Why Go “Beyond Compliance?”

Posted on 10/13/2011 by James Griffin

At Lion Technology, many of the questions we hear in our workshops and receive in our e-mails are very specific, asking about particular regulations and scenarios to figure out “I don’t want to get fined, what’s the least I can do to comply with these regulations?” While complying with regulatory mandates can often seem like a tedious, expensive chore, there are many reasons to do more than the bare minimum. A firm that goes above and beyond the standard can protect its assets in the long term, out-compete the competition, and reap the rewards of a good reputation.
A bare minimum approach may limit your costs in the short run, but can expose you to more risk over time. For example, the strict liability clause of CERCLA (the Superfund Act) means that if any product your firm ever had a hand in is found at an uncontrolled hazardous waste site, the EPA can hold your business responsible for cleanup costs whether or not you broke a law or violated a regulation.
Would you rather set the bar for your industry or struggle to meet someone else’s standards? Historically, those industries that caused the most pervasive environmental damage are on the receiving end of the earliest, most stringent, and most prescriptive regulations that come out of a new program. On the other hand, businesses that are the first to reduce pollution can set the standards for their industry.
The overarching goal of all environmental regulation is to protect the health of the nation and the vitality of the environment. Government mandates and regulations only describe the minimum limits for environmental protection. Anything you do to reduce pollution or protect the environment beyond those minimums can pay for itself with the value of a good reputation and relationships with the community.
How Do You Go Beyond Compliance? 
On December 15, 2005, then Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, Stephen L. Johnson, signed a position paper encouraging industry to voluntarily implement environmental management systems. This paper was later published in the Federal Register on February 2, 2006 (71 FR 5664-5665).
An environmental management system is a set of policies and practices designed to mitigate an organization’s impact on the environment. While there are many options, the best-known one is the International Organization for Standardization (ISO)’s “ISO 14000” program. Global companies are already under pressure to be “ISO 14000 certified” While the certification process is potentially long and expensive, once completed it reaps benefits both abroad (by being able to do business in Europe) and domestically (by establishing your green credentials).

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