Getting ahead of environmental regulation

When we talk about environmental regulation, it's hard to avoid mention of complex, costly and time-consuming compliance burdens for many businesses. Regulation imposes a broad range of environmental obligations on industry. There are never-ending analyses and debate about the overall costs versus benefits that environmental regulation brings to us generally.


Robin Ormerod


3 min

The compliance effort can manifest on the ground as capital-intensive pollution control programs, monitoring systems, routine reporting, troubleshooting, and keeping neighbours and other stakeholders happy.

Many businesses need to allocate substantial budgets to environmental compliance efforts every year. The big question is whether these costs need to keep on increasing, and whether more business advantages can be drawn from all that effort.

Lawyers are quick to point to the corporate risks and potential costs of non-compliance and of not keeping the neighbours happy. These costs are both financial – such as penalties, legal costs, rectification – and non-financial: loss of reputation, inability to attract good staff, political heat, or in the worst case, being shut down – a cost that just isn't in the budget. Add to that the potential for civil cases and the reasons to do a good job of compliance become clear.

We regularly find that people responsible for managing environmental obligations are aware that things ought to be easier – or wish so – but they don't really have the time or information to explore all the options. This applies to both regulators and industry, so what we often see are environmental compliance programs that are not as cohesive, efficient and useful as they could be. This is not helped by the fact that many of the standards and methods used today for legal compliance use quite dated technology.

Nevertheless, innovation and the adoption of new technologies in industry and government is happening and change is fast coming. Technologies already in the market are helping in various ways to provide more useful data, more quickly, and more smartly. The result is a radical change in how environmental management can be seen – not a costly messy burden, but a far more cost-effective investment that quickly feeds intelligence back into more effective on-the-run operations and longer-term decisions.

The key advantage of new technologies is being able to act on instantly accessible, relevant information – not just raw data but analytics that can be generated and disseminated automatically. When this is all linked to key areas of the business where operational decisions can be optimised by this knowledge, you then have a sharper, more proactive eye on your environmental impacts and a much better way to keep ahead of regulatory challenges.