By Emily Miller
No matter what kind of business you have, you are making an impact on the environment in some way. Monitoring the impact and finding ways to make it as small as possible not only protects the environment. It protects you! Every business must comply with environmental laws and regulations, and failing to do so can carry a hefty price tag. Assess your business operations to ensure you fulfill all your obligations.
1. Familiarize yourself with the relevant laws
First thing to do is to familiarize yourself with both the federal and state laws that apply to your business. There are at least 10 major federal laws that deal with protecting the environment, such as the law of the Endangered Species Act (ESA), the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA), etc. More of them are mentioned later on. In addition to this, there are many other federal acts, rules, and administrative environmental regulations. In the USA, the EPA is in charge of environmental regulations, so you can begin your research on their site. Even if you are entrusting this task to someone else, you should stay in the loop so you can make informed decisions. In addition, don’t forget that regulations tend to change from time to time so they need to be revisited periodically. Protect the future of your business with accurate and up-to-date information.
2. Determine your business’s impact
Now that you are aware of your state’s green laws, identify the environmental risks posed by your business activities. Are you using water and raw materials with potential environmental impacts? Do your activities produce waste byproducts? Are you utilizing efficient logistics practices? Evaluate your current impact thoroughly in order to correct any practices that might be causing environmental harm.
3. Obtain necessary permits
Depending on your industry, your business may have a higher environmental risk. For instance, a retail business may have considerably fewer impacts on the environment than an agriculture business. In case you fall into the latter category, you will need to obtain permits before you can operate legally. For instance, if your facility discharges wastewater, the Clean Water Act will regulate your activity. Some smaller sources of air pollution are required to obtain a permit under the Title V of the Clean Air Act. You need to be in compliance with both the federal and state regulations and asking for professional help is the best way to do so.
4. Employ professional assistance
The legal world can be difficult to navigate. Therefore, it is crucial that you consult knowledgeable professionals. Small businesses often do not have the capacities to employ an advisor or lawyer full-time, but this should not stop you from seeking help outside. The best course of action is finding professionals who specialize in your industry and are familiar with the specific green laws that might affect your business. For instance, if you’re in the construction industry, having a firm such as CCS Legal on retainer might prove invaluable if it comes to a dispute.
5. Manage waste
Every business generates at least some waste, so this is an area that can always be improved. Whether it is hazardous or non-hazardous waste, you should check whether you need compliance with the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act. However, even if your company does not deal with hazardous substances such as oil and ozone-depleting substances, all waste should be disposed of properly. Separate materials for recycling, and if your company uses packaging, use recyclable materials as much as possible.
6. Minimize pollution
Despite air and water pollution being regulated by the EPA, incidents are unfortunately far from rare. It’s important to do everything we can to prevent them, but you should also know what to do in case they do occur. If the pollution that happens poses a threat to the immediate environment, it must be reported promptly. You need to make sure to stop the operation that caused it and seek remedy to prevent further damage. The Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act, also known as CERCLA or Superfund, addresses how to handle uncontrolled or abandoned hazardous waste sites, accidents, spills and other emergency releases of pollutants or contaminants.
7. Do a self-assessment
Finally, remember that compliance with green laws is constantly monitored. If you follow all the rules, you should not have anything to worry about. If an inspection is coming up, though, it is a good idea to do a self-assessment in order for things to go smoothly. Make sure you have all the paperwork (such as reports and records) at hand and be prepared to answer questions about your operations.
When it comes to your obligations as a business owner, compliance with green laws is the bare minimum. Taking conscious action to make your business more eco-friendly brings benefits for both your company and the world around you. Therefore, it is heavily advised that you go beyond compliance and show your customers the values you hold.