Summary: The bases of liability under German environmental law are as complex as are the addressees of liability. The responsibilities do not exclude each other but rather often apply parallel to each other.
Under German civil law, the main emphasis is on the liability of the enterprise. Parallel to that, company bodies and executive employees may be held liable. Employees are liable for tortious acts committed wilfully or by gross negligence; however, they are solely liable for compensation claims vis-à-vis the enterprise but not vis-à-vis third parties. In the internal relationship between parent company and subsidiary, the parent company is always liable if the acts of the subsidiary which led to a realisation of the elements of liability were committed by order of the parent company or if another type of influence of the parent company on the acts of the subsidiary can be established. In contrast to that, liability under German criminal law, as a rule, applies as to the individual employees of the enterprise.
With respect to the avoidance of liability, only a combination of various measures, such as prohibitions and the development of more self-responsibility and self-control of the enterprises, will lead to the greatest success. In particular the principles of the eco-audit should be applied in each enterprise even without an official participation in the eco-audit system.European Energy and Environmental Law Review