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Summary of findings and company response

In 2014 Mondi published the following statement as part of its environmental policy:

We actively strive for recognised best environmental performance in our operations. In order to achieve this, we will apply a precautionary approach in our decision-making and integrate environmental principles into our business strategy.1

Environmental Management Inspectors carried out an inspection at Mondi’s Richards Bay mill in 2009, at which a number of non-compliances with environmental laws and permits were found. A follow-up inspection in 2011 found that most of these non-compliances had been addressed. Mondi did not mention the inspection or its findings in its 2009 Annual Report, and stated in that same report that “all Mondi operations comply with local emissions regulations” and that “we operate in a highly regulated environment … and have acted in compliance in all the regions in which we operate”. Mondi also did not mention the follow-up inspection in its 2011 Annual Report, or the finding at that inspection that the mill was still in non-compliance with its waste management licence.

In his response to Full Disclosure, Mondi South Africa’s CEO, Ron Traill, stated that:

For future Sustainability Reports, Mondi will review the wording used to convey our absolute intent to comply with environmental laws and regulations, while continuing to report transparently on instances of non-compliance.

Mr Traill also provided the following explanation for Mondi’s failure to mention the EMI inspection in the company’s 2009 report:

Mondi acknowledges that reference to the EMI inspection was not included in our 2009 Sustainability Report. At the time of publishing this report, Mondi had responded to the Department of Environmental Affairs’ inspection report and we believed that evidence had been provided to confirm compliance with the issues raised during the inspection; and corrective actions had been instituted to resolve any outstanding issues.

Mr Traill’s letter contained an annexure providing “Updated status” information on the information contained in the NECER reports relating to the Richards Bay mill. This information includes an explanation of why the statement in the 2010 NECER, to the effect that Mondi had been required to provide clarity on certain issues to the EMIs but had not done so, was incorrect.

In relation to the statements in the 2012 and 2013 NECERs that “enforcement strategy is still in the process of being finalised”, Mr Traill stated that Mondi has not received any further communication from the Department of Environmental Affairs since the 2011 inspection, and that it “believes that the issues raised were addressed during this inspection and via documents provided after the inspection.”

While we acknowledge that compiling the NECER is a monumental task, it is also vital that the information published is accurate as at the date of publication. It is also in the interest of fairness, good administration and deterrence that enforcement action, if required, is taken as soon as possible after violations are determined.