Every business should have an environmental compliance plan in place. You can read this case study about the Giti Tire e-liability pilot project to learn about the benefits of instituting such a plan.
Why Are Environmental Compliance Plans Important?
We have talked extensively about some of the practical benefits of running an eco-friendly organization. One of the many advantages is that you can attract customers that care about sustainability.
However, there is an even more urgent reason that you need to make environmentalism a priority for your business. You can face massive fines if you don’t abide by certain environmental regulations.
Sinister Diesel is one of the companies that has recently faced serious financial and criminal penalties for not abiding by EPA regulations. The company was recently fined $1 million for selling devices that didn’t meet EPA standards. The fine was part of a plea deal with the Department of Justice, so Sinister Diesel could have faced much more serious fines if it went to court.
Both the federal government and individual state governments have numerous environmental regulations that organizations must follow. The EPA alone is responsible for monitoring and enforcing 44 environmental programs covered under seven different federal statutes.
Unfortunately, many businesses do an inadequate job adhering to these regulations. Last year, the EPA issued over $149 million in fines to individuals and corporations that failed to meet the requisite standards covered under the EPA regulations. The average EPA fine is $186,000 and the average state fine is $35,000.
As you can see, the cost of failing to abide by environmental regulations can cripple your business. This case study can help you better appreciate the importance of developing and following an environmental compliance plan. Therefore, you are going to need to develop an environmental compliance program.
Tips for Developing an Environmental Compliance Program
Environmental compliance is crucial for business owners to ensure that their operations do not harm the environment and to meet legal regulations. Here are some essential tips to help you achieve environmental compliance:
- Know the regulations inside and out: You obviously won’t be able to comply with environmental regulations if you haven’t taken the time to learn them. Therefore, you should monitor websites such as EHS Today and Perillon, as well as speak with your legal team and familiarize yourself with all relevant state and federal environmental laws and regulations that you will need to follow.
- Appoint an environmental compliance officer: You need to have an officer that is responsible for overseeing your environmental compliance program. If you have an existing employee that can oversee these responsibilities, then you will want to delegate these tasks to them. If you don’t have an existing employee that can fulfill these duties, then you may need to hire an expert from outside the company. This person should already be familiar with various environmental regulations, know how to monitor compliance efforts, and understand how to implement necessary changes. The National Registry of Environmental Professionals has an overview of the qualifications that these professionals need and the expected salary. You should expect to pay them between $40,160 and $115,220 a year.
- Conduct regular environmental audits to determine the effectiveness of your program: You need to make sure that your company is regularly living up to your environmental compliance program. This means that your environmental compliance officer will need to regularly perform comprehensive environmental audits to identify potential environmental risks and areas where your business may not be in compliance. This will help you prioritize actions and allocate resources effectively.
- Develop an environmental management plan: Create a detailed plan that outlines your company’s commitment to environmental compliance. This plan should include specific goals, strategies, and timelines for achieving and maintaining compliance.
- Train your employees: You can have the most carefully articulated environmental compliance program imaginable, but it won’t do you any good if your employees aren’t trained to follow it. Therefore, you will need to educate your employees about all applicable environmental regulations, as well as the company’s environmental policies. Each employee needs to understand their respective role in ensuring the company is in compliance. Make sure they know the importance of their actions in protecting the environment and the legal consequences for the company if the policies are not followed.
Your company will be far more likely to be in compliance with environmental regulations if you follow the aforementioned steps.
What Are Some of the Most Important Elements that Should Be Covered in Your Environmental Compliance Plan?
There are a number of things that you will need to cover in your environmental compliance plan. Some of the core elements that your environmental compliance officer will need to cover will include:
- Reduce waste and conserve resources: Implement waste reduction and resource conservation measures. Some of these measures could include recycling programs, energy-efficient practices, water conservation, and responsible procurement. We have a good article on minimizing industrial waste, which you may want to take a look at.
- Ensure that all hazardous materials are properly handled: If your business deals with hazardous substances, ensure proper storage, handling, and disposal in accordance with regulations. Implement spill prevention and response measures to minimize environmental impacts.
- Monitor emissions and discharges: Regularly measure and monitor air and water emissions from your operations. Implement technologies and practices that minimize harmful emissions and discharges.
- Obtain necessary permits: Ensure you have obtained all required environmental permits and licenses before starting or expanding your business activities. Renew these permits as necessary and maintain accurate records.
- Regularly review and update your compliance program: Environmental regulations and best practices evolve over time. Periodically review your environmental compliance program to ensure it remains effective and up-to-date.
- Engage with stakeholders: You need to understand the impact that your company has on other stakeholders. You may think that your environmental compliance program is working effectively, but others in your community may feel that your company is causing too much pollution. It would be tone-deaf to ignore their concerns, so you will need to foster open communication with stakeholders, including local communities, regulatory authorities, and environmental organizations. You will need to promptly address concerns and incorporate feedback to improve your environmental performance.
- Participate in voluntary initiatives: Consider joining industry-specific environmental programs or certifications that demonstrate your commitment to sustainability and environmental responsibility.
- Respond promptly to incidents: In case of any environmental incidents or violations, take immediate action to mitigate the impacts, report the incident to the appropriate authorities, and implement measures to prevent similar incidents in the future.
By following these tips and integrating environmental compliance into your business practices, you can contribute to a more sustainable and responsible future while also avoiding potential legal and financial liabilities.
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