The Environment Bill – how a proactive approach to environmental risk can prevent early penalties

Rethinking your approach to environmental risk will help you prepare for stricter new policies – and prevent the steeper penalties of non-compliance.

As businesses rebuild following the COVID-19 crisis, another monumental test of ready-or-not resilience awaits – this time, the race to protect our natural resources. Currently being debated in Parliament, the Environment Bill is expected to come into force in October 2021, enshrining in law a series of forward-looking government initiatives that fuel ‘urgent and meaningful action’ across air and water quality, resource efficiency, waste management, and biodiversity.

The new legislation brings to life the Government’s post-Brexit green vision, introducing bold, legally binding ecological targets for industry and holding companies accountable for their pivotal role in the UK’s expansive 25 Year Environment Plan.

Rethinking your approach to environmental risk will help you prepare for stricter new policies – and prevent the steeper penalties of non-compliance.

A line in the sand for every sector

Pioneering a non-EU governance framework for the environment, the Bill will provide a blueprint for businesses across every industry – from chemical to pharmaceutical, FMCG to logistics – to weave environmental protection into corporate policy, daily working practices, and front-footed pollution prevention. Organisations will work towards a series of long-term and interim environmental targets, supporting specific (as yet unpublished) goals within priority areas, as well as the Government’s overarching commitment to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

Progress will be monitored by the Office for Environmental Protection (OEP), a new, independent green watchdog responsible for setting strategy, reporting performance against targets, and enforcing environmental law.

For many businesses, the Bill presents a costly and uncomfortable choice – either invest in the infrastructure upgrades, process improvements and employee training to achieve and maintain compliance, or face the financial hit of falling short. However, by engaging an expert consultant to proactively reduce risks, organisations can boost overall environmental standards and cost-effectively tackle their most critical ecological threats.  

A leap of faith

Businesses are also being faced with a conundrum. The technology and products driving the Net Zero agenda is by-and-large newer when compared with traditional products such as fossil fuels. Their development process and supply chain aren’t as sophisticated, meaning they cannot compete with the consistency and reliability of traditional technologies. Businesses are being forced to take a leap of faith in migrating their strategies to using these more environmentally friendly technologies.

Equally the cost of these newer technologies is often greater initially. But it takes the early adopters to make them more mainstream and bring their costs in line with traditional methods. Will businesses move now, putting their faith in the younger companies, accepting the higher cost and a few bumps in the road, or wait, sticking with the traditional, more polluting options? A specialist consultancy will be able to help you to develop a strategy that is appropriate for your business.

Environmental solutions to bridge the budget gap

Whatever your industry, the route to compliance begins with pinpointing and prioritising urgent environmental risks across your estate – from biofuel leaks to wastewater containment failures. Through a comprehensive onsite investigation, an environmental specialist will isolate key ecological hazards that could trigger a serious pollution event and incur high-level penalties under new laws.

The consultation process then moves to the design and implementation of a custom mitigation plan, in line with business needs and budget. Blending immediate fixes and longer-term monitoring and maintenance, the programme may draw on niche sector services – such as site decontamination, drainage clearance, and ecological surveys – to address specialist compliance concerns.

The compliance clock is ticking

The Environment Bill is central to the government’s mission to ‘build back better’ following the pandemic – a goal underscored on 18 November with the launch of the Prime Minister’s Ten Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution. The enterprise promises £12 billion towards the creation of 250,000 British jobs within clean energy, transport, nature, and innovative technologies, and outlines progressive projects supporting carbon capture, offshore wind power, electric vehicle production, and more.

With the UK’s green agenda moving at pace, companies must also act quickly to remain on the right side of evolving regulations. The Environment Bill will undoubtedly be a big ask for businesses – but the COVID-19 outbreak has proven that positive change is possible, even in the most challenging conditions.

Aligning with an expert now will allow you to identify key risks, weigh up options, create a practical mitigation programme, and effectively navigate an ambitious new chapter of environmental responsibility.