government legislation - what your business needs to be doing now
There’s lots of government legislation in place to ensure that UK businesses meet the minimum standards required to minimise their impact on the environment.
How these regulations will affect you will depend on the size and type of your business, as well as the sector you operate in and the process you have in place.
UK environmental regulations focus on a number of key areas:
- Air - related to the amount of smoke, dust, noise, odour and solvents emitted by your business.
- Hazardous substances - regulations cover the collection, storage, handling, processing, use and disposal of various substances including: oil, ozone depleting substances, pesticides and biocides, radioactive substances, animal by-products and hazardous/special waste.
- Waste - regulating the handling, storage, transport and disposal of trade waste, as well as the recycling of products.
- Water - pollution, water abstraction and the discharge of trade effluent to public sewers.
- Packaging - covering the production, use and handling of packaging or packaging materials.
- Land - regulations cover the usage of contaminated land and landfill sites for disposal of business waste.
For more detailed information on how these regulations might affect your business, please visit the NetRegs website: http://www.netregs.gov.uk/netregs/mgmt_guidelines/
An environmental policy is a written statement outlining an organisation's mission in relation to managing the environmental effects and aspects of its operations. All organisations, to some degree, have an effect on the environment. Having an environmental policy in place demonstrates your green credentials to your shareholders, clients, customers and employees. Increasingly, customers are demanding that businesses prove their environmental credentials; this is particularly true if you deal with the public sector where there are top-down requirements from Government that all their procurement activities meet certain green standards.
Environmental policies are free and can help make sure you not only stay within the law but can also help you to improve your cost controls and conserve raw materials and energy.
Having an environmental policy in place is essential if you want an Environmental Standard (such as ISO 14001 or registration under EMAS), which is a technical document that describes an agreed and recognised way of doing something.
For information and advice on how to write an environmental policy please see Envirowise: http://www.envirowise.gov.uk/home.aspx
Environmental management systems
An Environmental Management System is framework to help businesses manage their impact on the environment and comply with Government legislation. Having an EMS can not only help you to reduce your environmental impact but it can also achieve cost saving and demonstrate your commitment to improving your performance to clients.
You can set up your own EMS as an internal management tool. Alternatively, there are recognised national and international standards that provide accreditation and external recognition of the standards achieved. EMS standards recommended by Defra include:
- > ISO 14001
- > EMAS
- > BS 8555
To fully contribute to an improved environmental performance, a good EMS should:
- > Be implemented at a strategic level and integrated into corporate policy and plans.
- > Identify the organisation’s impact on the environment and set clear objectives and targets to improve their performance
- > Be designed to deliver and manage compliance with environmental laws and regulations
- > Incorporate assured performance metrics that demonstrate all of the above.
For more information and advice on EMS visit the Defra website.
Targets for the future
The Climate Change Bill was introduced to Parliament on 14 November 2007 by the previous Labour government. It became law on 26 November 2008. The two key aims underpinning the Act are: to improve carbon management and help the transition towards a low carbon economy in the UK; and to demonstrate strong UK leadership internationally.
Key provisions of the Act include a legally binding target of at least an 80% cut in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 and a reduction in emissions of at least 34% by 2020; both compared to levels in 1990. The emissions targets have received support from the business community; however, the new coalition government has yet to make a public statement in support of the Act.
In May 2010, the coalition government agreed its environmental policies for the next Parliament, which included the creation of a Green Investment Bank, which would invest in low carbon projects that are too risky for the private sector alone to invest in, grants and schemes such as Green Deal to help householders create green homes and scrapping of the third runway at Heathrow.
Budget 2011 set out a number of key environmental measures affecting businesses with further details of the Green Investment Bank, which is set to launch a year earlier than expected in April 2012 and the following:
- > The fuel duty escalator was scrapped, and a Fair Fuel Stabaliser introduced, which is designed to hold down fuel duty when oil prices are high.
- > To drive investment in the low-carbon power sector, a carbon floor price will come into effect from 2013 and start at £16 per tonne of CO2 before rising to £30 per tonne by 2020. The measure is designed to encourage investment in energy efficiency.
- > The proposed carbon capture and storage (CCS) levy on energy bills was scrapped, with future CCS projects funded out of general spending.
- > In order to strengthen the case for businesses to commit to climate change improvements, energy-intensive firms will be eligible for a bigger discount from the electricity element of the Climate Change Levy, increasing from 65% to 80% from April 2013. The tax break scheme will also be extended to 2023.
- > To encourage businesses to use ultra low carbon cars, the company car tax will be frozen from April 2013 for cars emitting less than 95g of CO2 per kilometre. For vehicles with emissions from 95g per kilometre to 219g per kilometre, the tax will increase by one percentage point from April 2013.
- > Removal of the zero homes obligation.
- > Consult on the level of capital allowances for microgeneration technologies, and an update to the list of energy-saving technologies qualifying for ‘enhanced capital allowances’.
- > A £200 investment in regional railways.
The Energy Bill received Royal Assent on 18 October 2011 and became law. The Energy Act provides for a step change in the provision of energy efficiency measures to homes and businesses and makes a number of legislative improvements to enhance energy security, enable investment in low carbon energy supplies and fair competition in the energy markets. The Act provides the legal framework for Green Deal, the Government’s flagship energy saving scheme and the introduction of a new Energy Company Obligation from 2012 to underpin the Green Deal.
Other key Government environmental policies are included in the Natural Environment White Paper and the Government’s response to the Lawton Review of England’s wildlife and ecological network. The White Paper sets out a number of actions to support businesses including the creation of a business-led task force to look at new ways for UK businesses to trade in green goods and services and supporting joined-up action by businesses to support the green economy through, for example, Local Enterprise Partnerships.