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Compliance - depends on who's asking!

Ben Wither
Monday, May 23, 2016
First presented: 
GEMG Environmental Management Workshop, 18-20 May 2016

Every  company  has  one,  but  can  they  stand  by  their  statements  of  compliance  and  do  their employees really understand what is expected of them?  How can companies demand compliance when often the very notion of compliance is misunderstood or subject to individual interpretation? Compliance with social and environmental obligations underpins an organisation’s licence to operate, often referred to as the “minimum” in performance expectations.  However, when asked what their compliance requirements are, many operational staff often respond with averted gaze or the standard response of, “Ask the enviro, that’s their job”.

Operational compliance is no longer the responsibility of discipline specialists, and the effective dissemination and communication of compliance activities across the workforce is crucial to a sustainable compliance model.

So what is compliance?

  • Adherence to all external and internal requirements, including but not limited to applicable regulatory requirements, corporate requirements, and requirements contained in authorising documents.   Put simply, the execution of activities in accordance with commitments and obligation
  • For an effective compliance model to succeed, employees must understandown and lead the business:

o     Understanding – an operation must know its obligations and translate those obligations into compliance activities

o     Ownership – responsibility and accountability must be assigned to ensure individuals at  all levels of the organisation understand what is expected of them, and how to satisfy these commitments, respond to deviations and improve performance

o     Leadership – every person has compliance responsibilities, and they must communicate concerns, deviations or opportunities for improvement.

This paper will draw on experiences gained implementing compliance models across a variety of operations both within Australia and abroad. I will reflect on the influence cultural setting has the implementation of a compliance model and tips on how to strengthen relationships with operational staff during the process. Establishing a compliance model is a challenging journey often interrupted by detractors or “budget constraints”; however, when paired with a robust stakeholder engagement process, the implementation of a sustainable compliance model can present significant cost saving across the organisation.

Feature Author

Ben Wither

Ben Wither is an Environmental Scientist with 20 years’ experience in the resource sector.  This experience across several facets – organisational risk management, management systems (design and implementation), business strategy, environmental monitoring, closure planning and rehabilitation, impact assessments and talent management  – has led to Ben’s development of a comprehensive knowledge in the application of management systems to achieve compliance with internal and external performance expectations. Coupled with his wide operational experience, Ben ensures that systems are practical and aligned with an organisation’s risk management strategy.  In his recent roles, he has provided guidance and advice across the business units, working closely with the leadership teams, functional leads, operational management and environmental professionals.

Principal Consultant (Environment)
BSc (Biological Science)
SRK Perth
SRK Latin America