Environmental Compliance Monitoring (Part 2)
Updated: Mar 7
The Environmental Control Officer (ECO)
As mentioned in (Part 1) Introduction - most Environmental Authorizations (EAs) refer to the appointment of an Environmental Control Officer (ECO) whose responsibility it is to monitor (audit) and report on environmental compliance of the approved project, according to the conditions contained within the EA (inclusive of the EIA, EMPr and relevant legislation).
In some cases, the EA may specifically refer to the appointment of 'an independent ECO' or simply 'an ECO'. In my experience both cases are generally treated as though the ECO should be 'independent’ and provide an impartial and objective view to the project.
In general, an ECO should be suitably qualified and have appropriate experience relative to the project they are working with (e.g. ports and harbors, linear pipelines, power, renewable energy, etc).
So, what makes for a good ECO? Here are my top three points to ponder.
Perspective: a good ECO will have a holistic perspective of key issues (e.g. instead of focusing all their attention on littering, they could identify and focus on the impact of hazardous waste resulting from plant maintenance which gets hidden on the Contractors yard offsite and dumped in the local stream, true story). A good perspective helps to build trust in the ECO’s competence and buy-in from the project to focus on the key environmental aspects and impacts.
Relationships: a good ECO will spend time on developing and nurturing key relationships. After all a project is comprised of people, and people are inherently social and will listen to those they respect, and vice-versa. Building good, respectful, and trustworthy relationships will go a long way towards enabling people to improve their decisions and behavior in relation to doing the right thing for the environment, and ultimately supporting the ECO in their mandate.
Positive Influence: instead of merely identifying and communicating non-compliance issues in a policeman like approach - a good ECO will find ways to positively influence the project personnel by inspiring them to do the right thing. The carrot vs stick approach - finding ways to compliment good decision, behavior and actions and recommending sustainable initiatives that add value to the project enables people to start thinking and acting more sustainably instead of resenting an ECO that only ever identifies and reports negative findings.
Remember - an ECO is the mechanism by which the environmental management sector is able to support and ensure that the key environmental aspects and impacts of a project (as identified in the EIA) are being implemented appropriately in relation to legislation and industry best practice.
At the end of the day, our goal as environmentalists in these scenarios are to guide and support a project to make the best possible decisions to mitigate negative environmental harm, and improve environmental opportunities that add value to both the project and its stakeholders.
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