What is an Environmental Compliance Register?

As a business, being aware of your legal responsibilities is essential to ensure you are always compliant and minimise the possibilities of fines and prosecution.  An environmental compliance register goes beyond legal responsibilities, including all compliance obligations.  This blog will discuss why you should have one, what should be included and how often it should be reviewed.

Why Should I Have a Compliance Register?

Having a compliance register is a requirement of ISO 14001, in clause 6.1.3.  If you want a certified Environmental Management System (EMS), it is essential that you have a comprehensive and well-maintained compliance register.  Even if you don’t operate a formal EMS, a compliance register is useful to ensure you are fully aware of your obligations.

If you break environmental law, claiming you weren’t aware of the requirements is no defence.  The first step to ensuring compliance is identifying all the requirements that apply to you and ensuring that systems are in place to meet those obligations.  By being proactive about your legal (and any other applicable) compliance, you can lower your culpability and reduce the chances of fines and prosecution.

What Should be Included in my Compliance Register?

Your compliance register should contain all the information you need to support compliance and should not be limited to legal requirements, although there will be many of them.  It should include other obligations that you need to comply with such as landlord agreements, voluntary agreements, codes of practice etc.  Your register may include:

  • The name of the obligation e.g. the regulation or Act
  • A description of the obligation – broadly speaking, what is it about?
  • Who regulates the obligation
  • The obligations applicability i.e. how it specifically applies to you, for example, a regulation may not apply to your operations in its entirety
  • Controls in place for how you comply with the obligation

If you are operating an EMS, you may want to link your compliance obligations to environmental aspects (for more information about aspects and impacts, read our how to guide here) and risks and opportunities too.

When Should I Review my Compliance Register?

Your compliance register should be reviewed regularly to ensure it remains continually relevant.  How often it is reviewed should be documented in your procedure, usually every 6 or 12 months and any new or amended obligations added.  In addition to this, the register must be reviewed if there are any changes to your activities, products, services or controls as that may affect how obligations apply to you or introduce new ones.  The register may also require review after an accident, incident or near-miss or if there has been any legal action or an investigation.

A compliance register will include all of your legal and other obligations and how they apply to you and is an essential document in helping you to stay compliant and avoid fines and prosecution.  Your register should be comprehensive and regularly reviewed to ensure you have the correct controls in place to meet your obligations.