It is not uncommon for EHS auditors to be asked (or ask themselves) “If you find a noncompliance during your audit, do you report it to the regulators?”
The answer depends on the company and audit program, but a recent news item caught our attention due to a variation on the theme.
We have no information other than what is publicly available here, but it appears that an organization managing a voluntary electronic waste management certification program found alleged significant non-conformities at a specific company seeking certification. As a result, the organization declined to issue its certification to that company.
So far, so good, but the story doesn’t end there…
In its declination letter to the company, the organization states:
Further, there is substantial reason to believe that such exports may violate Public Act 095-0959 (Electronic Products Recycling and Reuse Act, recycler requirements) of the State of Illinois, the Federal CRT Rule, (40 CFR Parts 9, 260, 261, 271; Cathode Ray Tubes; Final Rule) as well as the waste importation laws of Hong Kong/China. Further, while it is not our policy to disclose the results of certifying body audits, we can state that the audit only further substantiated all of our concerns.
In an apparent contradiction to the “policy” referred to in the above statement, the organization’s cc’d “Selected news media”, the Illinois State Environmental Protection Agency and the US Environmental Protection Agency Enforcement on its letter, which can be seen below the signature block.
It is certainly possible that the company themselves had made prior disclosure to the regulators on this issue. But this event may cause companies pursuing voluntary programs/certifications to carefully consider how the company and auditor will manage regulatory non-compliances that are found or alleged in the course of related audit activities.
UPDATE: Reports today indicate that the company is taking legal action against the certifying organization stating that the allegations on which the organization based its decision – as well as its disclosure to the press and regulators – are false.