What is Environmental Auditing?
Environmental auditing is the process whereby an organisation’s environmental performance is tested against its environmental policies and objectives. The policies and objectives must be clearly defined and well documented. Auditing is done through studying documentation, policies, procedures, instruction manuals, questioning the relevant staff members, and physical inspections and observations.
The audit evidence, also known as the audit trail, consists of documents, photographs, references to sections in policies, procedures, and manuals as well notes questioning sessions. Environmental auditing is a form of non-financial auditing aimed at verification of compliance with internal policies, practices, and or legal requirements.
Environmental Auditing as a Management Tool
Environmental auditing is a management tool used to assess, evaluate, and manage sustainability matters within the organisation. An environmental audit is part of a long-term process of evaluation that needs to be readily replicated so that the results are comparable and reflect improvements in a quantifiable and qualifiable manner. The true value of an environmental audit is the fact that it is performed at predetermined intervals, and that the result can illustrate positive change over time. The environmental audit often identifies measures or behavioural changes that can only be implemented over time.
Environmental audits are carried out using policies, procedures, documented systems, and visual observations, hence there is always some subjectivity in an audit. This is because of environmental auditors having diverse professional skills and experience resulting in different interpretations of similar circumstances. Using an audit team with specialist knowledge to repeat audits should negate variances caused by using different audit teams each time.
An environmental audit aims to determine the level of performance of management and the implementation of environmental policies, procedures, and objectives. The level of environmental performance contributes or detracts from an organisation’s overall performance. Compliance with both company governance policies and regulatory requirements is equally important. The latest trend for leading companies is to ensure legal compliance but aim for higher internal targets.
Types of Environmental Audits
Environmental Management Audits
Environmental Management Audits are designed to evaluate the effectiveness of Environmental Management Systems (EMS). Comprehensive environmental management at an operation will depend upon procedures, work instructions, guidelines, specifications, training programmes, and monitoring systems being implemented. During the Environmental Management Audit, the existence and level of functioning of the EMS will be evaluated. This forms a baseline against which environmental performance may be evaluated objectively.
Environmental Compliance Audits
Environmental compliance audits are designed to assess legal and corporate compliance to environmental policies, objectives, laws, bylaws, ordinances, regulations, and standards. This type of audit normally involves specific testing of compliance of issued authorisations, permits, and licenses.
Environmental Assessment Audit
An environmental assessment audit is used to check that an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) complies with the minimum legal requirements. It also determines if due legal process was followed. It is normally used to assist in EIA quality control.
Waste Management Plan Audits
Waste Management Plan audits are a form of environmental audits that specifically look at the waste management component of an operation or site. Various aspects of waste management are assessed and verified. It is a specialised form of an environmental audit often less costly as it has a limited scope of assessment.
Environmental Due Diligence Audits
An Environmental Due Diligence Audit is an assessment of actual and potential environmental liabilities of a specific site or operation. These usually form part of due diligence audits which look at the various business risks associated with a particular site or company. It ensures past and present compliance with legal and other requirements usually to incoming parties such as new owners, partners or joint ventures.
A supplier audit is an audit carried out by a client to test the environmental compliance of a contractor or supplier. WWISE has the skills and experience to assist clients in carrying out supplier audits. It normally involves an audit of any specific environmental conditions included in the contract agreement. Where no specific conditions are set, the audit usually involves evaluating the supplier’s environmental management system with special reference to the client’s business.
ISO: 14001:2015 Audits
Many leading companies require ISO 14001:2015 certification before engaging with another company. An increasing number of South African companies are becoming ISO 14001:2015 certified to be able to interact successfully with large multinationals and Governments.
Environmental auditing has been extended to include sustainability auditing. Sustainability auditing involves evaluating a company’s compliance with sustainability frameworks and social responsibility. The idea that a company should only focus on profit, is no longer valid. Modern companies focus on profit, social responsibility, and the environment (ESG). Sustainability auditing is becoming the norm for listed companies all over the world.
WWISE is strategically placed to assist clients with all types of environmental auditing. Contact us for more information or an obligation free quotation on 08610 99473/ 021 525 9159 (Cape Town) or email firstname.lastname@example.org