and, on the other hand, the European Manufacturing Survey 2018 with two sub-samples from Spain and The Netherlands. Thus, noteworthy results were obtained that answered the research questions posed. Firstly, out of a sample of 85 companies, a positive relationship was found between companies that had implemented an EMS and a greater intensity in circularity practices. Secondly, from the two studies that used data from the EMAS environmental declarations, the practices reported by the 31 sites at the regional level (Catalonia) and the 122 sites at the national level in Spain were observed. The national study also analysed the quantitative information within the declarations to check the possibilities of using circularity indicators with the information that companies share in their environmental reports. Seventeen CE practices mentioned by the companies were detected, but only three provided quantitative information applicable to adopting circularity KPIs. Thirdly, and under the lens of ‘Configuration of Practices’, 288 manufacturing companies were analysed, and the relationship of different organisational and technological practices focused on CE based on academic literature. We obtained 25 consistent configurations that promote greater circularity according to each production stage. According to the results, it can be concluded that EMS contribute to the transition towards more circular production processes in manufacturing companies. However, in order for EMSs to be efficient tools in the integration of CE principles, the results of this thesis emphasize paying more attention to crucial aspects such as management and organisational commitment, periodic review and verification of results, and communication of environmental performance. Preferably with quantifiable data that allow the inclusion of circularity actions within the framework of continuous improvement ​
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