Environmental Auditor

An environmental auditor is responsible for auditing the environmental policies and procedures of a company, agency, or business and setting up protocols for better implementation of environmental policies and standards. In an environmental audit, the auditor does a complete review of compliance and implementation of environmental regulations. This includes checking if environmental permits are in place as needed, assessing risks from materials and practices, and verifying compliance with all rules and regulations that apply to a business or procedures. They also detect environmental regulation violations, recommend improvement steps, gather data, prepare environmental compliance audits, and present the information to management.

At a Glance

Imagine you are standing on the edge of a large pond of industrial wastewater, observing as a lab technician lowers a bottle to the water to take a grab sample. You are an environmental auditor in the middle of a compliance audit for a large manufacturing plant. Compliance with environmental regulations is a requirement of the plant's operating licence, so the plant must periodically submit to an environmental audit, where a team of auditors is brought in to evaluate operations and ensure the plant follows all applicable laws and regulations.

That's precisely what you and your team are doing this week: you are at the plant site reviewing processes and observing workers to determine if the plant complies with the necessary environmental regulations. As the lead environmental auditor for this team, you coordinate the many different aspects of the audit to ensure that results are complete and accurate. When you arrived at the site, you assigned your team members to cover specific areas. For example, one person reviews air emissions while another concentrates on chemical storage and handling.

You have assigned yourself the role of evaluating the plant's waste management. You start with sampling protocols, checking that standard operating procedures for collecting and handling samples are up-to-date and being followed. This includes interviewing staff and observing their activities to confirm they have the proper training and are following procedures. You also look at waste records, comparing lab test results to established criteria to ensure contaminants are kept below the legal limit. Next, you look at how the plant disposes of its waste, for example, whether it is stored in proper containers or facilities or, in the case of treated effluent, discharged to the proper environment at the proper dosage.

Once all team members have completed their evaluations, you will assemble them and compare the data to existing standards and criteria to determine if the plant complies with the necessary environmental regulations. Finally, you will prepare an audit report to be presented and discussed with the plant's management.

Job Duties

Job duties can vary from one position to the next, but in general, environmental auditors are involved in the following activities:

  • Assess business records to ensure they comply with government permits, requirements, and safety standards.
  • Detect violations of environmental regulations.
  • Ensure that an organization complies with all federal, provincial/territorial and municipal environmental rules, regulations and legislation.
  • Examine clients' records for appropriate government permits and requirements, safety standards, maintenance, and inventory control measures.
  • Research environmental regulations and review publications for additional information relevant to environmental auditing.
  • Analyze audit documentation and data and prepare a report of audit findings.
  • Present audit findings to clients.
  • Contribute to recommendations to correct non-conformance or improve environmental performance.
  • Contribute to formulating an action plan to implement recommended changes based on audit findings.
  • Follow up to ensure corrective and preventive actions in audit findings have been addressed.

Responsibilities may include two types of audits: compliance and management performance audits. A compliance audit helps determine whether a company meets environmental best practices and legal requirements. A management performance audit evaluates the efficacy of an organization’s processes and management systems.

Work Environment

Environmental auditors work in a variety of locations, including:

The office:

  • Doing paperwork, analyzing data, and preparing audit reports
  • Communicating on the phone and in meetings with clients, stakeholders, and government departments and presenting audit findings and recommendations to clients
  • Reviewing documentation, policies, procedures, and reports
  • Researching regulations and audit information and consulting with other auditors and professionals

The field:

  • Touring and inspecting sites and conducting interviews
  • Taking measurements and recording data and observations
  • Compiling audit evidence and results
  • Presenting audit findings to clients and stakeholders

The lab:

  • Checking instruments and preparing audit equipment
  • May analyze samples retrieved from audited sites

Where to Work

There are several places to find work as an environmental auditor. They include:

  • Federal, provincial/territorial, and municipal government departments
  • Mining companies
  • Oil and gas companies
  • Manufacturing firms
  • Environmental consulting companies


Search for jobs on the ECO Canada Job Board.

Education and Skills

Education

If you are considering a career as an environmental auditor, you should have a strong interest in:

  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Mathematics
  • English

If you are a post-secondary student considering a career as an environmental auditor, the following programs are most applicable:

  • Environmental Science
  • Environmental Management
  • Natural Resource Management
  • Environmental Engineering

In most cases, the minimum education requirement is a bachelor’s degree.

Our Environmental Professional (EP) designation can also help you progress in your chosen environmental career. The following Environmental Professional certifications are important for auditors:

  • EP Auditor (CEA) - Environmental Professional specialized as a Compliance Environmental Auditor
  • EP Auditor (EMSA) - Environmental Professional specialized as an Environmental Management Systems Auditor

Skills

Technical Skills

  • Technical knowledge
  • Data collection and analysis
  • Report writing and presentation
  • Problem solving
  • Software proficiency
  • Building codes and standards
  • Interpersonal skills
  • Certification and training
  • Risk assessment
  • Knowledge of safety equipment and procedures
  • Knowledge of current environmental regulations and legislation

Personal and Professional Skills

  • Ability to work independently and in a team setting
  • Attention to detail
  • Impartiality
  • Project management
  • Report writing
  • Ethical practice

A successful environmental auditor will also enjoy following set rules and guidelines for their work, analyzing data, and thinking outside the box on innovative solutions.

Environmental employers seek professionals who combine technical knowledge with personal and professional skills. Watch our free webinar “Essential Not Optional: Skills Needed to Succeed in Canada’s Environmental Industry” or take our Essential Skills courses.

Education and Skills

Sue Keane

I have worked in the environmental field for twenty-six years. The first seventeen of these were with Environment Canada where I developed a strong background in environmental regulations. When I started with Environment Canada as a university student my interests were in water pollution programs. My current focus as a partner in a consulting firm is on environmental auditing and assessment. Companies who are required to comply with environmental standards need an evaluation of their facilities completed by a certified auditor to ensure they are following regulations. If you want to get started in this field you need to get certified as an environmental auditor and become a member of the Canadian Environmental Auditing Association.

My experience is both diverse and comprehensive. I have supervised and directed the development and delivery of numerous scientific and technical programs related to hazardous waste management, contaminated site assessment/remediation and compliance assessment/enforcement. To do this job well a person needs to continually adapt and transform to keep up with the issue of the day. The work is never static and the ability to apply my skills and knowledge to a variety of topics has enabled me to gain extensive experience. Adopting the professional responsibility to become a self-managed learner is essential to staying informed.

I attend conferences, read journals and research the Internet to gather information. The position I hold as an Adjunct Professor at a local university requires my skills as an effective environmental educator to be constantly honed. The rest of the information I need to continue doing my job well is gained through interaction with colleagues and lessons learned on the job. Over the next few years, there will be greater emphasis placed upon protection of water resources, contingency planning for environmental emergencies and voluntary conformance with environmental standards in Canada. There are significant opportunities for advancement in this area particularly for those who are flexible in terms of work location.

Positions can be found with private industry, government departments and educational institutions. One of the difficulties in getting started in this profession is the need to be certified as an Environmental Auditor. What makes this difficult is that the certification requires experience and the experience often requires certification. To get around this problem there are several methods you can use to gain experience. Job shadowing, volunteering and working in an assistant position for a company that does environmental auditing are ways to attain the skills needed. If you really want certification as an environmental auditor, you’ll find a way to get it.

I spend my days auditing as well as assessing and remediating contaminated sites. Another interesting aspect of my position is travelling to places like Africa and India. My workweek is usually a forty-five hour or more commitment with regular tasks like report writing, computer presentations, office administration, technical literature reviews and professional development filling the hours. Knowledge of safety equipment and procedures is mandatory when I work with dangerous goods. To do this job well a person needs excellent interpersonal skills and the ability to interpret technical information. Communication is also a very important skill when interacting with clients, regulators, hydrogeologists, chemists and economists.

The demand in Canada for environmental auditing services is significant. The most positive environmental impact I have made so far is to contribute to the development of a five-day training program that provides participants with the skills to do an efficient internal environmental audit on their company. Often the material contained in a program like this one can be very dry and uninteresting to participants. We are proud that our program is fun, positive and effective in delivering the information necessary to determine the impact of business activities on the environment.

Your Impact

Environmental audits evaluate the impact of economic activity on the natural environment and provide recommendations for process improvements to preserve ecosystems and wildlife. Environmental auditors are tasked with accurately assessing current processes and suggesting alternatives for reducing environmental impact and ensuring regulatory compliance. The main objective of their work is to control pollution and minimize other negative externalities of industrial and commercial activity.

Occupational Classification

Environmental auditors are classified in the following occupational grouping:

NOC Code: 21120 – Public and environmental health and safety professionals

What is an NOC Code?

The National Occupation Classification (NOC) provides a standardized language for describing the work performed by Canadians in the labour market. It gives statisticians, labour market analysts, career counsellors, employers, and individual job seekers a consistent way to collect data and describe and understand the nature of work within different occupations.

The opinions and interpretations in this publication are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Government of Canada.

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