How Do I Assess my Environmental Compliance Obligations?

It is essential that you are aware of the compliance obligations that relate to your site and activities to ensure you are fully compliant.  If you have ISO 14001 (the international standard for Environmental Management Systems), there is a clause where you are required to determine and assess compliance obligations, determine how they apply to your organisation and consider them when planning.  This blog will discuss how you can assess your compliance obligations, whether you have ISO 14001 or not.

What are Compliance Obligations?

According to ISO 14001, compliance obligations are legal requirements that an organisation must comply with and other requirements that an organisation has to, or chooses to comply with.  These requirements can include laws and regulations, contracts, codes of practice and voluntary commitments like industry standards.

Where do I find compliance obligations?

It is essential that you identify all of your compliance obligations.  Legal requirements can be found through the Environment Agency and advice can be sought from an external source, or some professional bodies like IEMA (Institute of Environmental Management and Assessment).  Additionally, you should review contracts (for example with suppliers, customers or a landlord) for any environmental obligations and ensure that you comply with those.  Your company may also have signed up to voluntary obligations like packaging labels or ingredient requirements.  If you have ISO 14001, you will also need to comply with those requirements.

What should I know about my compliance obligations?

Once you have identified your obligations, you will need to collate all of the information necessary to ensure you remain compliant.  This will include a description of the requirements, who regulates it and which parts are applicable (for example, there may only be some bits of a regulation that apply to your activities).  It is also helpful to identify which activities the obligations refer to so you know what areas you need to assess to ensure compliance.

What next?

Once you have identified all of your requirements, it is important to assess your compliance against them.  Can you demonstrate that you are compliant?  What controls are in place?  Are there any areas you need to improve on?  If there are any areas of non-compliance, or places where the controls need strengthening, you should add them to an action plan and address problem areas.

After you have assessed your compliance obligations, you must monitor them going forwards to ensure continued compliance and to identify any new or changing requirements.  Regular auditing of applicable compliance obligations and the controls you have in place to meet them, plus a process of rectifying any problems identified will ensure continued compliance and ongoing improvement.

Identification of your environmental obligations is essential to ensure that you remain compliant and can implement controls as required when new requirements are introduced.  You must assess all obligations for how they are relevant to you and ensure you meet the requirements now and going into the future.