The Environment Agency (EA) has published its list of all enforcement undertakings settled during the period 1 August 2016 27 January 2017, revealing their popularity as a civil sanction continues to grow.

What is an enforcement undertaking?

An enforcement undertaking is a civil sanction agreed between the EA and a company (or individual), where the EA has reasonable grounds to suspect non-compliance.

From a company's (or individual) perspective this sanction offers an alternative to prosecution and can be a more flexible, efficient and pro-active way of managing a company's (or individual) non-compliance.

From the EA's perspective, as set out within their own guidance, their use of an enforcement undertaking should "encourage legitimate business operators to make amends, come into compliance and prevent recurrence".

EA's application of enforcement undertakings

The most frequent application of this civil sanction has, historically, been in cases involving packaging waste offences. As of 6 April 2015 the EA's powers, in agreeing enforcement undertakings, were extended to include environmental permitting offences.

Key statistics from the EA's recent figures are as follows:

  • 26 COMPANIES / INDIVIDUALS received enforcement undertaking;
  • The TOTAL FINANCIAL CONTRIBUTION to environmental charities was 1,564.761;
  • 5 of the enforcement undertakings related to environmental permitting offences;
  • The LARGEST FINANCIAL CONTRIBUTION was made by Northumbrian Water for 375,000 in relation to an environmental permitting offence; and
  • Out of the 26 enforcement undertakings accepted, ONLY 9 were pro-actively offered by the company / individual, with the remaining 17 all being reactive offers

A review of the EA's publication confirms that:

- Enforcement undertakings remain an ever popular civil sanction;

- There has been an increase in their application to a wider range of offences; and

- With a total of 7 six-figure fines within this period alone, it is clear that agreed financial contributions are on the rise.