“An environmental audit is a methodical examination (incl. tests, checks, and confirmation) of environmental procedures and practices with the view of verifying whether they comply with internal policies, accepted practices and legal requirements” (DEAT, 2004). Mandatory audits mostly stem from legislation, licence requirements and environmental authorisations. Mandatory audits ensure that the authorisation/licence holder complies with the conditions of an Environmental Authorisation, Environmental Management Programme (EMPr) and Closure Plans where applicable. Mandatory audits can include both internal and external audits. The external audits are conducted by an independent person who has relevant environmental auditing expertise. The frequency of the audits is normally stipulated in the authorisation, however, if no frequency is stipulated the audit frequency must not be less than once every five (5) years, specifically referring to audits in terms of the EIA regulations. In terms of the auditor qualifications in South Africa, an external auditor should be independent and suitably qualified, while there are no specifications for an internal auditor.
Voluntary audits can be based on contractual agreements, best practice, accreditation, self-assessment, or a range of other possibilities. In comparison with mandatory audits, an organization will conduct a voluntary audit without compulsion from a regulatory authority or are not mandated by law. Voluntary audits can be contractual, a funding requirement, due diligence, best practice, or accreditation. Environmental due diligence audits are conducted to gain an understanding of the actual and potential environmental liabilities of a site or operation. A contractual audit can be undertaken by a client to test the environmental compliance of a contractor or supplier and is included in the contract document. An accreditation audit, for example the ISO 14001 system audit, is conducted as a self-improvement tool and it also has third-party recognition through certification.
Environmental audits are conducted to ensure that organisations comply with mandatory legal requirements as well as continual self-improvement. ENVASS has a range of professionally registered scientists and auditors that can assist with conducting your environmental audits.
Reference DEAT (2004) Environmental Auditing, Integrated Environmental Management, Information Series 14, Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism (DEAT), Pretoria.