However, before company directors view compliance as a necessary evil, it is important to realise that compliance with natural law, and the law itself, has many benefits. The current focus is on the corporate sector, but governments can equally gain from intelligent, responsible compliance.
Having researched this topic fairly extensively, it seems clear that we as consumers are degrading and rendering unsustainable the very biosphere that sustains us. The earth is simply viewed as a resource for human consumption with scant consideration for eventual degradation and depletion.
The almost pathological obsession with economic growth and development is seriously destabilising the complex interdependence of our closed, delicately balanced ecosphere which is being degraded at a rate faster than it can recover.
Profiteering is certainly a major problem, exacerbated by directors thinking only in short time frames.
Being at the top of the food chain, humans are simultaneously consuming and destroying the earth's life-giving resources which could take centuries to recuperate.
Whilst jostling for position at the feeding trough, profit-obsessed, short-term planners would do well to lift their heads, scan the landscape and re-think the advantages of operating in compliance with environmental laws. They will discover several surprising advantages.
Environmental compliance can open up new markets. This is due to an increasing number of customers, locally and abroad, requiring proof of compliance before signing purchase agreements.
Sustaining the environment is a worthy cause, and cause marketing has proven its effectiveness. If approached authentically, such companies earn serious consumer trust points. All things being equal, the genuinely greener company will gain a competitive advantage - genuinely meaning directors who walk their talk and are worthy of trust.
Cape Town-based Hotel Verde is a good example of a leading green operation taking environmental compliance to a new level. Hotels don't come any greener and more environmentally compliant than this. The operation not only highly efficient, but makes its guests part and parcel of an uplifting green experience. Testimony to its success is the impact on the bottom line.
Another compliance benefit relates to carbon tax which the SA Treasury intends implementing in January 2016. Living in harmony with the environment leads to a smaller carbon footprint and reduced carbon tax.
Finally, there's that deeper satisfaction of knowing you're trading ethically and playing a responsible role in promoting and protecting the ecosphere. Respect for the environment reveals self-respect.
Until recently, capacity for enforcement has been low, but the landscape is fast changing. If one listens to what environmental advisors and protectors are saying, the compliance issue is gathering momentum. The first sign that enforcement is underway lies in the application of the law.
The Centre for Environmental Rights (CER), is one such organisation. It is at the cutting edge of environmental change and driven by an impressive team of committed, environmentally trained lawyers.
"The law is the law", replied attorney Tracey Davies, CER's programme head for Corporate Accountability and Transparency, when I suggested that compliance might be costly, especially for marginal companies. "And where there is blatant flouting of environmental regulations, particularly where vulnerable communities are involved, we have no option but to take action."
She is not alone in this, but the CER proves that responsible concerned citizens are taking the fight to the polluter. CER's field of endeavor encompasses wetland degradation, biodiversity, air, land and water pollution as well as traditional territories which are often plundered for profit, especially in more remote areas of our pristine South Africa.
"But surely one cannot expect a company director to know all the ins and outs of environmental legislation?" I ventured.
"Lawyers exist to advise directors on precisely that," returned Tracy.
Her experience suggests that in many cases, profit has overtaken ethics. Many companies blatantly lie or disregard regulations, and this causes irrevocable environmental damage in the process. Rampant corruption is a further complication.
There's a profound wisdom in taking the high road and going beyond self-interest. By being environmentally compliant, decisionmakers will not only ensure their company's survival fitness, but will promote sustainable growth.