Environmental sustainability legislation

This article first appeared in ALARM's Spotlight on Sustainability guide, November 2022.

In this article, we provide general commentary from a legal perspective on a number of sustainability topics in the environmental space.

Environmental sustainability - the legal position

Integrating sustainability across the governance framework of an organisation will help mitigate the risk of non-compliance with environmental sustainability legislation such as the Environment Act 2021 and the Public Services (Social Value) Act 2012 (amended in 2021).

Instilling sustainability across the organisation will also assist with mandatory disclosure of all climate-related financial information in line with the Climate Change (Duties of Public Bodies Reporting Requirements) (Scotland) Amendment Order 2020. Failure to comply with mandatory disclosure will leave organisations exposed to future claims and reputational damage.

It is anticipated that organisations will have to disclose biodiversity risks in the near future and it would be good practice to start this disclosure process now.

As always, risk assessments are fundamental. To ensure future success, we suggest robust risk management processes throughout the lifecycle of the strategic plan and delivery projects, with regular reviews of the strategic plan and risk assessments.

New climate law impacting biodiversity (under the Environment Act 2021) will come into force in late 2023 and we recommend organisations appoint biodiversity experts to support them to assess risks and perform audits of their greenspace, nature and biodiversity projects.

Top tips on mitigating claims and litigation risks when transitioning to a green heating scheme:

  • Start planning for sustainable initiatives early and involve key individuals from across the organisation.
  • Implement and follow a standardised regulatory framework.
  • Appoint an individual or team to oversee the initiative, who also has with an understanding of the wider sustainability aims within the Council, neighbouring authorities and other partners.
  • Standardise performance ratings.
  • Consider how targets will apply to specialist buildings, for example, listed buildings.
  • Consider whether there is a sufficient supply of construction skills to assist with training schemes.
  • Implement a bespoke system of dispute resolution.
  • Set realistic targets so contractors are not tempted to take short cuts.

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