Environmental enforcement is the set of actions that a government takes to achieve full implementation of Environmental requirements (compliance) within the regulated community and to correct or halt situations or activities that endanger the environment or public health. Experience with environmental programs has shown that enforcement is essential to compliance because many people and institutions will not comply with a law unless there are clear consequences for noncompliance. Enforcement by the government usually includes inspections to determine the compliance status of the regulated community and to detect violations; negotiations with individuals or facility managers who are out of compliance to develop mutually agreeable schedules and approaches for achievement of compliance; legal action when necessary to compel compliance and to impose some consequences for violation of the law or for posing a threat to public health and the environment; and compliance promotion, such as educational programs, technical assistance, and subsidies, to encourage voluntary compliance.
Nongovernmental groups may become involved in enforcement by detecting noncompliance, negotiating with violators, and commenting on governmental enforcement actions. They may also, if the law allows, take legal actions against a violator for noncompliance or against the government for not enforcing environmental requirements. The banking and insurance industries may be indirectly involved with enforcement by requiring assurance of compliance with environmental requirements before they issue a loan or an insurance policy to a facility. Strong social sanctions for noncompliance with environmental requirements can also be effective to ensure compliance. For example, the public may choose to boycott a product if they believe the manufacturer is harming the environment.