Environmental protection

​Corporate Environmental Protection – what is it?

Surely the regulations only affect chemical installations and other large enterprises?
Far from it. It is not true that everyone who does not need an environmental permit does not have to or cannot do anything.

Unfortunately, sometimes it is not so easy to determine the obligations and the opportunities on environmental protection. This is because the regulations can readily arise from areas of law that we do not directly regard as environmental law. For example, the chimney sweep obligation.

For large companies there are more and more specific requirements. Above a certain size, these companies often have – also required by law – corresponding representatives who are dedicated to environmental protection in the company.

​What are the environmental regulations?

Environmental legislation brings together the legal provisions that serve to protect the environment. Quite simple so far.

​Environmental legislation is based on three principles:

  • Precautionary principle
    Preventing pollution and even environmental damage from occurring in the first place
  • Polluter pays principle
    Whoever causes the pollution is responsible
  • Cooperation principle
    The public should be involved in decisions to a certain extent
    This applies e.g. to approval procedures in which the application documents are publicly displayed

Environmental law can be binding both nationally and internationally. Just think of EU legislation. National regulations can apply nationwide (federal law) or be state law of the federal states in Germany.

In addition, there are binding regulations at the district or municipal level, the municipal bylaws. As a should-know, there are municipal regulations for waste disposal and wastewater disposal – along with the fees due for them.

​What does environmental law regulate?

In the field of environmental protection, we can essentially start from five key issues:

  • Protection against air pollution
    (immission control)
  • Water protection and water management
  • Waste disposal
    (circular economy)
  • Energy and climate protection
  • Soil protection and inherited pollution burden

Regulations on energy and climate protection were added not so long ago and have quickly developed a focus of their own.

In addition, there are regulations on topics that do not necessarily form independent priorities or can be clearly assigned to the above-mentioned. For example, the protection of the ozone layer by banning certain harmful gases.

​What does this mean for my normal sized business?

Companies that are not subject to environmental licensing requirements must nevertheless comply with environmental regulations. Environmental regulations do not only apply to installations that require a permit. One example that you can probably relate to is waste legislation. This even applies to private households.

The key question is: do you know what you need to do to be legally compliant?

To stay in the example of waste:

  • can you avoid waste?
    Use reusable packaging, consume material completely
  • How do you segregate the waste you produce?
    Paper, plastic packaging and residual waste is probably not enough in a commercial enterprise?
  • How do you dispose of the waste?
    Which disposal company is allowed to accept which waste at all, especially if it is hazardous waste?
  • What about documentation?
    Which disposal records to keep and for how long, etc.

You can see from this example that you can already achieve a lot by acting in an environmentally conscious way. Simply transfer what you do and think as an environmentally conscious person to your company. Support your measures with appropriate documentation.

It doesn’t have to be the latest product hyped up in advertising to save the world. The proven not too aggressive detergent, properly dosed and used housewifely brings quite a lot.

​Large facilities

For businesses that need an environmental permit, I suggest a slightly different approach:

First, check that you have all the necessary permits and that they are up-to-date. You can do this together with the licensing authority. The authorities are not only the evil inspectors, they also have an advisory mandate, which they are usually happy to fulfil.

In the second step, you go through the terms and conditions: Do you meet them, and can you prove it?

These two steps already provide most of the information you need to work in a legally compliant manner. Especially in the second step, ideas often arise about what else you can do, or questions about where you need further information or support.

Based on this, you ask yourself the same questions as your colleagues in the companies that do not require approval.

​In summary

Environmental protection in the company is not witchcraft. In Germany, in particular, we have already done a lot for environmental protection and environmental education over the years and decades that many things are a natural part of our lives and actions. It is therefore difficult for us to see this as an achievement in environmental protection.

Nevertheless, there is always more that can be done in environmental protection. Our environmental problems are well known. For example, the climate change or plastic waste in the oceans.

How this can be done, what you can or must do as a well-positioned company, more about this on these pages.

By-the-way: many measures in environmental protection are at the same time cost-saving.