Taking an environmental audit
By Claudia McWilliams, project manager, Enviropass Expertise Inc.Electronics Regulations & Standards Engineering Environmental Editor Pick environmental regulations RoHS WEEE
Measuring compliance and its impact on promoting sustainable electronics in Canada
The electronics sector must prioritize sustainable practices with rising environmental concerns. Environmental audits enable businesses to observe applicable laws, lessen their carbon impact, and use ethical production techniques. In this article we will explore the significance of environmental compliance audits and their impact on promoting sustainable electronics in Canada.
Why Auditing Environmental Compliance in the Electronics? Audits are comprehensive assessments. Independent third parties conduct environmental compliance audits to evaluate an organization’s adherence to environmental regulations, industry standards, and best practices. For the electronics industry, compliance audits focus on compliance with environmental laws and regulations related to waste management, energy consumption, hazardous substances, and recycling.
Companies can find areas of regulatory non-compliance, put corrective measures in place, and enhance their environmental performance by conducting routine audits. Compliance audits are also a risk-mitigation tool that assists organizations in avoiding negative legal and financial outcomes while preserving their standing as ethical businesses.
Applicable environmental regulations
Here are examples of Canadian environmental regulations applicable to the electronic industry:
- Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA): CEPA is a federal law that regulates the manufacture, import, sale, use, and disposal of substances that may pose risks to human health or the environment, including some used by the electronics sector, like lead and its compounds, other heavy metals, or some plastic persistent organic pollutants. CEPA encompasses regulations and guidelines specific to different industries, including the electronics sector, such as the Prohibition of Certain Toxic Substances Regulations.
- Provincial Environmental Regulations: In addition to federal laws, each Canadian province has its environmental regulations. These regulations may address areas such as air quality, water management, hazardous waste, and pollution prevention from the manufacturing processes of electronic devices. Examples include the Ontario Environmental Protection Act, the British Columbia Environmental Management Act, and the Quebec Environmental Quality Act.
- Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Regulations: These e-waste regulations govern the management of electrical and electronic waste in Canada, certain US States, and the EU. WEEE establishes obligations for electronics producers, importers, and retailers, including the extended producer responsibility (ERP) for collection, recycling, and safe disposal of end-of-life electronic products.
The case of RoHS
Restriction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS) Directive: While not a Canadian regulation specifically, the RoHS Directive restricts the use of certain hazardous substances in electrical and electronic equipment when exporting products to various markets like the EU, the UK, China, or Saudia Arabia. As a result, compliance with RoHS is often adopted voluntarily by Canadian companies.
Audits beyond regulations
In Canada, the electronics industry has made significant strides towards sustainability, driven by government regulations, standards, consumer demand for eco-friendly products, and corporate social responsibility initiatives. Environmental compliance audits are central, ensuring companies align their practices with relevant requirements.
|Audit Type||Standard (Example)|
|Environmental Compliance Audit (ECA)||CSA Z773|
|Audit of environmental management systems (EMS)||ISO 14001|
|Audit of Hazardous Substance Process Management (HSPM) System for RoHS, REACH, WEEE, TSCA-PBT, etc.||IECQ QC 080000|
|Audit of hazardous materials management program (HMMP) in the aerospace industry.||NAS 411|
Who performs enviro audits?
Experts with the required experience, knowledge, and skill in environmental laws and auditing procedures can conduct audits. Since no single profession is exclusive to environmental audit, there is a wide range of potential candidates. However, to guarantee professionalism, it is possible to become certified through provincial o federal organizations. Nevertheless, it is crucial to choose auditors with the necessary training, expertise, and experience to ensure the legitimacy and efficacy of the environmental audit process. ISO 19011 is the international reference of common auditing practices.
Here are some examples of credible international certifiers and standard publishers:
- Environmental Careers Organization (ECO) Canada: ECO Canada provides the Environmental Professional (EP) certification encompassing multiple specialties, including environmental auditing. The EP designation signifies proficiency in environmental practices and standards, including auditing and compliance.
- Quebec Association of Environmental Auditing (AQVE): Standard Council of Canada has accredited AQVE to certify environmental professionals. AQVE offers the Certified Environmental Auditor (CEA) designation, which recognizes individuals with the knowledge and skills necessary to conduct environmental audits effectively.
The future of audits
As discussed above, environmental audits offer several advantages for organizations and the environment. They first give managers a thorough overview of a company’s environmental performance, enabling them to prioritize sustainability activities and make educated decisions. Audits support innovation and ongoing improvement by establishing a culture of sustainability inside organizations.
But carrying out environmental audits can sometimes be difficult because it may take effort to find dedicated auditors. One may also find it challenging to address the corrective actions and make the necessary adjustments. Furthermore, organizations may run into pushback from stakeholders or have trouble accessing reliable data for auditing. It takes dedication to sustainability, teamwork with auditors, and the incorporation of strong environmental management systems to overcome these obstacles.
Nevertheless, environmental audits will remain essential to the Canadian electronics industry’s efforts to be sustainable. Therefore, one can anticipate audits to broaden in scope as the sector develops to handle new environmental issues like e-waste management, circular economy principles, and greenhouse gas emission reduction. Finally, achieving a greener and more responsible future will depend on the electronics value chain’s capacity to incorporate sustainability into production processes.
To sum up environmental compliance audits are crucial for advancing environmentally friendly practices in the Canadian electronics sector. These audits help to lessen the industry’s impacts and promote a more sustainable future by assuring compliance with environmental rules and continual improvement. Accepting environmental compliance audits is a step to keep up with the evolving product requirements applicable to electronics.