Cynics would say that the reason companies become sustainable or
environmentally efficient is because they are jumping on the PR bandwagon. This
may be half true, but sustainability is about more than image.
An environmental audit is one way that companies can objectively tackle the
environmental framework of their company to specify which areas can improve
performance and where money can be generated or saved.
While the aim is similar in most companies, the resources, depth and cost can
vary wildly depending on the sector. Companies should think about implementing
an environment management system (EMS), so that once an initial audit is done,
the systems are in place to ensure the company sticks to what it said it would
The audit should seek to establish:
• Legal compliance in the UK, EU and abroad;
• Risk reduction;
• Performance improvement;
• Cost reduction;
• Implementation of an EMS which should help strengthen the current systems; and
• Communication to staff, stakeholders and customers.
A good audit should be a documented, systematic and objective evaluation of a
company’s environmental performance, which specifies management systems that
need to be put in place to continue auditing in the future.
There are various types of environmental audits that a company can carry out,
• Environmental audit – This is a general overview of the
company, both internally and externally. Externally, things to look at would
include the physical footprint of the company and the impact of the site.
Internally, you could look at the operational processes to identify emissions
used on storage, waste, lighting, heating, water, travel, etc.
• Waste audit – Identifying waste production and handling on
site, including storage and cost. Once this has been determined quantities of
waste can be established and reduction objectives put in place. Hidden waste is
also taken into consideration such as energy, water and raw materials.
• Waste disposal site audit – This is usually undertaken as
part of Duty of Care Regulations. The audit aims to ensure a company’s waste is
being disposed of correctly as well as limit landfill useage wherever possible.
• Compliance audit – These are used in conjunction with an EMS
system and generally has to be verified by an accredited party.
• Water audit – An audit will quantify the water used and help
to identify discrepancies such as leaks or wastage.
• Due diligence audit – This is usually carried out on behalf
of potential investors. It is generally done externally and will encompass other
factors such as health and safety, risk assessment and legislative requirements.
• Business travel audit – Companies compiling this type of
audit will look at the quantified data of carbon emissions from business travel,
including fleet, flights and employees travelling to work.
If it’s worth having
According to Bill Sneyd, director of advisory services at the CarbonNeutral
Company, the process could take between one and six months depending on the type
of company in question and cost around £3,000 to £10,000 for the overall audit.
“It requires resources, time, a regime and commitment, but anything worth
having is worth making an effort for,” he says. And It is certainly worth the
effort if CarbonNeutral Company claims of 20% savings annually, for most
companies, is anything to go by.
Sneyd adds that some of the skills needed may not be available in-house and
it could be easier and more cost effective to get outside help (see Outsourcing
environmental auditing function).
Richard Pytel, a surveyor at energyTeam, advises that another step in the
right direction would be to implement a company-wide environmental policy after
the audit to ensure all future equipment, suppliers and staff adhere to the
However, the most important aspect of any environmental policy is support
from the board; otherwise, according to Pytel, “you could be whistling in the
Outsourcing environmental auditing function
There are occasions when it could be more cost effective to outsource an
environmental audit to a consultant, who has more experience and expertise in
that field. However, there are many aspects that you need to take into account
when choosing a consultant.
First and foremost, the consultant will need to know and fully understand
your business needs. Once this has been established, a plan should be drawn up
detailing what it is that you want to achieve and whether they are in a position
to fulfil your requirements.
Common services that you would normally require from a consultant are:
• Identifying legislation that your company needs to comply with;
• Minimising carbon emissions;
• Assistance with permits and licences;
• Carrying out an energy and waste review, as well as reports on ways to lower
your emissions and ways to make cost savings;
• Offering advice on equipment and procedures that lower your environmental
• Assistance with drawing up environmental strategies, for example, environment
• Training your staff on new procedures and explanations as to why they have
• What will the audit cost and how will the fees be calculated? It is advisable
to get a quote from at least three consultancies; and
• Do they have enough resources to cope with the audit or will they have to
outsource, and how does that affect your fee.