Whether your business is large or small, environmental compliance is important. A recent case involving Wal-Mart highlights how important it is to be aware of best practices and how to resolve local and federal agency claims.
From approximately 2003 until 2006, Wal-Mart workers engaged in environmentally unsound business practices in Missouri and California, including the following:
Using local sewer and trash services, Wal-Mart workers poured materials like bleach and fertilizer down sinks or into the trash.
Combining and inappropriately repackaging and reselling returned pesticides and other compounds without appropriate authority or permits.
Despite these actions, no specific environmental damage was detailed in complaints. When notified, the company investigated. They then implemented a program for handling hazardous wastes, developed employee training procedures and created a compliance office partly staffed by former workers with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
While these proactive measures addressed the issues of concerns years ago, in May of this year Wal-Mart agreed to plead guilty to violations of the Clean Water Act, as well as a violation of federal pesticide disposal law in Missouri. Together, fines and penalties on the charges amount to more than $82 million.
For an entity as large as Wal-Mart, the fine and related costs do not have substantial impact on the financial bottom line. In this case, Wal-Mart responded to the allegations by creating compliance programs and working to restore the confidence of state and federal agencies as well as the buying public.
With matters of environmental protection, ignorance comes with a high price tag. If facing state or federal agency allegations, speak with experienced legal counsel.