Environmental Audit – “Definition”
A systematic evaluation, review, or assessment of a facility or operation or an activity at a facility or operation to determine compliance with environmental laws or any permit issued under those laws.
What is an Environmental Auditing?
It is important to draw the distinction between auditing and techniques such as environmental impact assessment (EIA). The latter assesses the potential environmental effects of a proposed facility. The essential purpose of an environmental audit is the systematic scrutiny of environmental performance throughout a company’s existing operations.
The term environmental audit means different things to different people. Although there is no universal definition, auditing, as practiced by many leading companies, follows the same basic philosophy and approach summarized by the broad definition adopted by the International Chambers of Commerce (ICC) in its publication Environmental Auditing (1989). The ICC defines environmental auditing as:
a management tool comprising a systematic, documented periodic and objective evaluation of how well environmental organization, management and equipment are performing, with the aim of helping safeguard the environment by:
(i) Facilitating management control of environmental practices and
(ii) Assessing compliance with company policies which would include meeting regulatory requirements.
Why Environmental Auditing?
- Environmental issues can be a significant source of liability
- A primary function of corporate leadership is management and avoidance of risk
- Important to understand the sources of liability and techniques or tools available to control or avoid it.
- Auditing is a key ingredient to informed decision making and risk avoidance and a key component of environmental management
Objectives of Environmental Audit
The overall objective of environmental auditing is to help safeguard the environment and minimize risks to human health. Clearly, auditing alone will not achieve this goal (hence the use of the word help); it is a management tool. The key objectives of an environmental audit therefore are to:
- Determine how well the environmental management systems and equipment are performing
- Verify compliance with the relevant national, local or other laws and regulations
- Minimize human exposure to risks from environmental, health and safety problems.
Audit Scope of Work
- Define environmental media subject to audit
- Review of previous site assessments and environmental reports
- Review all existing environmental permits and operating conditions
- Review all records of monitoring and testing of equipment
- Access to the environmental manager or consultant familiar with compliance history, environmental policies, and documentation
- Allow time for detailed facility/site inspections
- Provide contracts or purchase records for regulated equipment, i.e. boilers, engines, combustion units
- Review of all previous notices of violations or citations identified by federal, state and local agencies
- Identify all facilities/properties owned or operated
- Review of maintenance records and service contracts, i.e. filter changes, disposal, chemical
- Operating records, i.e. hours operated, shifts
- Make everyone involved aware of the schedule
Figure: General Audit Process
Benefits of Environmental Auditing
If environmental auditing is implemented in a constructive way there are many benefits to be derived from the process.
- Safeguard the environment
- Verify compliance with local and national laws
- Indicate current or potential future problems that need to be addressed
- Assess training programmes and provide data to assist in training
- Enable companies to build on good environmental performance, give credit where appropriate and highlight deficiencies
- Identify potential cost savings, such as from waste minimization
- Assist the exchange and comparison of information between different plants or subsidiary companies
- Demonstrate company commitment to environmental protection to employees, the public and the authorities.