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Case study on environment protection regulation and wellbeing

Interview with Stewart Prodger from the Scottish Environment Protection Agency
Nice to meet you, Stuart. Could you briefly introduce yourself please? I’m Stuart Prodger. And I work for the Scottish Environment Protection Agency, better known to many as SEPA. We’re Scotland’s environment regulator and Scotland’s strategic flood risk management and flood warning authority. One of the things that SEPA seeks to achieve is an improved environment that sustains a healthy lifestyle, it sustains a strong economy, and that health and wellbeing really are the key to everything we do. As the name of your organisation suggests, your organisation and goals are mainly about improving people’s physical environments. So what difference does it make if you’re now focusing explicitly on improving well-being. There are clear links between a clean, healthy environment and health and wellbeing.
SEPA’s goals have always had a clear health focus, whether it be things like tackling environmental crime, which could be things like illegal waste management, waste dumping. Or it could be our work on improving Scotland’s air and water quality. And that includes things like bathing waters, as well, for instance. You mentioned that you have to work in partnership with multiple agencies. So how do you actually go on about agreeing common objectives when working in partnership? Finding common objectives actually isn’t that difficult. Generally speaking, a partnership is formed because the organisations or the people involved have something that they want to achieve, something they may want to change, something they might want to improve.
It’s how we actually then go about defining that. And through core design, you generally find that, because the people you’re trying to help, the people that want that change made are part of the design process, the buy-in’s there and we know what we both want to actually get out of it. Do you have any evidence that integrating a well-being perspective into your work has made a difference in terms of achieved outcomes? Flooding education has already demonstrated that by providing good, clear, accessible services help people prepare, help people respond, help people reduce the impact on their lives. It’s intrinsic to safeguarding communities by providing that wider engagement and providing that wider accessibility.

While the work of environment protection agencies is for the benefit of everybody, often their work is criticised as burdensome regulation (see a recent article by Arlie Hochschild in the Guardian in the ‘related links’ section). Other obstacles that community-level organisations face in taking on a wellbeing agenda is the need to work in partnership with many other agencies and organisations in order to meet common objectives.

SEPA is the Scottish Environment Protection Agency and in addition to its main purpose of protecting and improving the environment (including managing natural resources in a sustainable way) it has the statutory duty to contribute to ‘improving the health and well being of people in Scotland’. We explore some of the issues that organisations such as SEPA face in this interview with Stewart Prodger, Communications and Customer Service Manager at SEPA’s flood unit.

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