Ian Buchannan: We're coming for the environmental criminals

SEPA's purpose is to deliver environmental protection and improvement in ways that as far as possible, also create health and wellbeing and sustainable economic growth.

SEPA wants businesses to move beyond compliance
SEPA wants businesses to move beyond compliance

In terms of environmental outcomes this effectively means that we need to get all those we regulate to meet their legal obligation and reach compliance and also help as many regulated entities as possible move “beyond compliance”.

The majority of businesses work well with SEPA and take their responsibilities seriously. However there are some who undermine the efforts of those seeking to do the right thing.

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SEPA’s new Regulatory Strategy – One Planet Prosperity – sets an approach to tackle the challenges of today and help as many regulated businesses move beyond compliance, to use the planet’s resources and become low carbon, low materials use, low water use and produce low levels of waste.

The aspiration will only become a reality if responsible forward-looking enterprises are not undermined by the few who seek short-term gain by acting irresponsibly. How can we reasonably expect responsible businesses to consider beyond compliance initiatives and practices, when they are having to compete in a market with criminals? This is a challenge for businesses, but it is a challenge we as a society all have to face. So how can regulation help address the balance and what is SEPA’s role?

Clearly part of the solution is to ensure we have effective regulations in place supported by a flexible approach to enforcement that makes it increasingly difficult to act irresponsibility whilst at the same time attractive to do the right thing.

SEPA’s compliance spectrum ranges from dealing with persistent criminals at the one end right through to supporting business champions at the other. But it is clear the space between these polar opposites is where many businesses find themselves.

For businesses that want to move to beyond compliance SEPA can help. For those wishing to break the law, our stance is that we will help you go out of business . It’s that simple.

SEPA now has available a new range of civil sanctions providing the tools to more quickly and powerfully tackle those who are choosing not to comply with their environmental obligations. These new tools are fixed monetary penalties of £300, £600 and £1,000, variable monetary penalties of up to £40,000 and enforcement undertakings which provide a mechanism for businesses to make amends for non-compliance and its effects to prevent recurrence and to provide additional benefit to the environment and or communities.

SEPA will intervene more effectively much earlier, meaning cases of non-compliance will be prevented from escalating or dragging on for months or years.

These tools provide a more rapid response mechanism that responsible businesses have been calling out for and enables SEPA to intervene more effectively and efficiently.

The net result being that irresponsible businesses will find it increasingly difficult to exist, whereas responsible businesses will prosper.

Ian Buchannan is Head of Regulatory Services, East Region, SEPA