Lorna Walker, Senior Policy Officer at SEPA gives an insight into her role as a VIBES judge.
Hard hat. Check. Hi-vis vest. Check. Safety shoes. Check. It’s VIBES time again; the time when businesses from across Scotland open their doors to the scrutiny of VIBES judges. This is my second year as a site judge and it’s taken me into some of the most interesting and innovative sites in the country. As a waste policy officer, my day to day work involves liaising with government helping to develop the evidence and policies which will help us to move towards a more circular economy. All very interesting and necessary, but the wheels of policy turn slowly – so it’s very rewarding to visit companies that are grasping the nettle and trying to actually do it on the ground.
The VIBES awards are all about demonstrating that taking an innovative approach to managing environmental aspects of your business makes good business sense. Because the awards feed into the European Business Awards for the Environment, there are certain standards that need to be met – it’s not just about green gongs – it’s a pretty thorough process. When the applications come in they are assessed by a panel of judges against a set of criteria, to draw up a shortlist of around 5 companies in each category. These are then passed out to site judges, like me, drawn from the partner agencies - SEPA, Scottish Enterprise, HIE, Zero Waste Scotland, Scottish Water, Energy Savings Trust and the Scottish Government. Between us we have a good breadth of experience, and our different perspectives mean that we cover all the bases during a site visit.
Prior to the site visit we’ve attended the training sessions, read all the paperwork, met together and identified a list of questions to ask on site. The purpose of the site visit is to find the evidence to back up the statements made in the entries, to strengthen the application so that the best case is made for the company to succeed. Often in an application form there will be a general statement like ‘we met all our targets for reducing resource use’. That is really of little use to us unless it is substantiated – so on the site visit we will ask what the target was, how it was set, and ask to see the data that demonstrates the success. Getting that data makes the company application so much stronger. There is also a compliance check undertaken by SEPA to ensure all entries are demonstrating good practice.
After the visit, the site judges get their heads together and agree our recommendations back to the central judging panel. It’s then out of our hands – having made the best possible case for the companies we have visited, the outcome depends on the strength of other applications in the category.
It’s the thorough process that means winning a VIBES award is a real achievement, which is respected across the business community. For me though, the reward comes in seeing good things happen.