Focus on: civil sanctions

More than 370 enforcement undertakings have been agreed in England since 2011, totalling £14.8m in contributions to environmental causes, according to analysis of Environment Agency (EA) figures by ENDS.

Enforcement undertakings (EUs) are a class of civil sanction that gives a company the opportunity to propose the steps it intends to take to right a wrong it has committed. This typically involves taking steps to undo harm, pay compensation and donate to an environmental charity.

In June, the EA announced details of a further 44 undertakings it had agreed, the largest being against the water industry. United Utilities incurred the largest sanction, agreeing to pay £511,000 and £500,000 for sewage spills.

Wessex Water retains the record with a £975,000 payout after polluting Swanage Bay with partially treated sewage during 2016-17, due to insufficient stormwater storage at the town’s treatment works.

This infographic shows how the use of EUs for environmental permitting offences has increased substantially since 2016 and now makes up the majority.