NetRegs is a powerful tool for SMEs in need of guidance.

Easy way to navigate the regulations maze

Published:  19 January, 2010

LEGISLATION: Small and medium-size businesses need all the help they can get. That’s where NetRegs comes in, writes Lisa Arcangeli.

Crushed between the heavy hand of legislation and having to be ‘seen to be green’ by customers, smaller merchants may not have the resources to get to the heart of the matter – whether it be waste packaging regs or noise and nuisance. was launched in 2004 to provide UK SMEs with free guidance on complying with environmental legislation without the need to register. It is a partnership between the Environment Agency in England and Wales (EA and EAW), the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) and the Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA, formerly the Environment and Heritage Service).

The website currently offers specific guidelines for over 110 business types in the UK.

Businesses can choose to receive free email alerts from NetRegs to keep up-to-date on forthcoming legislation or any changes to current environmental regulations.

“There are two routes in,” says Richard Martin, NetRegs’ programme manager. “You can either access it by ‘business sector’ or ‘activity’. There is a sector for the construction industry, one for food and drink manufacturing and one for agriculture and so on.

“Or, you can go in and look at individual ‘environmental topics’, such as hazardous waste, trade effluent or noise and statutory nuisance for whatever sector you are in.”

There is also a section for environmental legislation – current and future.

Jargon de-mystified

Independent merchants are hard-pressed enough, without having to worry about reading the literature. Never fear, Mr Martin says.

The website was created expressly to both de-mystify and de-jargonise the whole business of compliance and to explain it in plain English – or Welsh.

“There are only a limited number of things a business has to do. If they get those right, they will benefit in a number of ways: they will insulate themselves from being prosecuted by making an accidental mistake; they will improve their perception; they will improve their position in the supply chain and win more business as a result.”

NetRegs’ tools for the construction sector can be accessed under the ‘Go Green – Win Contracts’ section on the home page.

“NetRegs tells the viewer how construction firms can improve their competitiveness by going green. It gives them a checklist which they can download –just the key things they need to be thinking about.”

Waste management

There is also a Guide to Site Waste Management Plans which over 50 000 businesses have downloaded a copy since its launch last year.

The Waste Directory lets businesses of all sorts find out where they can recycle or dispose of their products. By entering a postcode, the visitor to the site can select from about 80 different waste streams and this will tell them which are the authorised sites from which to recycle in England and Wales. There are also tools for Scotland and Northern Ireland.

“It prioritises recycling routes with maps, details and telephone numbers and whether the firms will come and collect,” Mr Martin explains.

“We have had over 63 000 user sessions on this site over the course of a month.”

He also advises merchants to sign up for NetRegs’ e-updates.

They are despatched at the beginning of each month, telling people about key changes to legislation that affects them and important changes to the NetRegs website which they might find useful. Around 25 000 have signed up so far.

“An independent firm conducted a survey and found that each of the businesses signed up to our email updates was saving on average £2600.15 a year,” Mr Martin reports.

An online satisfaction survey found that 93.5% of the businesses that responded rated NetRegs ‘4’ or ‘5’ on a scale of 1-5. Five per cent rated it ‘3’. No-one rated it ‘1’ or ‘2’.

This article first featured in the November issue of Builders' Merchants News.

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