Overview of Environmental Audits
An environmental audit is a systematic assessment conducted to evaluate a company's accountability towards the environment. Environmental audits involve a systematic evaluation of a company's environmental responsibility. The purpose is to assess compliance with environmental regulations and identify gaps in implementing responsible practices to achieve the company's objectives. The audit examines various aspects such as environmental policies, procedures, energy usage, recycling, waste management, conservation, and pollution control. It also examines potential hazards or risks associated with the company's operations. The company then uses the audit findings to determine necessary compliance changes. In a broader context, environmental auditing aims to safeguard the environment, minimize risks posed by business activities to the environment, and ensure human safety and health. From the company's perspective, the audit's goal is to assess compliance with environmental regulations, meet requirements, and achieve predetermined environmental targets.
Objectives of Environmental Audits
The objectives of conducting Environmental Auditing are as follows:
- To evaluate the company's adherence to laws, regulations, and relevant obligations.
- Establish performance standards to create a foundation for planning and constructing an environmental management system.
- To encourage effective environmental management practices.
- To sustain public trust and reputation.
- Increasing awareness and reinforcing the company's internal dedication to environmental policies.
- To reduce the potential risks to health and safety arising from environmental concerns.
Importance of Environmental Auditing
- To enhance corporate reputation - Environmental audits contribute to improving the company's reputation and goodwill. Even if full compliance is not achieved, the public views the efforts towards improvement positively. When compliance is achieved, it generates favourable publicity, encouraging continued consumer trust and product purchases.
- To foster sustainability in business - Environmental audits create opportunities for marketing to environmentally conscious consumers. Formal recognition and accreditation can be utilized as tools to establish consumer preferences for the company's products.
- To prevent negative campaigns - Growing external pressure from advocacy groups and environmental activists compels companies to assess their compliance with environmental requirements. The increasing concern for the environment has amplified these demands. Non-compliant companies may face campaigns urging consumers to boycott their products.
- To adapt and meet stricter environmental regulations - Governments adopt more rigorous environmental regulations and standards, often through international agreements. This compels companies to comply to avoid penalties and legal consequences.
Types of Environmental Auditing in India
There are three major typesof Environmental Auditing in India. These are
- Environmental compliance audit – This audit assesses a company's environmental performance and responsible practices, examining its compliance with legal and regulatory requirements and standards like ISO 14001. It is typically the most extensive and potentially costly type of audit.
- Environmental management audit – This audit verifies whether a company has achieved the environmental objectives, policies, and performance established by its management.
- Functional environmental audit – This audit concentrates on a specific aspect or impact of a particular activity, such as audits focused on wastewater management, materials usage, or air quality monitoring.
The procedure of Environmental Auditing
The following steps must be conducted for any type of Environmental Auditing -
- Developing an audit plan that outlines the necessary activities and responsibilities for successful implementation.
- Examining the Environmental Protection Policy of the company as well as the relevant regulations that must be followed in compliance with state and national laws.
- Collecting pertinent information and data.
- Assessing the company's overall performance.
- Identifying areas that require improvement and warrant focused attention.
- Presenting the Audit Report to the relevant management.
Phases of Environmental Auditing
The following stages mentioned below are the various phases of Environmental Auditing -
- Pre–Audit Phase
- Audit Phase
- Post–Audit Phase
The steps outlined below describe the process for preparing the Pre-Auditing Phase:
- Establishing an Auditing Team
- Developing an Audit Plan
- Reviewing the following documents:
- Permit Applications and granted Permits
- Records of Industry-specific Production
- Previous audit reports, including evidence of corrective actions taken and the current status of identified issues
- Compiling a list of potential questions or inquiries that may be posed by the auditors, including follow-up questions related to prior audits
- Compiling any additional documents that the auditors may request
- Properly documenting the "Disclosure of Violation Table" that includes all identified issues.
The following steps are the procedure for preparing for the Auditing Phase:
- Establishing the ground rules
- Determining solutions for identified issues
- Conducting regular meetings to document the most recent data
- Evaluating the following documents:
- Environmental Policies
- Compliance Measures
- Training Reports
- Records of Air, Water, Waste, and Noise Pollution Control, Monitoring, and Storage
- Emergency Response Protocols
- Response to environmental-related complaints
- Ensuring the evaluation of documents is legally binding, consistent, and up-to-date
- Inspecting the site premises
- Assessing if compliance measures are conducting operations
- Collecting samples if necessary
- Cross-examining personnel responsible for Environment, Health, and Safety (EHS), as well as Operations, Management, Maintenance, and Policies
- Identifying concerning issues
- Conducting a Closing Meeting that lists all identified issues, followed by discussions and the development of necessary corrective actions.
The steps below mention the process for preparing the Post-Auditing Phase:
- Preparing the "Environmental Audit Report" and the "Disclosure of Violations Form"
- Listing the identified issues and areas of concern
- Documenting the actions taken to address the identified issues and conducting follow-ups related to relevant topics.
Documents Needed for Environmental Audits
The necessary documents for Environmental Auditing include the following:
- Maps and floor plans of the facility, which assist in defining the audit scope.
- Environmental plans, procedures, best management practices, and other relevant documents demonstrate how the facility manages environmental issues and prevents problems. This may encompass the EPA Risk Management Plan, Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs), and written emergency response programs, if applicable.
- Environmental permits/licenses and annual returns.
- An inventory of all chemicals and raw materials used, including their locations and quantities. This information helps determine the applicable environmental regulations for the facility.
- Employee training records, tests, and certificates prove that employees have received the necessary training and possess the required knowledge and skills to carry out their duties.
Advantages of Environmental Audits
- Providing management with valuable information on the company's environmental management and performance to aid in decision-making.
- Identifying risks associated with environmental responsibility and taking appropriate actions to address them.
- Ensuring company operations align with environmental laws and requirements and implementing necessary corrective actions if compliance is lacking.
- Identifying weaknesses in the environmental management system before they lead to issues or problems.
- Fostering an organizational culture that prioritizes the environment and increasing environmental awareness among employees.
- Identifying opportunities for improving environmental management and performance, leading to increased efficiency and cost savings.
- Engaging company transparency with stakeholders such as government, customers, and investors, thereby supporting long-term positive relationships.
- Generating positive publicity by sharing audit results, which enhances the company's reputation and image.
- Developing marketing strategies and strengthening brand equity, encouraging customer loyalty and support.
How can Enterclimate assist you?
With over a decade of expertise in licensing and compliance domains, our team of professionals is well-equipped to offer extensive support for your Environmental Audits.
Expert Legal Guidance
Enterclimate offers comprehensive support for Environmental Audits, including legal guidance, through a customizable package that can be tailored to meet our client's specific priorities and requirements.
Best in Class client Support
Our dedicated support team keeps our clients informed about the latest guidelines and updates from relevant government departments concerning Environmental Audits and their regular inspections.