Compliance with Legal and Other Requirements

A commitment to comply with applicable legal and other requirements to which the organization subscribes related to its environmental aspects and impacts is a permanent objective of the organization.

Top management makes a commitment to comply with legal and other associated requirements. The organization needs to determine the applicable legal requirements related to its environmental aspects, which are the activities, products, or services that interact with the environment.

When identifying legal requirements, look at where and how you get information tied to legal to ensure that you keep updated and can understand the regulations binding your organization.

The organization is also committed to identify other requirements, which could be meeting your industry's codes of practice, such as Responsible Care in the chemical industry, collective agreements, leasing requirements, corporate head office requirements, best practices, and permit requirements.

The list of applicable environmental legal requirements for your organization needs to include the applicable tasks required to maintain compliance.

Do you need to keep records of operational controls, such as temperature readings, reports to government on volumes of pollutant releases, complete forms for tracking wastes, or apply for permits? Keeping track of environmental regulations is a full-time job. Many organizations have staff managing just this area, or they hire an outside contractor that does a compliance audit.

In some countries, a business that impacts the environment (e.g., releases contaminants into the air, land, or water; stores, transports, or disposes of waste) needs an approval from the government body to operate legally within its jurisdiction.

Generally, facilities report noncompliance to a government body, or they might have been identified through government inspections. The range of enforcement may include suspension of or amendments to approvals or issuing of orders, tickets, or fines, as in the case of the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).[1]

It is interesting to note that the greatest area of enforcement is tied with hazardous waste, then contaminated water, and then soil. The judicial penalties assessed were $104,390,628.

The Office of the Auditor General of Canada's Report of the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development reported in 2011, as part of “enforcing the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999, Chapter 3, that: 606 written warnings were given, 42 environmental protection compliance orders and 2 prosecutions.”[2]


Focus: Environment – Prevention of Pollution

1 Has your organization identified its applicable legal and other requirements and the tasks tied to these requirements?

2 Who at your organization is responsible for overall legal and other requirements and who is responsible and accountable for the specific tasks to meet these requirements?

3 How do you keep track of changes to legislation?

4 Where are legal documents stored, such as permits and government reports? Where are paper documents filed? Are these documents scanned into the computer for access?

5 How does your organization keep track of reporting to government on environmental requirements, such as waste volumes, hazardous materials inventory, emission requirements, etc.?

6 Does your organization do a compliance audit internally or externally? How often? Yearly?

7 When your compliance audit report is received and there are noncompliance issues, how is this information processed through your management system to ensure that details on completion of action items are addressed?

8 What outstanding compliance issues does your organization have? Who is managing these and how are they documented and tracked for completion?

9 Communication of legal requirements is important for stakeholders to understand – how are these delivered at your organization?

10 Has the company received any fines, court orders, or notices of violations related to environmental issues? What cost was this to the organization? Are they:

a. Recorded?

b. Tracked? (non-conformity – corrective action system)

c. Is there an improvement plan?

  • [1] To review the impact of compliance and enforcement activities you may wish to review the United States Environmental Protection Agency end-of-year data and trends at /resources/reports/endofyear/eoy2011/eoy-data.html.
  • [2] For copies of the report of the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development write the Office of the Auditor General of Canada, 240 Sparks Street, Stop 1047D, Ottawa, Ontario, K1A 0G6. Telephone: 613-952-0213, ext. 5000, or 1-888-761-5953 or
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