Environmental auditing has a critical role to play in ensuring that organisations fulfil their commitments to environmental management, their environmental performance and compliance. It is, often, inextricably linked with either, internal auditing of an Environmental Management System (EMS), such as ISO 14001 or external audits as a route to certification.
Indeed, much is written about Environmental Management Systems, such as ISO 14001, both from a technical perspective for their implementation and maintenance and for the wider benefits to meet stakeholder expectations including environmental regulators.
However, much less is written about the environmental auditing process outside of the many Environmental Auditor courses that are available in the marketplace. Even less about the relationship and interaction between senior managers and Auditors within an organisation.
So, it is a positive step to promoting best practice and fostering better understanding of this nexus that the IEMA have filled this vacuum with a new Briefing Paper: The Value of Environmental Auditing.
The Briefing Paper is both timely and targeted at explaining how management can support and benefit from effective environmental audits. It covers, both internal and external, auditing and how these can add value to an organisation. Whist the Paper is intended primarily for those responsible for managing environmental audit programmes within organisations, it has relevance to Auditors and their role in adding value to the organisation that they support.
An effective environmental audit provides a true and fair view of the organisation’s environmental performance and compliance status to its senior manager providing comfort over the accuracy of their management or revealing any areas, which are not functioning correctly, or could be enhanced.
Auditing is critical to decision making for an organisation placing reliance on environmental management performance. The process through which an audit is undertaken challenges the robustness of the internal controls and processes an organisation has in place, giving an unbiased perspective and valuable feedback.
Equally, Auditors need to know that they have the full support of their senior managers to conduct their audits including promoting a culture that enables and supports auditing as a valuable and integrated business function rather than a siloed activity divorced from the business and its objectives.
Here, IEMA should be challenged to take up a greater role within its Auditor registration scheme and to promote the enhanced benefits of employing or contracting with an IEMA-registered Auditor to businesses as well as more direct support to this section on the environmental community.
Additionally, the Paper covers external audits, such as those conducted by Certification Bodies, and the opportunities to enhance and maximise the value from these audits as well as the joint role of Certification Bodies and the United Kingdom Accreditation Service (UKAS) in delivering value within certification audits.
Certainly, the greatest legacy of the Briefing Paper and, my earnest hope, is that the IEMA Briefing Note will be circulated more widely outside the environmental community. With this wider recognition, we have the opportunity to strengthen the value of environmental auditing, for its true value to be realised by many more organisations, as we come out of the current Covid-19 pandemic and need to face the environmental and sustainability challenges ahead for us, all, and our shared environment.
Download IEMA's briefing paper on The Value of Environmental Auditing here.
Please note: the views expressed in this blog are those of the individual contributing member, and are not necessarily representative of the views of IEMA or any professional institutions with which IEMA is associated
About the Author
Andrew Marlow is a Chartered Environmentalist, Fellow of the IEMA, an IEMA-registered Environmental Auditor & Director of onePlanet Solutions Limited delivering strategic focus on sustainability, governance and performance management to large and small companies. He is actively engaged in the development of International Standards, as Co-Convenor of the Working Group, which developed ISO/IEC 17021-2:2016 on the competence for Certification Body Environmental Auditors & the UK Expert for the verification and validation standards for environmental information & ecolabelling. He publishes regular blog articles on environmental and sustainability issues at www.EMSmastery.com and video content on the EMSmastery YouTube channel.