When Compliance Isn’t Enough, Responsibility Is

Even when you think you are doing the right thing, environmentally, ensuring legal compliance can be tricky. And even if you are compliant, in the event of an incident you may still be subject to fines and legal action. How do you protect yourself?

If the landmark Bata Shoe case taught us anything, it’s the value in being proactive. I like to refer to them because they were not the typical movie-style environmental villains. They made strong efforts to control waste, and had environmental policies and procedures in place. Ultimately, following an unfortunate incident, the courts decided that wasn’t enough.

The current legal guidelines following this ruling, mean that having an Environmental Management System (EMS) is expected, and that it must be proactive. Dealing with waste is one thing, but planning for it is quite another. Thorough documentation both of benchmarks and procedures is expected.

Company Directors are expected to take ownership of environmental issues – delegation does not get them off the hook. As far as incidents go, you have to prove that you were as prepared as possible – including granting authority and budget to the operational manager.

Even for the well-prepared, incidents occur. But showing how you were trying to avoid these can remove culpability, and demonstrates the social responsibility our courts now demand.

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