An environmental audit is an assessment of the nature and extent of harm (or risk of harm) to the environment posed by an industrial process or activity, waste, substance or noise. An audit must be able to deliver authoritative advice that can be relied upon to make decisions affecting our future.
It must be independent, objective, credible and transparent.
Many organisations use audits as tools to help assess the condition of the environment they manage (or can influence), prioritise actions to reduce risks to the environment as a result of their activities or to demonstrate accountability to third parties.
Environmental auditing in Victoria
The environmental audit system has operated in Victoria since 1989. It led a national movement for auditing environmental performance and the condition of the environment.
The Environment Protection Act 1970 provides for the statutory appointment of environmental auditors and their responsibilities to ensure high quality, rigorous environmental audits are conducted by appropriately qualified professionals.
Appointed environmental auditors may be engaged by anyone from private or public sectors to provide independent, objective environmental advice.
The environmental audit system currently has three well-established applications covering contaminated land, industrial facilities and natural resources.
The most extensive use of the system to date has been by planning authorities, government agencies and the private sector to ensure potentially contaminated land is suitable for its intended use, or to advise how to make the land suitable for its intended use.
EPA has used the audit system to assess the risk of harm to the environment caused by the setting up and/or operation of industrial facilities (such as a landfill or petrochemical complex). These audits tend to be for highly complex sites which we believe may be, or are, polluting or presenting a risk to the environment. Audits recommend measures to reduce identified risks.
Managing the system
EPA manages the environmental audit system and its integrity through:
- a rigorous process to appoint auditors
- a statutory basis requiring the appropriate conduct of auditors, with suspension or revocation of appointment if breached
- significant financial and custodial penalties for providing false or misleading information
- requiring auditors to undertake audits only within their field of expertise and that of their expert support team
- regular review of their work.
Contributing to the system
EPA has developed guidelines for the appointment of environmental auditors and the conduct of audits. As the audit system continues to evolve, existing guidelines are updated and/or new guidelines developed. EPA welcomes input from stakeholders and the community on possible applications of the audit system.
Contact EPA Victoria for more information.