Enforcement Undertakings

What are enforcement undertakings?

Rivers face many challenges, including pollution incidents for which large organisations are deemed responsible. Enforcement Undertakings are a way for organisations that have caused such occurrences to proactively address the issue they have caused, either in the exact place of the incident or in the case of rivers on the same catchment.

They do this by finding an appropriate body to carry out the work, through the Environment Agency as part of the agency’s civil sanctions procedures.

The polluter must fund a charity, such as Thames21, to deliver an environmental project – ideally this should correct or offset the damage caused.

The advantage of Enforcement Undertakings is that they encourage better environmental practice without government intervention. This allows well-meaning businesses to quickly remedy damage and avoid prosecution – a long and costly process for all, which if successful puts money into government accounts instead of delivering environmental improvement.

How Enforcement Undertakings Work

When a business finds that it has breached an environmental law, it can contact the Environment Agency and offer an Enforcement Undertaking. The offer will include actions that the business will commit to, which must ensure two things: the same laws are not broken in the future, and any environmental damage caused will be completely offset or repaired.

Early applications after the incident in question are more likely to result in the EA accepting the process of Enforcement Undertakings.

The legal framework for Enforcement Undertakings can be found in the Regulatory Enforcement and Sanctions Act 2008.

What Thames21 can offer

Thames21 has vast experience working with communities to deliver river improvements and getting residents to take an active part in looking after rivers, which face many issues including pollution.

We value rivers and waterways as vital resources for wildlife as well as spaces for people to enjoy.

Thames21 can help polluters understand their impact and design projects that fully compensate and deliver an improved environment. Additionally, we can advise the polluter how they can develop strategies to prevent future incidents from occurring. 

We have extensive experience of carrying out river improvements, by working with communities to deliver wetlands and SuDS (rainscapes) as well as installing reedbeds. If you would like to learn more about how we can help deliver an Enforcement Undertaking please contact our Improving Rivers manager, John Bryden.