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An analysis of environmental obligations and liabilities of a distribution division to improve ecologically sustainable development
Worldwide, there is a growing about the protection of the environment while ensuring social and economic development for the benefit of the existing and forthcoming generation which pressures every person to take reasonable measures when conducting his/her business. Amongst the reasonable measures, there are environmental legislative provisions enacted by the international community, as well as locally, to regulate required actions for the protection of the environment. South Africa’s environmental legislation outlines ecologically sustainable development by making provisions in the Bill of Rights in the Constitution for everyone to take reasonable legislative measures to alleviate damaging impacts on the environment. International conventions have assisted South Africa and other countries worldwide in environmental protection, thus improving ecologically sustainable development. Eskom’s (the South African power utility) distribution department, referred to as the Company from here onwards, has established environmental objectives and commitments to prevent pollution, promote environmental reporting, comply with all the applicable environmental legislations and other relevant requirements to ensure performance is measured and continual improvement is achieved. The research used both quantitative and qualitative research methods to analyse environmental obligations and associated environmental liabilities of the Company to improve ecologically sustainable development. In order to answer the research questions and achieve the objectives, a set of questionnaires was distributed to sampled respondents; data were retrieved using SAP EH&S Incident Management software while independent variable (environmental obligation) and dependent variables (environmental liability and ecologically sustainable development) were identified. Site visits were also conducted. Furthermore, a correlation coefficient analysis test was calculated using Microsoft excel and a graph was used to illustrate the R-Square value. Positive (+1) relationship between variables was observed which indicates dependability of dependent variable to the independent variable. The research findings indicate that the environment can be safeguarded through understanding and implementing environmental obligations and environmental liabilities to protect the environment for the benefit of the current and future generations by improving ecologically sustainable development. South Africa (1998a) explained that the environment is held in public trust for the people, thus the beneficial use of environmental resources serves the public interest and the environment must be safeguarded as a common heritage. Therefore, anyone found to have contravened legislation will be held liable in the form of sanctions as stated in South Africa, (1998c). An environmental obligation is a duty of care imposed on the user, landowner or a person in control of the protection of the environment and, where protection is impossible, to remediate the impact for the benefit of contemporary and upcoming generations. This is reasonably in line with the principles of sustainable development and a continual improvement of environmental quality and services. There have been dependent variables in the research where both environmental liability and ecologically sustainable development are dependent on environmental obligations (an independent variable) being realised. For this reason, every person or institution should ensure that environmental obligations are understood, adhered to and ensure that ecologically sustainable development is achieved. The Company has undertaken business activities to ensure that electricity is distributed to a wider population, bearing in mind that the interaction may have negative impact on the environment. When any incident that degrades the environment occurs, the incident is reported and managed throughout its life-cycle. There are, however, cases where environmental obligations are not understood or implemented. There is a need to ensure that all people that undertake activities that have a negative impact on the environment, such as pollution of the environment, are properly trained to be able to identify such activities, set environmental objectives and management programmes. Additionally, monitor the implementation of those programmes to ensure that these objectives are met and to achieve ecologically sustainable development. Ecologically sustainable development is achieved when environmental obligations are adhered to and required environmental liabilities are implemented and monitored. SANS ISO 14001: 2015 is an Environmental Management System which can be implemented to help any company understand its business operations, identify environmental issues, find solutions and ensure that all environmental issues are addressed, and good environmental performance is realized.