The A-Z of environmental legislation
The NetRegs Development Project was launched last year to provide comprehensive and clear web-based guidelines to businesses (SMEs in particular), on how to comply with the environmental legislation which affects them. IEM spoke to NetRegs programme co-ordinator, Tim Fanshawe, about the need for and the ongoing development of this valuable resource.
According to a series of surveys conducted by Envirowise, Groundwork, the Institute
of Management and other bodies, Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) comprise
99 per cent of the 3.7m businesses in the UK, and are estimated to contribute
around 70 per cent of all waste generated. The surveys all pointed in the same
direction: SMEs were ill-informed of their responsibilities and the legislation
that affected them, and were confused by sometimes conflicting advice from a
multitude of different sources.
NetRegs’ aim is clear: to provide an accessible and easily navigable way for
companies to access the legislation that affects them. “It is important
that the site condenses highly technical information and presents it in a way
that the businesses it affects can understand,” adds Fanshawe.
Visitors to the site (www.environment-agency.gov.uk/netregs), are presented with logical, clear options from the outset. The
site is broken down into two distinct categories. The first is Management Guidelines,
which help the user to comply with the key environmental legislation that may
apply the the different aspects of their business. Categories include emissions
to air, liquid wastes, noise, packaging and water use. Once a category has been
selected, the user is then asked a number of questions designed to determine
which regulations are applicable. The relevant regulation is then explained
in terms of what it is, how it will be regulated, what activities it will cover
and what will be required of operators.
The second category, Sector Guidelines takes the user through the practical
measures to keep their business sector compliant with the law. Again, business
sectors are listed, from Agriculture, Hunting and Forestry through to Textile
and Textile Products.
The site also features a Legislation link, which is broken down into English,
Northern Irish, Scottish and Welsh primary and secondary legislation. Taking
Primary English legislation as an example, users can access the contents of,
for example the Environmental Protection Act 1990. Secondary Legislation for
England includes, for example The Trade Effluent (Prescribed Processes and Substances)
Regulations 1989, which is set out in its entirety for the user to view.
After reading the information and identifying the areas of potential concern,
the user has the opportunity to access further information about organisations
that may be able to help. These include the Government, Business Support Organisations,
Professional Bodies and Regulators. The details of the Netregs Project Team
are also available, where comments and suggestions about the site are welcomed.
Continual improvement is very much on the agenda for NetRegs, with an aggressive
timetable in place for the completion of the different sectors on the site.
The first ten sectors became operational by the end of March 2002, with a further
50 set to be completed next year and 40 more by the end of march 2004. In parallel
with this sector work, the Management Guidelines are being expanded and revised,
their coverage being broadened from the manufacturing and service industries
to agriculture, construction, tourism and others. Finally, a benchmarking survey
is being conducted, to establish current levels of environmental awareness among
the SMEs and levels of interest in, and use of, the NetRegs site. This will
establish the benchmark against which future annual surveys will be measured,
to facilitate performance assessment.
NetRegs forms an important part of the Environment Agency’s vision to get environmental
concerns at the heart of business thinking and operations. This vision has been
integral to the development of NetRegs to date, and in its future plans, as
Tim Fanshawe comments: “I want NetRegs to be the most easy-to-use resource
for SMEs, and for those companies to realise that good environmental management
is the same as good business practice. Essentially, our aim is for the environment
to be integral in business.”