As I mentioned in a previous blog entry, the Environment Agenda is changing, mainly due to a predicted significant cut in its funding from central government. The way it regulates industry is set to take on a different form in the next year or two. With less emphasis on inspections and form filling and a new focus on nailing the bad guys and self compliance for the good guys.
Self compliance may take the form of submitting an ‘Annual Environmental Compliance Statement’ that is signed off by the CEO. The statement could include some minor breaches of your permit, as long as it is shown the company has adequately dealt with the problem(s). There would be fewer, or no, inspector visits and the whole exercise would be kept within the current legal framework and therefore there is no need to amend existing legislation. Effectively, the Agency would leave you alone and trust you to get on with running your business.
It sounds like a ‘no brainer’ surely? But for me, it raises a few important questions.
Unlike the Health & Safety regime, your CEO isn’t as personally liable for managing and signing off the company environmental compliance record. This new approach would put the CEO firmly in the firing line, if the statement was found to be anything but accurate.
Would your CEO therefore be happy to take on this added personal liability?
One solution could be for ‘the Board’ to sign off the Compliance Statement. This would still enable significant ‘buy in’ from those at the top of the company. As this Board level involvement is seen as a really positive aspect of the compliance statement. In that, it brings to the attention of the Board, issues of emissions to land, air and water.
Another problem is that the Statement would be a public document. Also, if the CEO or Board had to sign off the report, then might this require more work for the company as a whole. Surely the Board would require a significant level of assurance, that what they are signing is robust and correct. Of course you could see this from the other side of the coin, that ‘robust and correct’ is no bad thing.
Certainly the Environment Agency needs to show clearly the benefits, such a system would bring to the Regulator and industry alike.
What is your opinion, is this a brave new way forward, or more red tape?