Environmental Compliance Audit Programs

Environmental compliance audits are a proactive tool to identify and assess environmental law compliance at industrial, commercial, and institutional facilities, and company-wide. Compliance audits facilitate the implementation of best management practices to try to avoid exposure to environmental regulatory and civil liability.  Compliance audits should be completed under legal privilege to protect the audit process, findings, and audit report from disclosure.  Implementation of compliance audit programs helps our clients achieve legal compliance and continuous improvement with the implementation of best management practices and the best available control technology. Environmental compliance audits also support Environmental, Social and Governance ( ESG) objectives.

At Willms & Shier Environmental Lawyers LLP, our lawyers work with corporate environmental teams and local facility management to identify and assess environmental issues at operating facilities across Canada. Environmental compliance issues are identified as part of an audit. Our firm then works with the company to address identified environmental compliance gaps identified during the audit.

As legal counsel, our firm completes several compliance audit tasks, all under legal privilege, including:

  • preparing a summary sheet of applicable federal, provincial, and local rules/regulations in air, land, water, and waste categories for each facility before each in-person audit attendance
  • completing audit support functions
    • reviewing all facility approvals/permits/licenses/plans/records before and during the audit
    • attending a pre-site visit videoconference with facility staff to explain what to expect during the audit
    • attending an in-person site visit as one of several members of the company’s audit team
    • drafting the audit report with findings and recommendations.
  • following up to ensure that all deficiency findings and environmental compliance gaps are remedied by the facility on an audit program-imposed timeline.

Objectives of environmental compliance audit programs

Key objectives of environmental compliance audit programs include:

  • assessing a facility’s compliance with both environmental legal requirements and best management practices
  • assessing how well a facility’s approach to environmental management is achieving legal compliance
  • guide a facility and facility management about steps to enhance environmental compliance consistent with a company’s environmental expectations, legal requirements, and best management practices.

Why are environmental compliance audit programs important?

Environmental compliance management can be about International Standards Organization (ISO), Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) compliance, and overall environmental due diligence. The concept of due diligence is about having a system in place to keep clients out of environmental trouble.

Environmental due diligence works in three key ways:

  • when implemented correctly, due diligence will assist, in the first instance, to prevent environmental contraventions and limit overall exposure to environmental liability
  • where there is an environmental event, due diligence can be a complete defence to a regulatory prosecution
  • due diligence measures taken after an environmental event may help to reduce fine amounts if convicted of an environmental regulatory offence.

Due diligence is about an organization and its management being able to say that all reasonable steps were taken in advance to prevent the environmental incident from occurring.

Audit programs that our lawyers work within are designed to provide facilities and facility management tools to track responsibilities and obligations as set out in environmental laws, understand and minimize environmental risks, establish and roll out general environmental awareness training programs, and implement environmental management plans.

Environmental compliance audit program expertise

Willms & Shier Environmental Lawyers has designed and carried out environmental audit programs for several clients in various sectors including transportation, food processing, and manufacturing.  

Many of our firm’s lawyers have educational backgrounds or pre-law experience in science, engineering or environmental studies, which complement their understanding of technical and legal issues faced by clients. Understanding the technical issues assists in:

  • achieving the development and implementation of clear environmental policies and programs
  • meeting environmental compliance requirements and best management practices
  • responding to regulators
  • successfully resolving environmental disputes.

Contact our environmental lawyers today

Willms & Shier Environmental Lawyers has offices in Calgary, Ottawa, Toronto, and Yellowknife. Our lawyers are called to the Bar in Alberta, British Columbia, New Brunswick, Nunavut, Northwest Territories, Yukon, and Ontario.

To speak with an environmental lawyer, contact us today.