Getting advice on environmental issues

Environmental issues are becoming increasingly important to all businesses as the scope of environmental legislation increases.


5 min read

1. Overview

If you are unfamiliar with the environmental issues relevant to your business or you need more specialised advice, a number of organisations exist to help you. Some organisations and programmes provide free, in-depth advice to help you comply with regulations, improve the environmental performance of your business, and at the same time improve your profitability.

This guide explains the various organisations that can help your business become more environmentally friendly and competitive.

2. Why your business may need environmental advice

Your business has to comply with environmental legislation, but going beyond what is legally required can bring significant benefits, including opening new markets, increasing profits and improving your image with staff, customers, investors and other stakeholders.

You may need advice and support with a wide variety of environmental issues. Key areas include:

  • Complying with environmental legislation
  • Assessing your environmental impact
  • Improving your energy efficiency
  • Improving your resource efficiency
  • Recycling
  • Setting up an environmental management system
  • Choosing and installing environmental technology solutions
  • Reducing the environmental impact of your supply chain

3. Choosing the right environmental help and advice

There are many different sources of information and advice to help you improve your environmental performance. The most appropriate will depend on what you need help with, your location, the size of your business, the sector you work in and your resources.

National sources of help and advice

  • The Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) implements and enforces environmental legislation and provides you with advice and information.
  • NetRegs provides free guidance on how to comply with environmental legislation.
  • The Carbon Trust can help your business cut carbon emissions and improve energy efficiency.
  • Zero Waste Scotland can help your business become more efficient by improving resource efficiency and cutting waste at source.
  • You may also be able to obtain advice from your trade association.

Local help and advice

The type and scope of local help will depend on where your business is based, but there are a number of places you can begin your search, including:

Environmental consultants

If you can't find adequate free advice and support or have specific needs you can hire an environmental consultant

4. Regulation and advice from SEPA

The Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA) is the main government body responsible for regulating environmental legislation. In this role it issues permits, licences and authorisations that control businesses' impact on the environment. It also plays a prominent role in providing flood awareness information and managing water resources.

SEPA has local offices across Scotland that provide support and advice to help businesses comply with legislation and reduce their impact on the environment.

The SEPA website gives advice, guidance and information on current and forthcoming environmental legislation.

The SEPA website also gives advice on:

  • Pollution prevention and control (PPC) legislation.
  • Water legislation.
  • Flood preparation.
  • Waste legislation.

You can keep up to date using the SEPA weekly email update service.

You can receive a text or voice message when there is a flood update for your area.

SEPA is one of the partners in NetRegs, a website that provides guidance on environmental legislation to businesses.

SEPA, along with the other UK environmental regulators, produces Pollution Prevention Guidelines (PPGs), which provide detailed guidance on how to prevent pollution from a number of business activities.

5. Understanding environmental legislation with NetRegs

NetRegs is a website provided by the Scottish Environment Protection Agency and the Northern Ireland Environment Agency. It aims to help businesses understand and comply with current and forthcoming environmental legislation.

The information and help available includes:

  • Guidance by business type - such as agriculture, construction, hospitality or offices.
  • Legislation - search lists of current legislation or read summaries about forthcoming legislation.
  • Email alerts - sign up to receive free monthly email alerts to help keep you up-to-date with changes to environmental legislation.

6. Reduce your carbon emissions with the Carbon Trust

The Carbon Trust helps businesses reduce their carbon emissions and energy bills.

The first step is to assess how your business uses energy. You could do this, for example, by carrying out a walk-round survey or measuring your carbon footprint.

Once you have completed the assessment, the Carbon Trust can advise you how to reduce your energy use. This can make your business more attractive to stakeholders such as employees, shareholders and business partners and could also save you money by reducing your energy bills.

Home-based businesses can find similar advice on the Energy Saving Trust (EST) website.

The Carbon Trust can also provide:

  • Carbon surveys - if your business uses more than £50,000 of energy per year (and is in Northern Ireland, Scotland or Wales), the Carbon Trust can carry out an on-site analysis and offer tailored advice. For businesses elsewhere, or that use less energy, you can use the website or the advice line for expert advice.
  • Finance for energy saving projects - the Carbon Trust offers leases, loans and other financing options for businesses seeking to reduce their energy use..
  • Interest-free loans - the Carbon Trust can also provide unsecured, interest-free loans for the purchase of energy-saving equipment.
  • Enhanced capital allowances - by investing in energy-saving plant and machinery you may be eligible for enhanced capital allowances.
  • Consultancy - The Carbon Trust also advises new low-carbon businesses and may also give grants to research projects.

7. Reduce waste with Zero Waste Scotland

Zero Waste Scotland works with businesses, communities, individuals and local authorities to help them reduce waste, recycle more and use resources sustainably. Their programmes provide advice and support to businesses of all sizes, through a combination of online resources and hands-on support.

You can access help from Zero Waste Scotland by visiting their website, which provides advice, case studies and tools covering a range of topics, including:

  • Guidance for businesses on how to waste less and use resources better.
  • Information and tools to help you reduce, reuse and recycle your business waste.

Alternatively, you can can call the Zero Waste Scotland Helpline on Tel 0808 100 2040.

Zero Waste Scotland works closely with businesses in a number of key sectors, including:

  • Improving resource efficiency in the construction sector
  • Minimising food and packaging waste and encouraging the use of recycled materials in the manufacturing and retail sectors
  • Encouraging the development of compost products in the argriculture and horticulture sectors
  • Providing access to research, funding and market information for businesses in the recycling sector

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