SEPA has published its compliance results for 2015-16, and found that the overall compliance rate has increased from 88% to 90.4%. The high compliance rate shows that the environment is regarded as an important priority in Scotland, according to SEPA Chief Executive Terry A’Hearn.

“I want to acknowledge the efforts of those businesses that maintained their compliance, those that moved into compliance, and of all our staff who worked hard to help all these businesses with their environmental performance,” he said.

“We have made real progress towards full compliance by all Scottish businesses,” A’Hearn continued. “But ‘close enough’ is not good enough. Compliance by all Scottish businesses is imperative. And what we really need if we are to achieve meaningful environmental gains and create a vibrant economy suited to the challenges of the 21st century is for businesses to go beyond the compliance standards.

“In effect, businesses in Scotland can choose the type of environmental regulator they get: supportive partner or determined enforcer.”

Beyond compliance

Scottish business compliance rates vary from sector to sector. The chemicals, nuclear and recycling industries have shown high and stable rates above 97%. Metals, public sewage and water resources have all shown an improving trend over three years, and compliance in the waste sector has seen an increase from 78% compliance in 2013 to 81% in 2015.

Private sewage, on the other hand, has seen a declining three-year trend. Scotland’s fish-farming sector has seen a drop from 86% to 82% in compliance over the past year, and SEPA revealed it is presently engaging with industry representatives to improve this.

SEPA acknowledged that businesses are more likely to move beyond compliance if there are clear benefits and a clear understanding that all businesses are operating to the same regulatory standards.   

“This is why we will build on last year’s strong performance to drive more of the remaining non-compliant businesses into compliance, and the new powers granted to SEPA in the 2014 Regulatory Reform Act will help us do so,” A’Hearn said. “We will use our new Sector Plans, Fixed and Variable Monetary Penalties, Enforcement Undertakings, and Sustainable Growth Agreements to drive improved performance from as many Scottish businesses as possible.”

Resource highlands

SEPA recently published its new environmental regulation strategy, which will set about the task of helping regulated businesses reduce all forms of waste beyond compliance standards in ways that improves profitability and long-term viability.

The report came days after SEPA warned the country’s industries and farmers that their waste and inefficiency is now the biggest threat to the environment, overtaking pollution.

Earlier this year, the Scottish Government unveiled its first ever circular economy strategy, outlining bold plans to significantly reduce waste in the food and construction sectors and promote recycling and reuse across the country.

In January, the Scottish Parliament became the latest organisation to sign up to a national resource efficiency campaign in Scotland, which works with businesses to help them reduce both their running costs and carbon emissions.

George Ogleby

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie