Terry A’Hearn, SEPA CEO
Under the ambitious direction set by SEPA’s Board, I am striving to achieve our aim of becoming a world-class environment protection agency. We believe the people of Scotland deserve world-class environment protection service from us. We have set out our approach in our strategy, One Planet Prosperity, which recognises that the first step is to get everyone complying with environmental standards. Our strategy emphasises, though, that the real prize is the second step – working with businesses and others to go beyond legal compliance to achieve real and lasting environmental, economic and social success.
In the 21st century, we are faced with a world in which the problems dominating the agenda are those which affect us all. We increasingly understand the fact that our environment underpins our entire social and economic system, and that the best way to ensure environmental success is to explore creative ways in which this will also produce social and economic success. If SEPA can help achieve this, it will contribute to creating more lasting and inclusive prosperity for Scotland. But it’s no easy task. We will need to retain our traditional strengths and add some new ones. For example, I recently made a pledge on behalf of SEPA to increase the positive social impact we have on our local communities, specifically by doing things we don’t do at the moment. It is important that SEPA continues to work with those it has traditionally worked with and also that we explore innovative and productive collaborations with partners we have not worked much with before, such as non-governmental organisations and Foundations.
Scotland has already established itself as a world leader in responding to the challenges and opportunities presented by addressing climate change, as a globally recognised expert in managing our water environment and, more recently, as a recognised leader in tackling environmental crime. These were among the reasons I wanted to be SEPA’s CEO – like Scotland, SEPA is small enough to organise itself to deliver effectively, but large enough to have a real impact not just nationally, but globally too.
How we ensure that Scotland’s voice is heard globally is a challenge, and how we collaborate in the good work being driven by leaders around the world is an important opportunity we should grasp. Last year, for example, I presented SEPA’s ‘One Planet Business Award’ at the Scottish Business Awards, an event attended by over 2500 business people from across Scotland. One of the highlights for me was hearing about the brilliant work being done by the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation, committed to improving people’s health and well-being, particularly by addressing environmental issues such as climate change. It was especially inspiring to hear the Foundation’s CEO Terry Tamminen, former head of the California Environment Protection Agency, leading the discussion. SEPA is now exploring practical joint working opportunities with the Foundation to tackle environmental crime, in the lead-up to the next World Forum for Natural Capital in Edinburgh.
I was also pleased to be able to accept an invitation from the Hunter Foundation in Edinburgh, which is committed to relieving poverty, to attend an event tonight at which former US President Barack Obama spoke about his own foundation, focused on renewal and global progress, particularly through citizenship and empowering the next generation of leaders. As President Obama puts it “change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones that we have been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.” The event was a great development opportunity for some of our staff to learn from, and be inspired by Obama’s leadership and the work of his Foundation, and also for some of our key stakeholders such as Forth Environment Link, Tweed Forum, Keenan Recycling, and particularly Venture Trust, with whom we have just signed a formal agreement to work together to improve the lives of people experiencing disadvantage and struggling to engage with mainstream employability.
When global influencers such as Leonardo DiCaprio and President Obama speak about the challenges and opportunities we must embrace if we are to thrive within the limits of our planet’s capacity to support us, it gives us hope that these messages are being heard, and that action will follow. And action is what it’s all about. So working with globally influential and effective leaders and Foundations is one opportunity SEPA is exploring to help make our One Planet Prosperity approach a reality. Scotland should, can, and clearly does show leadership on a global scale. SEPA should, and will, embrace opportunities to work with others with a global voice and global reach to help make our voice heard and our vision real.