What lessons have been learned from the Grigeo scandal over the pollution of the Curonian Lagoon?

Kuva vuoresta

Environment

Recently, news emerged that the Prosecutor's Office had completed a pre-trial investigation into the pollution of the Curonian Lagoon of the cardboard production company Grigeo Klaipeda AB, which has poured biologically untreated wastewater into the lagoon exceeding the permitted norms more than one hundred times. The case is expected to go to court this fall. What pains have this scandal opened up and what lessons do businesses have to learn now?

According to the investigation, the company in question installed a mechanism that bypassed wastewater treatment into biological treatment plants and poured only partially treated wastewater into the environment. Allegations of violations of environmental regulations, falsification, and disposal of documents and misuse were made not only to the mentioned company, but also to 14 persons. Those who are deemed legally responsible for this pollution in the court process may face up to seven years in prison (i. e. for the most serious crime – misuse), while Grigeo Klaipeda AB (hereinafter – Grigeo) itself may have to pay a fine up to 5 mln. EUR. In addition, the Department of Environmental Protection has submitted a civil claim for compensation of more than 48 mln. EUR for property damage caused to the environment by Grigeo.

This court precedent will be particularly significant in shaping environmental case law and is likely to lead to a significant change in the attitude of businesses towards nature, at least for fear of extremely severe fines and even imprisonment.

The constant reports of global extreme events caused by climate change, including natural pollution, would seem to change the outdated view that income at all costs is the most important thing in business. Entrepreneurs are likely facing growing needs and public pressure on how to improve in terms of environmental and sustainable business, how to operate without violating environmental requirements. It may be challenging to find professional independent consultants who are objective and focused on a sustainable, nature-based business, able to see future threats and possibilities and properly advise business decision-makers.

Tips for business to be sustainable, environmentally friendly

Education of business leaders, broad approach, consultations of independent and experienced experts are exceptional important matters. The company's comprehensive internal policy usually takes shape from the person of the highest managers, their individual attitude, mentality, education, beliefs, and such policies and specific orders, actions travel down in a hierarchical sense. Thus, managers are recommended to expand their approach to their business based on future prospects, innovations, education, knowledge at both European Union (hereinafter – EU) and national levels, to gather impartial experts around them, who are knowledgeable about the requirements of legislation in the environment and who can see the threats of the future. It is essential to expand and promote our business in ways that are compatible with the requirements of the legislation.

How the state could help prevent such a situation from recurring?

Increase the administrative capacity and other resources of the responsible state institutions, develop effective measures for the enforcement of nature conservation policy, verification of compliance with legal requirements, etc.

Consistently educate the public. Promote a socially responsible social mentality, an easy system for reporting observed nature conservation violations. In the Western and Nordic countries, this approach (i. e. to report observed violations) goes without saying, because people think globally, responsibly, take care not only of their own interests and those of the neighbor's yard. They care about their future and that of their children.

Promote more information on EU funding programs for sustainable business, including the tax base, in a more sustainable business. The EU allocates huge financial resources to this and carries out a wide range of programs to promote sustainable, nature-friendly business. After reading the EU's climate change strategies and legislation, one can be surprised at how much attention, including financial, is being paid to this and is still in the pipeline. However, there is still a severe lack of information in our media and reports from public authorities. For example, the European Commission (hereinafter – EC) in The new climate change adaptation strategy of 2021 committed to EU funding for sustainable projects, nature-based adaptation products, innovations related to green investments. The EC is also strengthening support for the protection of the potential of genetic resources for adaptation to climate change. In addition, the EC will propose legislation on seed production and marketing; support under cohesion policy programs and support for investments, eco-schemes, and advisory services under the common agricultural policy. The EC will promote a new business model for carbon absorption on earth (farming that increases soil carbon in the ground). Thus, the EU will financially encourage the introduction of solutions based on natural processes, which will make it extremely advantageous for businesses to invest in innovation and sustainable solutions.

To sum up, each business sector should take appropriate measures, depending on its economic activity, already to adapt to climate change. We call for immediate consultation and make real changes in businesses today, together with environmental law experts.

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