Significance and Benefits of Environmental Audit Explained

Have you ever come across the words ‘environmental audit’ and thought why would a business need to do this? Well, it is a systematic and thorough evaluation of an organization’s responsibility regarding environmental management. There is not just one but many reasons to perform it. It is required by organizations to find out the gaps in their environmental responsibility i.e., gaps in the implementation of the EMS (Environmental Management System). It aims to verify the compliance of an organization with environmental regulations, and determine whether an organization is successfully able to meet its objectives. For all these reasons, the importance and benefits of environmental audit should never be underestimated by the organizations, regardless of their size or nature of operations.

Business operations and activities of every organization are accountable for leaving moderate to severe impacts on the environment. So, the implementation of an EMS must be a part of their business strategy with which they can monitor, assess, reduce, check, and manage their impacts. Environmental audit is a regular practice that helps continuously improving the EMS and hence their environmental performance.

In the following section of the blog, we have put forth the significance of conducting an environmental audit and pinpointed its real benefits to your organization.

Importance of Environmental Audits and Its Types

“An environmental audit is an effective way of discovering the impacts and risks of your business on the environment, meeting legislative compliance, and finding out opportunities to improve your environmental performance.”

The main purpose of conducting audits is to make sure that your business’s EMS is proactive and competent enough at addressing your specific environmental challenges and goals. When auditors assess your EMS, they provide an unbiased view which is most relied upon by the management and stakeholders. Therefore, the management team can use these objective insights to recognize the inadequacies in the EMS and take measures to improve it. Likewise, the stakeholders understand that the organization’s EMS is not just a formality but it is regularly evaluated and improved to make sure the environmental objectives and targets are met.

There are different types of Environmental Audits, depending on their relevance in your organization. Here they are:

Environmental Management Audit

In this audit, you need to evaluate the EMS meticulously to ensure that it is working competently and is helping you to continuously progress towards the goals.

The EMS audit is also a mandatory requirement of the ISO 14001 standard which demonstrates an organization’s commitment to environmental management. Thus, the key objectives of the EMS audit are:

  • The EMS is functioning effectively
  • The EMS aims at the predefined objectives and targets
  • To discover new opportunities for improving the EMS
  • To confirm it meets the organization’s as well as stakeholders’ needs

Functional Environmental Audit

This audit is about evaluating a particular aspect of the EMS and verifying that it is working according to the plan. For instance, your EMS aims at reducing the use of energy sources across all the processes. Thus, the functional audit would involve assessing your energy consumption and ensuring that it is controlled in accordance with your energy reduction plan of the EMS. This audit can also be combined with other audit practices such as an EMS audit or a compliance audit.

The functional audit is useful when you needed quick action in a certain aspect of environmental management and a whole audit can be too much time-consuming for it.

Environmental Compliance Audit

This audit is necessary to ensure the compliance of your organization’s EMS to the legislative regulations or a standard. The compliance audit will identify the gaps in your EMS against a set of requirements and objectives. Since the audit determines the compliance status of your organization with regulatory obligations, it requires direct intervention from the senior management. All the nonconformities, risks, and inadequacies pointed out by the auditors in the audit report must be considered by the management. Consequently, they should come up with a corrective action plan to resolve them and make the EMS compliant.

Benefits of Environmental Audit

Learn about the following assured benefits for performing environmental audits periodically to know why they are essential for your business.

Develop a Good Reputation of Your Organization

No doubt, environmental audits help at enhancing your environmental performance which strengthens your organization’s reputation in the industry. When customers, employees, investors, suppliers, partners, etc. know that you perform audits at frequent intervals, they recognize your efforts and have a positive impression of your business. It assures them that your business is sustainable and so they are encouraged to continue buying or associating with your organization.

Helps to Avoid Public Reactions or Media Attention

There have been increasing environmental campaigns and a growing number of environmental activists everywhere in the world. This creates pressure on the organizations to remain accountable for their impacts and do their best to prevent or mitigate them. If these activists find out the negligence of your business towards any environmental responsibility or regulation, they can cause serious reactions in the public and the media. When audits are performed regularly, it spares your business from any such negative impacts because you are always checking whether your EMS addresses all environmental responsibilities and challenges.

Ensures Compliance with Stricter Regulations

Governments or regulatory authorities are coming up with new and more stringent environmental regulations due to increasing environmental awareness. Noncompliance with any of the governmental regulations is not only considered a violation by a business but would also get a business penalized by the court of law. Thus, an audit helps you to remain compliant with the latest environmental laws and regulations and prevent any litigation or penalty.

Key Takeaway

The benefits of environmental audit make it clear cut why you should be conducting it sincerely in your organization. Even though it is a self-assessment of environmental performance by an organization, the auditors who may or may not be their members give an impartial review of their EMS. They are experts at it and use their discretion to find faults and areas in the EMS that need to be corrected or adjusted. Thus, the intended outcome of the audit is to improve the effectiveness of your EMS and assure better performance of your business in the aspect of environmental management.

Do you need your business’s EMS to be audited for achieving compliance with the ISO 14001 standard or for improving its scope? You can get in touch with the experts at Compliancehelp Consulting LLC. We have been providing consultation and performing audits across businesses to help them become ready for ISO standard certifications. Surely, we can assist you too. Feel free to contact us!