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Sustainable Business: Environmental Compliance And How It Affects Your Business

Sustainable Business: Environmental Compliance And How It Affects Your Business

What Is Environmental Compliance?

Environmental compliance can be defined as ‘The maintenance of the factors and practices that contribute to the quality of the environment on a long-term basis’.

In short, it involves embedding processes into your business that minimise its impact on the environment.

Environmental compliance aims to ensure that companies and corporations operate in a manner that is safe and environmentally sustainable through a range of regulations, legislation, and common standards. It affects many aspects of running a business, including the level of allowable carbon emissions, waste management, and water quality, among others.


Why Is Environmental Compliance Important?

Operating in accordance with environmental laws and regulations is compulsory for all businesses working in the UK and globally. Environmental compliance is an essential step towards fighting issues such as climate change, and for promoting sustainable practices for both businesses and consumers.

On a practical note, complying with environmental law helps businesses to avoid legal repercussions and operational issues. This is important, as failing to comply with environmental law can be costly.

For example, in 2016/17 Thames Water was fined £20.3 million by the Environment Agency for breaching regulations, and according to statistics released by the Environment Times in 2018, the average fine became six times more expensive between 2012 and 2018.

But businesses are quickly realising that environmental compliance is more than just a legal obligation. In fact, complying with environmental law helps companies to reduce waste, save money, keep employees and customers safe, and appeal to customers who prioritise sustainable products and services.

For instance, when surveyed, half of online customers said that environmental sustainability was a factor in their product choices, and over 60% of millennials and 55% of Gen X stated that they would pay a higher price if they knew their purchase was eco-friendly.

Studies have also shown a correlation between operating a sustainable business and having higher rates of employee job satisfaction, productivity, and employee retention.


Environmental Compliance Responsibilities For Businesses

Environmental compliance covers a range of responsibilities that businesses must meet in order to comply with the law. Here, we have broken down the most relevant legislation into four sections.


  1. Environmental Legislation
  • Compliance with air pollution regulations: All businesses must observe the air pollution legislation, which includes reducing CO2 emissions, disposing of waste and hazardous substances responsibly, obeying regulations on fluorinated gases and ozone-depleting substances, and applying for permits to carry out certain activities.


  • Waste storage and treatment: Wastewater must be stored appropriately, and disposal should always be conducted by an authorised organisation. Additionally, all businesses should complete a waste management transfer note or consignment note when wastewater is disposed of.


  • If you are disposing of trade effluents, such as detergents, waste chemicals, or cleaning/cooling water, you should notify your water company that these substances are about to enter the water system.


  • Businesses should avoid creating potential harm or stress to other residents. This includes noise levels, fumes, smoke, and light pollution. This is known as a statutory nuisance.


  • All businesses should participate in their local recycling scheme by separating paper, glass, metal, card, and plastic. If your business handles food, you should also separate food from recyclable waste.


  • Annually, if your business makes a turnover exceeding £2 million and handles more than 50 tonnes of packaging materials, you must register with the National Packaging Waste Database or sign up for a compliance scheme. You will be asked to evidence that your business is meeting recycling targets.


  • If your business poses a threat (actual or potential) to the environment, the appropriate authorities must be notified and you must undertake preventative and remedial action.


  1. Hazardous Substances

Hazardous substances pose serious risks to health and to the environment, and are regulated under CHIP (Chemicals Hazard Information and Packing for Supply).

The definition of hazardous substances includes:

  • Animal by-products
  • Oils
  • Chemicals
  • Ozone-depleting substances (ODS)
  • Pesticides
  • Biocides
  • Solvents
  • Hazardous substances found in electrical and electronic equipment
  • Radioactive materials


There are several regulations concerning hazardous substances with which you may have to comply, including:

Registration, Evaluation, and Authorisation of Chemicals (REACH) – This applies to businesses that handle any chemicals, including the manufacture, import, and recovery of chemical materials.

Restriction of the Use of Certain Hazardous Substances in Electrical and Electronic Equipment Regulations 2008 (RoHS) – This applies to manufacturers of electrical and electronic equipment, and it places limitations on the allowable quantities of cadmium, lead, and mercury in products.

Businesses must also meet the requirements for handling F-gases or Ozone-depleting substances.


  1. Biodiversity

There are limitations on business activities in certain protected areas. These locations include:

  • Local nature reserves
  • National scenic areas
  • National parks
  • National nature reserves
  • Sites of special scientific interest
  • Special areas of conservation
  • Special protection areas
  • UNESCO biospheres


  1. Pollution Incidents

Environmental Liability Regulations cover the most serious types of pollution incidents, such as damage to biological ecosystems and environments, water pollution, and land contamination.

Importantly, the regulations apply to both actual damage and the risk of potential damage – so if your business caused a situation that could have resulted in environmental pollution, you are still liable to be fined, even if no damage ever occurred.

Furthermore, businesses that cause a pollution incident are legally obligated to take remedial action.


Understanding Your Responsibilities

As you can see, businesses of all sizes need to be aware of the many environmental regulations that dictate how they can operate.

There’s no doubt that there are a lot of details to take in, and the costs of making a mistake can be substantial. So why not give yourself peace of mind by contacting us to help you navigate the process!

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