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Keeping Your Organisation On The Right Side Of Environmental Law

December 2023

Environmental law may be defined as the responsibilities placed on companies, individuals or other entities to prevent environmental damage or improve degraded environments. Some examples of environmental law include pollution control law, nature conservation, planning law, environmental impact assessment, waste law, etc. Furthermore, the environmental law may cover various topics, e.g., air quality, water quality, waste management, contaminant cleanup, chemical safety, hunting and fishing. Keeping your organisation on the right side of environmental law is crucial to avoid legal issues, maintain a positive reputation, and contribute to a sustainable future. 

This article does not provide legal advice; however, it shares key considerations that may aid the reader in appreciating some of the critical points for organisations to consider for planning and operation to comply with the relevant environmental legislation. Also, risk mitigation issues such as insurance are outside the scope of this article. Besides, “the best insurance against risk is still prevention,” noted by the insurance company boss, Guillaume Borie, CEO of AXA France. 

Below are some of the key considerations:

Understand Environmental Regulations

Staying on the right side of the environmental law requires identifying and understanding the specific requirements of the environmental law or regulation applicable to the organisation. Furthermore, organisations must look at the horizon and stay informed about upcoming regulations in local, national, and international environmental laws. Organisations must assess the environmental law to understand which laws dictate what actions they can/cannot take or which laws require by law to disclose their environmental impact. 

Designate Responsibility

The responsibility for environmental law may be designated to various parties in the organisation depending on the specific issue. For example, suppose a company wants to construct flood and sea defences on their land. In that case, they can apply to the Environmental Agency for consent. Also, organisations may appoint a compliance officer or team. They must deduce what level of environmental law practitioners may be needed to provide the necessary understanding, interpretation, and conformance to the law. 

Conduct Regular Environmental Compliance Audits

Organisations must perform regular environmental compliance audits and inspections to assess the company’s adherence to the relevant environmental laws. Organisations must document these activities, keep records and address any non-compliance findings promptly. 

Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA)

Organisations may be required to carry out an environmental impact assessment (EIA) if they promote or own development, labour, equipment or project that may harm the environment. The EIA ensures transparency and environmental protection for specific public and private projects. Organisations must ensure adequate EIA that protects the environment and is a sound basis for sustainable development is completed where needed by compliance. 

Permitting and Reporting

Environmental permitting is part of the regulatory process that ensures certain organisation activities, e.g., industrial processes, have obtained the required permit from relevant regulatory authorities. For example, specific constructions may need to have appropriate permits to proceed to avoid civil action or criminal charges. Additionally, organisations need to submit accurate and timely reports to adhere to environmental law. 

Employee Training

Environmental law compliance is not a one-person or team responsibility. However, all employees have a responsibility to take necessary actions to support the organisation to deliver compliance with environmental law. This collective responsibility is why it is essential to train employees on environmental compliance to spot and report any violations. Training employees on compliance with environmental law helps to improve the attitudes and culture within the organisation regarding environmental performance. 

Emergency Preparedness

A crucial part of environmental law compliance is for organisations to take proactive steps to assess risks and develop disaster response plans and recovery measures to reduce the impact of environmental incidents/accidents. Organisations can achieve adequate emergency preparedness by setting crisis management plans specific to environmental incidents. The plans ensure employees and managers know their roles and responsibilities to minimise the impacts of environmental incidents/accidents. 

Stakeholder Engagement

Stakeholder engagement is an essential process for organisations to involve stakeholders in the decision-making process related to complying with environmental law. Stakeholders, such as regulatory bodies, local communities, suppliers, and contractors, have an interest in how the organisation makes environmental decisions, which has the potential to impact the environment or the choices it makes around complying with environmental law. The University of Oxford reports ten recommendations for effective stakeholder engagement, including dialogue with stakeholders as early as possible, understanding the local context of engagement, and providing feedback to stakeholders. 

Continuous Improvement

Continuous improvement is a philosophy implemented in business to make incremental improvements regularly – it can be used to make gradual changes to maintain compliance with environmental law. Any improvements start with measuring the current status of environmental law compliance and continuously seeking ways to improve environmental performance and compliance, e.g., in company activities concerning environmental law. A limitation of continuous improvement is that because it requires progressive effort, it may take a long time to realise the efforts. 

Keeping your organisation on the right side of environmental law is not just about avoiding penalties; it's about being a responsible corporate citizen and contributing to a healthier planet. By proactively addressing environmental compliance, your organisation can enhance its reputation and demonstrate its commitment to environmental sustainability.

Environmental training offers a comprehensive understanding of environmental law, ensuring your staff and your organisation can remain on the right side of environmental law at all times. 

This is where we come in. 

We are Astutis the industry-leading health, safety and environmental training providers. We offer the best exemplary environmental training designed to inform and educate on best environmental practices. Take a look at some of our environmental course offerings below to enhance the environmental performance of your business today! 

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