Keeping up with the many environmental laws, rules, regulations, and concerns in the world we live in is an ongoing process. And if you own a business, it is your responsibility to review your usual business operations and activities and determine their effect on the environment.
As a business owner you must document compliance and control plans and explain them throughout your company. And as environmental concerns increase, the list of compliance issues for business owners grows. These issues include waste management, air and water resources, public safety, drinking water, and clean air.
- What is your business emitting into the air, water, or land?
- How sustainable is your operation?
- Are you meeting the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency stated requirements?
Your goal is to have ongoing systems in place and someone ready to speak with regulators to explain how you are meeting, and hopefully exceeding, your compliance requirements. The following is a list of some of the environmental laws you should familiarize yourself with:
- Clean Air Act
- Clean Water Act
- Emergency Protection and the Community Right-to-Know Act
- Safe Drinking Water Act
- Resource Conservation and Recovery Act
- Pollution Prevention Act
- Toxic Substance Control Act
- Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act
- Marine Protection, Research, and Sanctuaries Act
By obtaining copies of the various environmental acts and statutes, along with all industry and local government standards, you can do a self-evaluation to determine whether there are any areas in which you can better comply. You should have environmental policies for your business and maintain them by requiring employees to perform within their framework.
To further help ensure compliance, you should appoint individuals within your business to do monitoring. It will be their responsibility to maintain data on the status of your environmental programs and implement changes as they occur and as you develop new products or introduce new technology, equipment, or systems to your current operation. In small businesses, one person can often wear several hats, overseeing various areas of environmental concern.
To stay on top of the latest laws and policy changes, any one of 10 regional EPA offices can help. To help promote compliance with environmental laws and regulations, the EPA offers both education and incentives. You can learn about developing your compliance system from the EPA. Its incentive programs are in place should you discover any noncompliance. The EPA can reduce or waive penalties for businesses that voluntarily discover, promptly disclose, correct, and prevent the recurrence of environmental violations. In addition to these incentives the EPA offers information about self-disclosure programs and other environmental programs and projects.
While some businesses may try to slip by, others are establishing good practices from day one, immediately thinking about sustainability. It behooves business owners today to take a step into the future by being proactive and exceeding the basic requirements rather than having to take time away from business activities to be reactive to compliance issues.