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COMPLIANCE PARTNER: GIBB responds to growing need for environmental auditing

COMPLIANCE PARTNER: GIBB responds to growing need for environmental auditing

Requirements to conform with rigorous environmental standards has resulted in firms enforcing comprehensive environmental management services (EMS).

This pressure has arisen from increasingly stringent legislation, economic policies, customer pressure and growing public concern about the environment, along with the potential cost savings as a result of effective environmental management.

To this end, leading engineering consulting firm, GIBB boasts a dedicated environmental auditing unit to oversee ISO Environmental Management Systems, Environmental Compliance Auditing and Environmental Due Diligence Auditing.

GIBB Technical Executive, Mervin Olivier, said GIBB conducts most of its Environmental Management System audits to ISO 14001: 2004 requirements. “This service is aimed at operational organisations that want to benchmark their existing systems against the international standard and identify gaps and opportunities to improve their environmental practices and reduce their impact on the environment.”

Olivier said GIBB’s Environmental Management Systems audit offerings include internal audits, third party internal audits or external audits. “The third party internal and external audits are undertaken on behalf of international global testing, certification, inspection and training providers.

On environmental compliance auditing, GIBB Associate, Walter Fyvie, said 10 years ago it was not always the case that environmental authorisation for development projects would require environmental auditing of construction works.  “Today appointing an environmental auditor or Environmental Control Officer (ECO) is virtually a standard requirement of such authorisations.

In addition, waste legislation has advanced rapidly over the past few years and we are seeing more clients requesting waste audits for their waste facilities.”

Environmental due diligence audits is the third service line offered by GIBB’s environmental auditors. “These types of audits are often conducted in association with property transactions where the purchaser of a piece of land or operating concern such as a factory wants to ascertain the potential environmental risks associated with the land or property,” said Fyvie.

Fyvie said that the increasingly intense spotlight on environmental issues has compelled GIBB to upskill quickly in the auditing game. “Because we are specialists in our fields, we are able to conduct the work quickly and efficiently, which is critical in a price sensitive market such as ours, especially when it comes to ECO work.”

Fyvie said environmental legislation is expected to continue growing in the foreseeable future. “As legislation tightens, we expect the demand for our services to increase.  Authorities remind us that, as external auditors, they expect us to be their eyes on the ground as they do not have the capacity to conduct the auditing themselves.”

From a business perspective, auditors add value to various processes. “In terms of Environmental Management Systems, the obvious value that auditors bring is that they highlight required system improvements which, if addressed, ultimately means organisations are able to better manage their environmental impacts.

In terms of construction auditing, having an ECO on board means there is someone championing the environment, and ensuring impacts are mitigated.  This means companies should have to spend less on fixing mistakes that should not have been made in the first place” said Fyvie.

While ECOs were not always taken seriously in the past, Fyvie said this has changed significantly in recent years, especially as legislation improves and authorities respond to findings raised by auditors with compliance notices or fines. “The entire environmental auditing profile has been raised in the construction industry over the last few years.  Today the industry is taking environmental requirements a lot more seriously.”