Manufacturers not feeling benefits of regulatory reform

26th August 2015

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Manufacturers' body EEF wants bolder environmental legislation reform after it found that just 25% of members believe efforts so far had the right focus.

Seven in 10 manufacturers surveyed by EEF said cutting back on green legislation is important to their business, but less than one in 10 said changes made by the government to reduce regulatory “burdens” had saved them time (7%) or money (9%), according to a report by the organisation.

More than 25% of respondents said reforms had made the situation even more confusing. The environment department (Defra) has so far focused on reducing administration related to regulation and cutting the volume of guidance.

But many businesses told EEF that cutting guidance is not necessarily a good thing since it can be key in helping them interpret the law correctly. Although businesses generally believe the guidance could be simpler, consolidated or better worded, most businesses recognise that good quality information needs to cover a wide range of sectors and activities, EEF said.

Better guidance remains a priority for 78% of manufacturers, while 56% want better data reporting, the poll revealed. Companies operating in the chemical and metal sectors are particularly vocal on the need for improvements.

All guidance should be on the website with a single source on each environmental theme, such as waste, water, air, climate change and energy efficiency, while all environmental data should be reported into one system and one body, EEF said.

Defra has also considered the scope for reforming legislation, which is supported by over 70% of manufacturers. So far, the environment department has identified 28 “opportunities” that could benefit manufacturers. Of these, 42% involve merely tidying up the statute book, removing obsolete regulation and consolidating legislation into one law, EEF said.

Manufacturers want Defra to go further and reform the existing stock of legislation, with 75% of respondents saying that reform of climate and environment policy was important or very important to their business.

EEF recommends the creation of a single framework act with individual annexes detailing minimum requirements in specific areas such as waste and water. The trade body says a suite of indicators should accompany the framework act, so that achievements can be seen and communicated, and support mechanisms, such as fiscal incentives and innovation standards, established.

The focus of Defra’s regulatory reform has been almost exclusively at the domestic level whereas the majority of new regulation comes from Brussels, EEF noted. This is the reason why more than a third of respondents believe that most of the department’s efforts have been largely ineffective, it added.

Terry Scuoler, chief executive of EEF, said: “Our report shows that manufacturers remain committed to addressing environmental and climate concerns, but are still having to wade through unnecessary levels of complexity and red tape in order to do so, which in too many cases is holding them back.”

A spokesperson for Defra said the department's work to cut red tape is focused on reducing the unnecessary bureaucracy on businesses, while minimising the effect on the environment. "Reforms made over the past five years will save businesses around £300 million a year in reduced regulatory costs and cut the number of regulations in force by more than 20%," he said.

The EEF’s findings are echoed in a recent white paper from BSRIA, which represents the building services and facilities sector. It says BSRIA members support the creation of clear and uncomplicated legislation, but that many believe there are too many government departments dictating policy, which sometimes resulted in conflicting requirements.


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