The risks of non-compliance to environmental laws
For any lawful business, one objective should always be to operate within the framework of applicable law. This objective should, in quality and quantity of execution, be at least equal to other objectives such as production, adherence to budget and quality.
Legal compliance to legislative environmental requirements is one such objective. This however requires specific tools to reach the desired outcome. An important tool that will assist with the achievement of environmental legal compliance is to have a Legal Compliance Audits conducted.
Establishing proper procedures and acquiring necessary permit/licenses/authorisations are critical to compliance. You must consider not just the regulatory compliance issues that you must meet every day, but also relevant laws that will affect your company
If your business activities could affect the environment, either by emitting a pollutant into the air or water, disposing/storing/recycling of a waste, or similar actions, you will likely need an environmental permit/licenses/authorisation from the Department of Environmental Affairs. As a part of your environmental due diligence, you must establish whether or not you will need any environmental permits before accidentally carrying out unlicensed activities.
It’s important to note that due to the complex nature of South African environmental legislation, not all activities that require environmental permits are obvious and expert legal analysis is required in most cases.
The following driving forces for environmental legal compliance can be identified:
- Avoiding criminal prosecution and fines in excess of R1 million as imposed by the National Environmental Management Act, 1998.
- Financial motivation including the avoidance of legal costs and damage awards. This includes direct and indirect costs of incidents that could have been avoided if there was full legal compliance.
- Avoiding other adverse regulatory action such as contravention or prohibition notices (shut-down orders), administrative fines, etc.
- Avoiding civil litigation.
- Clients often demand evidence of Environmental legal compliance from their suppliers and service providers.
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