How Environmental Laws Affect Corporations

Fri, Feb 10, 2012

6. Misc.

Every company that operates in a brick-and-mortar capacity in the United States is likely well aware of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), especially if they engage in manufacturing or have undertaken any building projects in the course of their business pursuits. The reason is that the EPA is the government agency responsible for researching, developing, and regulating laws that protect the environment, particularly as it pertains to corporations and the products and services they offer. If your business operations have any effect on “the natural environment – air, water, and land – on which life depends”, you will certainly come under the scrutiny and jurisdiction of the EPA (or its state-run subsidiaries) at some point, and it behooves you to be prepared for this eventuality.

But how can you make sure you are in compliance with the complex collection of standards set by the EPA so that you can avoid the sanctions and even potential shutdown that could result from failing to operate within legal parameters? Small businesses, in particular, may have trouble keeping up simply because they don’t have the staffing or funds to sustain awareness of changing laws that affect them and act in a timely manner to come into compliance. And large corporations can get into trouble when they undertake to push the limits in order to maintain cost-effective procedures and keep shareholders happy. However, these actions can be detrimental in a number of ways to both the environment and the business that is ignoring set standards.

Environmental regulations are in place for a reason; they are there to protect us all. And when the standards set by the EPA are circumvented or outright ignored, it can pose health risks to the public at large, whether immediate or over time (or both). This can be bad for a corporation in several ways. For one thing, it can lead to legal issues. The EPA and state-run regulators have the power to fine, prosecute, or even shut down a business that is found to be breaking environmental laws. Further, you could be on the hook for financial reparations and clean-up efforts for years to come, depending on the damage you are deemed to have done by bypassing the law.

But even worse that facing a legal courtroom is being tried in the court of public opinion. Failure to comply with environmental legislation could lead to virtual crucifixion by the consumer public, especially if innocent people are harmed in the process. Even if you somehow manage to survive the legal backlash and come out more or less whole, your brand image could be tarnished to the point that consumer dollars are no longer forthcoming, meaning you could be forced to close your doors in the long run anyway.

The point is, it’s just not worth it to break environmental laws. Whether you’re running a small manufacturing business, offering services that produce potentially hazardous waste, or managing a multinational corporation, it’s in your best interest to stay on top of environmental regulations so that you are aware of any that could affect your business. This is essential to the ability to remain in compliance with EPA standards so that you can provide the best possible products or services to your customers without harming the environment that keeps them alive (and spending their consumer dollars on your business).

Breana Davis is a contributor for Doyle Raizner, a team of dedicated legal professionals that handle a variety of cases involving maritime law, Liberty Mutual workers comp claims, and a variety of others.

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