The first publicly recognised environmental audit in South Africa was undertaken by ESKOM in 1989. This major environmental audit was viewed by observers as having mixed success (DEAT, 2004). It did however succeed in starting the process and cementing the importance of environmental audits in South Africa. Environmental Audits are the most proficient tool at formally checking the compliance with environmental legal requirement (DEAT, 2004). These requirements are set out by the Environmental Management Plan, Water Use Licence, Waste management Licence, the Environmental Authorisation and other documents and licences.
Environmental Auditing is the process whereby an organisation’s environmental performance is tested and scored (according to compliance) against its environmental policies and objectives (DEAT, 2004). Environmental auditing when used as an efficient management tool can be used to enhance the overall environmental performance of any operation, as well as help ensure the correct compliance to relevant laws and legislations. Environmental Auditing details the process of measuring the actual and potential environmental impacts of an operation (Diamantis, 1999).
Environmental Auditing promotes a greater awareness towards sustainable development, Environmental protection, and safety. Additionally, this form of assessment provides a scientific approach to understanding, establishing, and evaluating risks, as well as providing an independent, robust, and defensible process to assess the extent of the contamination and risk posed to the environment (More, 2019). Additionally, environmental audits help avoid fines, identify issues of non-compliance, increase employee awareness of environmental standards and responsibilities, as well as helps improve stakeholder relations and ensures maintenance of sustainable levels of development.
Environmental audits provide important information to a multitude of different stakeholders and improves transparency and communication in many areas where there is a greater need for understanding and open communication. This management tool adds additional value by identifying, evaluating, and managing environmental risks and provides an opportunity for organisations to collect and evaluate more data to ensure that it performs in the optimal and safest manner, and that all negative impacts can be successfully mitigated, managed or resolved (DEAT, 2004).
Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism (DEAT). (2004). Environmental Auditing, Integrated Environmental Management, Information Series 14, Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism (DEAT), Pretoria.
Diamantis, D. (1999). The Importance of Environmental Auditing and Environmental Indicators in Islands. Eco-Mgnt. Aud. 6, 18 -25. Eco-Management and Auditing.
More, H. (2019). Environmental Audit. Available from: https://thefactfactor.com/facts/law/civil_law/environmental_laws/environmental-audit/1280/