Martin Valenti: We must work together to thrive on our Earth

It's a truism to say we live in interesting times. The pace of change '“ in communications, technology, globalisation, geopolitics '“ is faster and greater than ever, and ­represents challenges and opportunities.

SEPA is collaborating on the £600m City Deal project in Stirling.  Picture Ian Rutherford
SEPA is collaborating on the £600m City Deal project in Stirling. Picture Ian Rutherford

But if there’s one constant, it is this small, blue planet on which we live.

Planet Earth provides ­everything we need to thrive – but we use many times more resources than it can sustain. It will eventually become a ­constraining ­factor on our success, unless we can find new ways to ­prosper within its capacity to ­support us.

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Most environment ­protection agencies were set up ­primarily to reduce gross industrial pollution. We could do this pretty ­effectively; ­issuing licences, inspecting and monitoring, and enforcing compliance.

But as pollution sources have progressively come under control, so the opportunity to go beyond compliance, and realise the many benefits of environmental excellence for business and society, has come to the fore.

Achieving long-term ­prosperity, which respects our environment and ­delivers social benefits, needs a new way of thinking, and a new collaborative approach.

The most successful 21st century organisations, whether private, public, or third sector, will be those delivering excellence in ­environment, finance, ethics, society, and people.

The days when businesses made money, regulators ­controlled impacts, and ­voluntary organisations were our conscience, are long gone – if they ever existed. Entrepreneurs, businesses, ­academics, communities, regulators, public ­bodies and non-governmental organisations all have skills, ­experience and resources they can direct to resolving challenges and capitalising on opportunities. Over-reliance on narrow, individual skill-sets risks missing opportunities for innovative and visionary thinking and action.

Working together is key to sustainable ­success. As Scotland’s ­principal environmental ­regulator, the Scottish ­Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA) recognises this.

We have some great ­examples of success. We worked in partnership with a local authority and the ­Scottish Government on restoring an urban river, cleaned up ­contaminated land, upgraded ­recreation facilities, improved ­connectivity through a network of footpaths, and ­boosted the appeal of a local housing development.

We’re working with ­partners in the ­public, ­private and voluntary sectors to deliver Stirling’s visionary £600m City Deal to enhance the natural ­environment, attract, retain and grow ­sustainable businesses, ­create a new digital district, and revive the river and local heritage.

Working independently limits our ambition, innovation, options and success. Working together, our vision and potential are almost ­limitless. Collaboration is the key to success.

Martin Valenti is Head of Strategic Initiatives at SEPA, vice-chair of Scotland’s 2020 Climate Group, and a member of the Entrepreneurial ­Scotland network.