Business Obligations & Environmental Laws

  • ISO 14001

While it’s impossible to force all industries to adapt to a completely environmentally friendly way of living overnight, there are restrictions and limits placed on industries to ensure they don’t overstep their boundaries.

While it’s impossible to force all industries to adapt to a completely environmentally friendly way of living overnight, there are restrictions and limits placed on industries to ensure they don’t overstep their boundaries.

Environmental Laws for Businesses

There are a number of obligations and laws which organisations have to adhere to. These will vary dependent on the type of company you are. For example, if you’re a business who produce a large amount of chemical waste, you’ll be held to a much higher standard than a company such as a parcel distributor.

Owing to this variance, it’s hard to relay standard expectations for every business. Instead, you’ll need to adopt a policy which helps you identify the key obligations your company has regarding the environment.

You can do this by:

  • Assessing the primary risks your business poses to the wider community – Take an analytical view of the substances and side-effects of what your business produces. Carrying out a risk assessment will highlight hazardous or polluting factors. This will also help boost efficiency. The more you scrutinise your business, the better improvements you can make.
  • Working alongside a regulator – In some instances, a regulator, usually provided by local authorities, can help you make these types of assessments. Organisations are set up with the express purpose of dealing with environmental management in industry.
  • Deciding if you need an environmental permit – There’s a good chance if you’re a manufacturer, for example, you’ll need to ensure you have an environmental permit. This document actively encourages you to reduce environmental harm as much as possible.
  • Getting advice – It may even be the case you need to employ a specialist consultant who comes in and intimately assesses all aspects of your business. A professional of this nature will be able to supply you with the fastest results

Once you’ve assessed how susceptible your business is to these obligations, it’s time to find out in greater detail what actually needs to be done. The types of measures to be taken can be separated into three categories.


When it comes to waste, there are a number of steps you’ll need to adhere to:

Packaging should meet environmental standards, and be recoverable and reusable

  • You need to register with a compliance scheme if you have a revenue of over £2m and handle more than 50 tonnes of packaging a year
  • Waste should be stored in such a way it can’t have the potential to leak into nearby water supplies or public areas
  • A professional contractor should be brought in to dispose of your waste properly
  • Waste transfers must be covered with the use of a note
  • Waste heading to a landfill must be treated to reduce environmental impact
  • Hazardous waste will need a special kind of storage, and should be disposed of separately
  • The same applies to waste containing electrical devices
  • It’s likely you’ll need a permit to allow you to burn waste


Air Pollution

The same applies when it comes to air pollution:

  • If your company produces a lot of pollution, you’ll need a permit to allow it
  • You’ll always need approval from your local authority before you install a new boiler or furnace
  • Dark smoke should never be produced (as a result of burning inappropriate substances)
  • Fuel used can never exceed limits regarding sulphur content
  • Your business must ensure there is no adverse impact on nearby properties
  • This will be assessed dependent on the location (stricter sanctions will be applied in neighbourhood areas)
  • Specific obligations dictated by local councils might require a company to make adjustments


Water and Land Contamination

Similarly, water and land contamination also need to be taken into account:

  • Trade effluent needs to be discharged into the sewers
  • Regular effluent (such as water) can be discharged into an ordinary sewer
  • You must comply with any conditions included in the consent from the local water company
  • You need to apply to your environmental regulator for authorisation if you’re going to dump either liquid or solid waste into a river stream
  • Oils and chemicals must meet specific requirements
  • Natural substances must not become contaminated on your property (for example, rainwater being harmed by pesticides on your land)
  • Any land you do contaminate must be cleaned by you
  • If there are any lingering questions regarding laws and jurisdiction, you can always contact your local council or environmental consultant to ensure you’re sticking to the sanctions of the law.


Punishment for Breaking these Laws

There are a variety of different penalties available for companies who do not stick to the laws. These will vary depending on the nature and severity of the breach to the rules.

  • Enforcement notices – These are handed to a business when they’re notified a change to their conduct is required, after a breach of environmental law. There’s a potential for a business to be temporarily closed down until they address the problem in question
  • Clean-up notices – This type of notice is handed to a business after they have caused a contamination. If a company fails to address the notice, they could face criminal charges.
  • Fines and imprisonment – Practically any breach of environmental law can be chalked up as a criminal offence. Depending on how far the prosecution of a crime is taken, you’ll face alternating maximum charges:
  • Magistrates Court – a maximum fine of up to £50,000, and six months’ imprisonment
  • Crown Court – an unlimited fine and up to two years’ imprisonment
    • Anyone working for a business has the potential to be prosecuted, so long as it was proven they were partially responsible for the disregard of the law.
  • Civil sanctions – These have recently been introduced as an alternative to outright prosecution. They’re usually in the form of fixed monetary penalties and enforcement undertakings.
  • Related orders – In the case of more serious breaches, the court can issue a related order. This includes:
  • A director’s disqualification order – Which legally prevents someone from acting as the director of a company.
  • Recovery of assets – It’s possible for a prosecutor to implement sanctions which see certain items related to a breach confiscated from an environment.
  • A serious crime prevention order – This can be issued after a person has committed a serious offence. This includes dumping waste without the use of a permit.

To ensure that your business complies with environmental laws there are a range of environmental business solutions and initiatives to help.

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Written by Mark Nutburn

CTO - technology professional with over 20 years of IT experience building bespoke CRM systems and designing customised software solutions. A key part of the management team at The British Assessment Bureau for many years and a part of AMTIVO’s management team.