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Environmental Sustainability: Legal Obligations and Corporate Responsibility

— October 6, 2023

A well-known expert in the sustainability field closely works with a wide range of organizations, such as corporations, municipalities, and universities, to make long-term changes that are good for the environment and good for business. ~ Josh Prigge, Company Owner, Sustridge

To help businesses navigate the legal landscape of sustainable practices, we’ve gathered insights from eight experts, including a managing director and attorney and a managing attorney. From complying with greenwashing regulations to understanding the legal liability in sustainability, these professionals share their experiences and advice on the legal obligations and responsibilities businesses should consider.

  • Comply with Greenwashing Regulations
  • Adhere to Waste Management Laws
  • Navigate Green Claims Compliance
  • Ensure Truth in Sustainability Advertising
  • Acquire Necessary Sustainability Permits
  • Uphold Data Privacy in Sustainability
  • Meet Environmental Standards 
  • Understand the Legal Liability in Sustainability

Comply with Greenwashing Regulations

To ensure compliance with greenwashing regulations, businesses adopting sustainable practices must be mindful of their product labeling and marketing claims. During our company’s transition to eco-friendly packaging, for instance, we thoroughly reviewed and updated our product labels and advertising to reflect our commitment to sustainability. 

This precluded potentially deceptive statements that could have resulted in legal repercussions. Keeping abreast of evolving environmental marketing regulations was crucial. We enlisted the assistance of legal counsel and attended seminars on advertising compliance in order to navigate this obstacle effectively.

By aligning our sustainable initiatives with transparent and accurate communication, we not only complied with our legal obligations, but also increased customer loyalty and trust. This experience highlights the importance of proactive legal involvement in pursuing sustainable business practices.

John Truong, Managing Director and Attorney, Alliance Compensation & Litigation Lawyers

Adhere to Waste Management Laws

Proper waste disposal and recycling align with numerous laws, and businesses must manage waste according to these regulations.

While consulting a hotel chain on sustainability, a waste management system was implemented, ensuring compliance with local waste disposal laws. This initiative not only met legal obligations but also contributed positively to the local community and environment.

A well-known expert in the sustainability field closely works with a wide range of organizations, such as corporations, municipalities, and universities, to make long-term changes that are good for the environment and good for business.

Josh Prigge, Company Owner, Sustridge

Navigate Green Claims Compliance

As a sustainability marketing consultant, I’m observing a growing interest in navigating green claims compliance regulations. Labels such as “green,” “eco-friendly,” “carbon neutral,” “recyclable,” and others are facing heightened scrutiny due to a history of misleading claims by companies trying to conceal their real sustainability efforts. 

To address this issue, various regulatory bodies in regions like the US, UK, EU, and Australia have implemented or proposed strict regulations. Businesses adopting sustainable practices are legally obliged to ensure their marketing aligns with green claims standards. Non-compliance can cause significant fines, ranging from 4% to 10% of global turnover, depending on the jurisdiction.

Anton Levytskyi, Communications Consultant, Self-employed

Ensure Truth in Sustainability Advertising

A critical legal aspect when shifting to sustainable practices is ensuring truth in advertising. If you label your products as “eco-friendly” or “sustainable,” make sure those claims are factual. Failing to do so can violate FTC guidelines, leading to significant fines. 

Think of it like promising a lifetime warranty—you have to deliver, or customers and regulators alike won’t be pleased. To avoid pitfalls, always make claims you can back up and maintain transparent communication about what steps your business is taking toward sustainability.

Alex Freeburg, Owner, Freeburg Law

Acquire Necessary Sustainability Permits

Sometimes, businesses need certain permits or licenses to operate sustainably. For example, if your business wishes to use land for sustainable agriculture, you may need to acquire a permit for permission to change the way this land is normally used.

Natalia Morozova, Partner, Cohen, Tucker & Ades, P.C.

Uphold Data Privacy in Sustainability

A black-clad figure faces away from the camera. In the background, the word HACKED is spelled out in red letters against a backdrop of black ones and zeroes.
Public domain image courtesy of CC0

Data on energy use, emissions, and other factors may need to be gathered and analyzed before sustainable practices can be implemented. The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and similar legislation protect the protection of personal information and may apply to this data. Failure to manage this data properly may cause legal consequences. 

For example, Company B was fined for not acquiring the necessary authorization from its customers before collecting environmental impact data. Businesses must follow applicable data privacy laws when handling information connected to sustainability.

Tiffany Hafler, Marketing Coordinator, Blockchain Lawyer

Meet Environmental Standards 

It is essential for firms to give due diligence to meeting all applicable environmental standards before implementing any sustainable practices. Waste management, emissions, water usage, and other topics are all covered by these regulations, which vary by sector and region.

A manufacturer, for instance, might have to cut its carbon output to comply with government regulations. The consequences of noncompliance might include monetary fines, legal action, and harm to one’s reputation. The company was fined heavily for illegally discarding hazardous trash, serving as an illustration of the seriousness of breaking environmental regulations.

Tim Allen, Director, Oberheiden P.C.

Understand the Legal Liability in Sustainability

Every business is liable for its actions. Since the absence of proper sustainable practices can put a company at risk of legal action, this is one legal obligation or responsibility that every brand must consider. 

For example, when a manufacturing business is responsible for the safe recycling of the byproducts of its process, it can also be held responsible for any shortfalls or negligence in this regard. 

This may even cover the damages that their inaction may cause, and hold them accountable for resulting damage to human health or the environment. This means that possible repercussions may include paying for losses beyond the fines and penalties of failing to follow sustainability laws.

Riley Beam, Managing Attorney, Douglas R. Beam, P.A.

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