As in the rest of the world, environmental disasters in Türkiye are becoming increasingly frequent and impactful. The imperative of safeguarding the environment has intensified due to the upsurge in these disasters, attributed to climate fluctuations, industrial expansion, and haphazard urban development. This surge not only undermines people's well-being but imperils the health rights of future generations and the prospect of sustainable ecological coexistence.
Under these circumstances, a global trend is emerging wherein measures compelling environmentally responsible behavior from companies are being progressively introduced, echoing the international landscape. The concept of "sustainable companies" is especially gaining prominence, emphasizing that businesses should scrutinize and disclose not only their financial performance but also their stances on pressing environmental and social concerns, encompassing pollution, climate alteration, societal disparities, and human rights transgressions.1 In that sense, “sustainable companies” are those that institute policies and practices to mitigate the environmental and social ramifications of their operations.
In fact, The Davos Manifesto, published by The World Economic Forum in December 2019, centers around sustainability for companies.2 The manifesto underscores the need for enterprises to prioritize sustainable value generation and account for their ecological and social influences.
As the relevance of this agenda escalates, companies must partake in environmentally conscientious initiatives to secure a foothold in the evolving global landscape. Consequently, companies should be well-versed in their legal obligations in the aftermath of a natural disaster under the extant legislation.
Given the importance of these considerations, this article is divided into two parts. The first part delves into the strategic actions companies can adopt in compliance with pertinent laws and delineates their course of action in the event of an environmental disaster in Türkiye. The second part, which will be published later will cover liability considerations, potential penalties, and available legal remedies, offering a comprehensive guide to navigating this complex terrain.
Part 1: Proactive Preparedness for Environmental Disasters
Environmental disasters, now a paramount concern on the global agenda, have rightfully assumed a crucial role within the business landscape. Since the 1980s, the environmental impact of companies has reached profound proportions (Cavlı, 2009). Consequently, propelled by heightened environmental awareness and the decisions and regulations embraced worldwide, a company's stance on the environment has seamlessly integrated into its reputation—a facet equally applicable to enterprises operating in Türkiye.
Simultaneously, the government strives to safeguard the environment by introducing corporate obligations concerning environmental disasters from multifaceted angles. This endeavor manifests in the imposition of diverse responsibilities on companies, encompassing proactive measures before an environmental calamity and protocols for managing such incidents, alongside penalties for transgressions.
In this intricate context, the steps companies should adopt to mitigate adverse repercussions and fortify readiness in the face of environmental catastrophes are meticulously codified in the Environmental Law (No: 2872), the foundational legislation for environmental preservation in Türkiye. According to this statute, companies are firstly required to devise an emergency response strategy. This entails formulating an emergency plan and assembling dedicated response teams. Moreover, enterprises must streamline their notification and communication processes, while implementing comprehensive training and practice drills. Elaborate insights into these measures are expounded below.
The primary precaution stipulated in Environmental Law pertains to emergency response, which is of paramount importance for swift and effective action in scenarios involving unforeseen environmental incidents or disasters. This response is designed to minimize the impact of environmental catastrophes, safeguard lives and property, and preserve both the environment and public health.
Accompanying the emergency response are several responsibilities necessary for its proper execution. The initial step involves crafting an emergency plan, which encompasses potential scenarios, risk assessments, response protocols, and task allocation. This plan functions as a directive for actions to take in the event of an environmental disaster. Companies are advised to regularly update and disseminate this emergency plan among their employees.
Furthermore, as part of these proactive and well-structured initiatives, companies must establish emergency teams. These teams are indispensable for ensuring a swift and efficient response in the event of a disaster. Emergency teams should consist of experts with clearly defined roles and responsibilities. They should collaborate and intervene in a coordinated fashion during a crisis, adhering to the guidelines outlined in the emergency plan.
Notification and Communication
Moreover, companies must organize their notification and communication processes to ensure an effective response. In an environmental disaster, immediate notification and communication to the authorities and the community is paramount. Companies should establish a robust notification system and define communication protocols to facilitate the rapid and accurate dissemination of information, thereby promoting effective coordination and ensuring public safety.
Training and Drills
To ensure the accurate implementation of all these measures during an environmental disaster, companies must arrange training sessions and drills in advance. Employees and emergency teams should receive regular training and actively participate in drills. This approach guarantees a proper response during emergencies, promotes effective teamwork, and mitigates risks. The training curriculum should cover emergency plans, task delegation, and communication protocols.
Impact and Risk Assessment
In addition to emergency response, conducting risk assessments is vital for identifying and mitigating workplace emergencies. For certain companies, especially those in sectors specified in Annex-1 of the Regulation on Environmental Impact Assessment, environmental impact analysis and assessment are mandatory and regulated in detail, making compliance essential for prospective industrial ventures (Cavlı, 2009).
During project planning, Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and Environmental Risk Assessment (ERA) reports are essential. EIA reports, prepared by either the project operator or an independent entity, evaluate the project's environmental consequences and associated risks, subject to regulatory review and approval. On the other hand, ERA Reports are mandated by the Regulation on Control of Hazardous Substances for entities handling such materials. Both reports enhance environmental sustainability and risk management, holding responsible parties accountable.
While predefined measures can sometimes prove inadequate during an environmental disaster, these assessments provide critical baseline data for contingency planning. For instance, in the case of a potential chemical spill near an industrial facility, assessments consider impacts on the environment, water resources, human health, and ecosystems. This aids company emergency teams in formulating response strategies and mitigation measures.
Moreover, disaster impact analysis also considers social, economic, and environmental factors, such as a natural disaster's effects on the community's living standards, economic resources, and infrastructure. This comprehensive approach ensures that emergency responses encompass all pertinent impacts, guiding the implementation of appropriate measures.
Summary and Highlights from Part 1
In the event of an environmental disaster in Türkiye, it is imperative for companies to fulfill their legal obligations before such a catastrophe occurs. Moreover, companies should adopt a comprehensive approach that goes beyond mere compliance with environmental regulations. This entails proactive measures, including the implementation of environmentally friendly practices, regular environmental audits, and active participation in community outreach. It is crucial to recognize that while compliance with environmental legislation is essential, it alone is insufficient.
Monitoring and updating permits and licenses, as well as the preparation of environmental impact assessments and monitoring reports, are among the practices that empower companies to respond effectively in the event of environmental disasters.
In the forthcoming second part of this article, we will delve into strategies for minimizing the legal ramifications of environmental disasters and discuss remedies to safeguard the rights of companies affected by, or involved in any way with, environmental disasters.
Cavlı, M. (2009). Environmental Responsibilities of Companies in Turkey within the Context of Corporate Environmentalism (Available only in Turkish). https://dspace.ankara.edu.tr/xmlui/bitstream/handle/20.500.12575/29791/6221.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=
Environmental Law No. 2872 (Available only in Turkish). (1983, August 9). https://www.mevzuat.gov.tr/mevzuatmetin/1.5.2872.pdf
Kandemir, H. K. (2023, Mayıs). Sustainable Companies and Their Legal Framework (Avilable only in Turkish). İstanbul Ticaret University Journal of Social Sciences, s. 853-876. https://www.europarl.europa.eu/RegData/etudes/BRIE/2022/729424/EPRS_BRI(2022)729424_EN.pdf
Regulation on Environmental Impact Assessment (Available only in Turkish). (2022, July 29). https://mevzuat.gov.tr/mevzuat?MevzuatNo=39647&MevzuatTur=7&MevzuatTertip=5
Schwab, K. (2019, December 2). Davos Manifesto 2020: The Universal Purpose of a Company in the Fourth Industrial Revolution. World Economic Forum: https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2019/12/davos-manifesto-2020-the-universal-purpose-of-a-company-in-the-fourth-industrial-revolution/
With thanks to Berfu Almina Karagöl for her assistance.
1. (Kandemir, 2023)
2. (Schwab, 2019
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