Environmental compliance requires businesses to meet specific requirements and lawful codes that aim to protect the Earth. However, it’s not as easy as looking up federal regulations — many states, counties, and cities also issue separate environmental laws.
Companies must learn to juggle the difficult task of ensuring compliance throughout all processes. Below are common regulatory laws businesses must be aware of and tips for managing environmental compliance at work.
Examples of Environmental Compliance Laws
Various laws have been passed throughout the decades to protect ecosystems, wildlife, and public health from ecological hazards. For example, the Clean Water Act (CWA) of 1972 delivers essential regulatory compliance criteria for pollutant discharges in waterways.
This law sets up water quality standards and pollution control programs for companies to adhere to — such as the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES).
In agriculture, farms may undergo occasional inspections by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) after previously failed assessments, at random, or because of citizen complaints.
The EPA might collect water samples to determine if agricultural discharges have contaminated nearby water and whether the facility holds the appropriate permits.
Similarly, the Clean Air Act (CAA) of 1955 maintains criteria for ambient air quality with deadlines for companies to meet those standards.
The transportation, industrial and power plant industries are examples of sectors that must comply with emissions standards for 187 air pollutants deemed hazardous to the environment and people.
Although businesses tend to get frustrated with strict environmental compliance, a lot of good comes from its enforcement.
According to the EPA, the CAA reduced 15.7 million pounds of methane throughout communities, while the NPDES reduced chemical discharge non-compliance from 20.3% to 12.6% in 2021.
5 Ways Businesses Can Ensure Environmental Compliance
Companies benefit from following environmental compliance standards. Here are five ways they can ensure they meet the most critical benchmarks.
Deploy an Environmental Management System
Deploying an environmental management system (EMS) helps businesses streamline their compliance processes and get a better handle on their ecological impact.
EMS might comprise written procedures or be loaded into a software program that compiles strategies into an organized digital database.
Stay Abreast of New and Revised Regulations
Federal and state regulations are consistently evolving, so staying abreast of new and revised rules is critical. For example, COVID-19 lockdowns and social-distancing mandates modified numerous permitting and environmental compliance requirements in different states.
Pennsylvania’s governor issued new compliance guidelines during the pandemic for parties that held Erosion & Sediment Control and Dam Safety & Waterway Management permits.
Although companies were encouraged to continue following environmental compliance, the new order issued revised directives, such as:
- Life-sustaining businesses were required to stay in compliance at all times
- Non-life-sustaining companies had to discontinue any permitted earth disturbance operations and authorized plans
- Due to social distancing, businesses could forgo weekly routine inspections of stabilized work environments
Those given a reprieve from weekly inspections were still liable for environmental degradation and forced to comply with all the other permit terms.
Streamline Compliance Deadlines
Companies must meet all deadlines and activities to avoid the consequences of environmental non-compliance. Keeping a calendar of the most critical dates can help businesses stay on track.
Environmental compliance technicians may integrate their calendars into Environmental, Health and Safety software to ensure they know which employees are working on specific tasks and when they’re due.
Conduct Risk Assessments
Companies should implement risk management tools to identify the negative implications of non-compliance — environmental, financial, legal, and reputational.
In addition to determining possible outcomes of compliance risk, it’s crucial to develop an effective response strategy to treat and manage problems for each type of potential hazard.
Environmental compliance is a team effort. Therefore, staff must have the proper training to adhere to compliance requirements and understand what’s deemed unsafe. They must also know the appropriate prevention methods and their point of contact in an emergency.
Training can make a significant difference in an organization’s environmental compliance. However, 23% of employees who undergo compliance training say the experience was unmemorable and irrelevant.
Managers should evaluate training programs before issuing them to staff and ask for feedback afterward. Web-based training should also be coupled with in-person training to ensure employees feel prepared to handle real-world compliance risk scenarios.
Remain Compliant to Protect the Environment and Business
Compliance specialists must optimize their approach to meeting environmental compliance. Meeting the guidelines set forth by federal and local governments will help protect businesses from breaking the law and avoid substantial financial penalties.