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Environmental Audit Reporting: Good PR or Bad Press?

Corporate environmental self-auditing privileges and voluntary violation reporting statutes have the potential to be “Pandora’s Box”, where upon facility inspection, non-compliance issues can be discovered. The voluntary options can help to promote entity public relations and reduce penalties or they can bring negative media attention and incriminate the entity.

Corporate Environmental Audits and Voluntary Violation Reporting

Audits are instrumental in determining if an entity is in environmental compliance. Conducting audits on a routine basis increases the chances of finding violations and reduces the risk of compounding potential hazards and/or violations that may have been overlooked or disregarded. Self-auditing and voluntary compliance exposes violations and provides a period of time to allow the entity to alleviate problems before any adverse reaction from the government or the public occurs.

Additionally, the self-audits reduce or eliminate the need for governmental monitoring since the entity reports any violations on a voluntary basis. Audits can also protect a potential buyer by evaluating the site for possible contamination. If the site is contaminated, the remediation costs will be an additional expense for the seller or buyer.

An audit report may hold the entity liable for violations. Audits provide ammunition for anyone that may bring suit against the entity. The audit records will provide documentation for any alleged compliance discrepancy that that plaintiff may claim.

What Should Be Reported?

All the required findings and violations outlined in the regulations must be reported. Audits conducted in excess of the required monitoring and documentation are usually protected from the government disclosing the findings to a third party. The data may be not exempt from being used as evidence in criminal proceedings.

Conversely, some states have statutes for self-privilege audits. These voluntary audits are company confidential, provided that the violations were reported and alleviated. Compliance may provide immunity for the entity in terms of data disclosure. Also, cooperation from the entity may reduce or eliminate penalties. Mandatory assessments, audits, or reviews are never exempted by self-privilege audit protection.

ISO 14001 Certification – International Environmental Compliance

Audits and compliance are components of ISO 14001 certification. The ISO 14001 certification requires approval from a consortium of nations. The acquisition of this certification may enhance the entity’s performance in the global market because it documents environmental compliance. The ISO 14001 guidelines illustrate the development of an Environmental Management System, which outlines the entity’s environmental policy. ISO 14001 certification is a very bureaucratic process. Some entities may implement the standards without seeking certification.

Environmental Audits: Good for Business, Employees, and the Environment

Self-auditing privileges and voluntary reporting improve environmental compliance and promote better domestic and international business. The ability for entities to conduct audits and alleviate violations with minimal governmental or public intervention can allow for more efficient remediation procedures. The reduction of bureaucratic acrobatics and interference will provide an incentive for entities to be more cooperative in conducting self-privilege environmental audits and voluntary reporting procedures.

Tim Wildes
Insightful articles on the environment, pollution, energy, recycling, green living, climate change and much more
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