Chapter 5: Environmental Management Systems
5. Environmental management systems Even though environmental issues appeared on the Australian political agenda in the early 1970s, it was only in the early to mid-1980s that compliance with environmental legislation became a priority for Australian firms. Historically, common law in Australia had separated the acts of corporations from the acts of individuals working for the corporation, which meant that individuals could not be held responsible for the actions of a corporation. However, in the early to mid-1980s, the Australian states and territories all overhauled their environmental legislation to impose liability on both corporations and on corporate directors and managers for the offences of their corporations (Lipman and Bates, 2002: 180–211; Howard, 2000). The penalties which can now be imposed include significant fines for corporate entities and fines (typically up to A$250 000) and prison sentences (up to seven years) for individuals, and the directors and managers of firms can be prosecuted even if the firm has not been prosecuted. The general defences available to individuals are that the firm contravened the provision of the Act without their constructive knowledge, the person was not in a position to influence the actions of the firm or, if they were in a position of influence, they took reasonable precautions and exercised due diligence to avoid the contravention (the issue of due diligence is discussed further below). There have also been changes in the approach of regulatory bodies to the enforcement of environmental legislation, with most of the states improving the...
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