The organization/ department in brief

The Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) is Scotland’s principal environmental regulator, protecting and improving Scotland’s environment.

Why was this undertaken?

If everyone in the World lived like the average Scot we would need approximately three planet Earths to provide all their resources and absorb all of their waste. Across the planet many countries are using resources quicker than the natural systems can renew them.  One Planet Prosperity is its strategy for tackling the challenges of the 21st century facing Scotland’s environment. It outlines our approach to delivering environmental protection and improvement in ways which will also create health benefits and sustainable economic growth.

What was the scope?

To help Scotland achieve its One Planet Prosperity strategy, the Scottish Environment Protection Agency is working with businesses using new mechanisms such as Sustainable Growth Agreements and sector plans.  These help businesses, local authorities and whole sectors to work with SEPA to take action to consume less and use resources more productively. We are helping businesses and public sector to work together to build the case for investing in nature to achieve inclusive growth.

What was the role of the Government?

The Scottish Environment Protection Agency has specific role to play to deliver full compliance and help as many business as possible to innovate and go beyond compliance. The strategy sets out how we will regulate for maximum benefit, using an integrated framework and other tools.

What were the results?

The policy document: “One planet prosperity. Our Regulatory Strategy” (2016)

contains three key areas of action:

1) Sustainable Growth Agreements: The main shift in SEPA’s practice is to work directly with businesses we regulate at the highest level to engage them in the One Planet Prosperity challenge that Scotland needs to be successful. Sustainable Growth Agreements provide a mechanism to agree an action plan with the boards of businesses and heads of local authorities. They agree how SEPA will work with them to develop in ways that reduce their natural resource use and recognize their dependence on natural capital for their business success.  The growth agreements create positive stories that encourage other businesses to change their practices, beyond regulatory compliance.  For example we have agreements with: Scottish Water, Superglass and Stirling Council.

2) Sector Plans: Sector Plans help SEPA work with whole sectors, and those other organisations that influence the sector such as retailers, insurers and suppliers.  The sectors and those who influence them are involved in the development of the plans. They also facilitate better cross-organisational working with the businesses we regulate. We have three sector plans published with: Scotch whisky, metals and landfill. The next phase of planning will focus on fin-fish aquaculture and land management sectors which have more direct reliance on natural capital.

Natural capital support: Through this work we seek to help sectors implement frameworks such as the Natural Capital Protocol, as well as looking at new ways to help address the issues that prevent businesses from taking action. For example, recent research with businesses found that in order to invest in natural capital to improve their business resilience, they were looking for assistance to collaborate with other businesses in an area. We are now exploring with other organisations through the Scottish Forum on Natural Capital Working Group how to support businesses to achieve this.  SEPA has also supported a trial of the Natural Capital Protocol with land based businesses (see case study). The Scottish Forum on Natural Capital Working Group enables businesses, government, its agencies, land managers and their representatives, research organisations and farm advisers to work together on practical use of natural capital in business decision making.

Other comments

Further information on SEPA’s regulatory strategy can be found here