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From 1 July 2021, a new legal obligation called the “general environmental duty” (GED) will be introduced under the Environment Protection Amendment Act 2018 (Vic).

All individuals and businesses will be required to take proactive steps to minimise (by elimination or reduction, as appropriate) the risk of their activities that could potentially harm the environment or human health through pollution or waste.

The actions that a business must take to comply with the GED will depend on the scale of its activities, as well as the nature of the risks it needs to manage.

the GED and other key changes

The GED is a duty focused on prevention of harm to the environment or human health. It was originally meant to take effect in 2020, but was postponed to mid-2021.

Under the GED, a business who engages in an activity that may give rise to risks of harm to human health or the environment from pollution or waste must, as far as reasonably practicable, eliminate or minimise those risks.

What is “reasonably practicable” will depend on a range of factors, including the likelihood of the risks eventuating, the potential degree of harm, the suitable ways of eliminating or reducing those risks, and the cost of doing so.

In addition to the introduction of the GED, the Environment Protection Authority (EPA) will have greater powers and tools to prevent risks to the environment and human health, and can issue stronger sanctions against polluters.

impacts on businesses

Some businesses already have experience managing their environmental risks, as part of their existing obligations under Victoria’s occupational health and safety (OHS) and dangerous goods laws. Complying with the GED is unlikely to pose a significant compliance burden for those businesses, and may only require some tweaks to their existing processes of managing risks.

In contrast, some businesses will have brand new obligations and be dealing with the EPA for the first time under the GED. These businesses should thoroughly consider their activities, identify any associated risks of harm from pollution or waste, and proactively manage these risks by implementing appropriate control measures and monitoring systems.

If a business breaches the GED, it may face civil or criminal penalties, even if harm has not occurred. Accordingly, it is critical for businesses (and staff) to fully comprehend their obligations and be prepared well in advance.

Until the GED and other amendments take effect in mid-2021, businesses must continue to comply with the current Environment Protection Act 1970 (Vic) and its supporting regulations and policies.

If you have any questions about how your business or wider industry will be affected, or are unsure what specific control measures your business should put into place, please contact a member of our Trade Team.

stay up to date with our news & insights

New environmental duty set to shake things up for businesses in Victoria

19 January 2021
greta walters

From 1 July 2021, a new legal obligation called the “general environmental duty” (GED) will be introduced under the Environment Protection Amendment Act 2018 (Vic).

All individuals and businesses will be required to take proactive steps to minimise (by elimination or reduction, as appropriate) the risk of their activities that could potentially harm the environment or human health through pollution or waste.

The actions that a business must take to comply with the GED will depend on the scale of its activities, as well as the nature of the risks it needs to manage.

the GED and other key changes

The GED is a duty focused on prevention of harm to the environment or human health. It was originally meant to take effect in 2020, but was postponed to mid-2021.

Under the GED, a business who engages in an activity that may give rise to risks of harm to human health or the environment from pollution or waste must, as far as reasonably practicable, eliminate or minimise those risks.

What is “reasonably practicable” will depend on a range of factors, including the likelihood of the risks eventuating, the potential degree of harm, the suitable ways of eliminating or reducing those risks, and the cost of doing so.

In addition to the introduction of the GED, the Environment Protection Authority (EPA) will have greater powers and tools to prevent risks to the environment and human health, and can issue stronger sanctions against polluters.

impacts on businesses

Some businesses already have experience managing their environmental risks, as part of their existing obligations under Victoria’s occupational health and safety (OHS) and dangerous goods laws. Complying with the GED is unlikely to pose a significant compliance burden for those businesses, and may only require some tweaks to their existing processes of managing risks.

In contrast, some businesses will have brand new obligations and be dealing with the EPA for the first time under the GED. These businesses should thoroughly consider their activities, identify any associated risks of harm from pollution or waste, and proactively manage these risks by implementing appropriate control measures and monitoring systems.

If a business breaches the GED, it may face civil or criminal penalties, even if harm has not occurred. Accordingly, it is critical for businesses (and staff) to fully comprehend their obligations and be prepared well in advance.

Until the GED and other amendments take effect in mid-2021, businesses must continue to comply with the current Environment Protection Act 1970 (Vic) and its supporting regulations and policies.

If you have any questions about how your business or wider industry will be affected, or are unsure what specific control measures your business should put into place, please contact a member of our Trade Team.