TORONTO, Dec. 1, 2015 /CNW/ - With the new federal government committed to reviewing the approval process for major resource projects, a key focus should be on encouraging stronger social partnerships between stakeholders, according to a new C.D. Howe Institute report. In "From 'Social Licence' to 'Social Partnership': Promoting Shared Interests for Resource and Infrastructure Development," authors Geoffrey Hale and Yale Belanger identify best practices for successful community engagement by companies, industries and governments that have a proven track record of success.
"Social partnerships have become a key element for energy and related infrastructure development," commented Hale. "Failure to secure social acceptance increases the risk of a project not coming to market," added Belanger. "Communities that don't feel their needs are well understood have greater incentives to form alliances with outside activist groups that pursue much stricter development limits as part of a broader ideological agenda."
The authors provide examples of successful multi-stakeholder "synergy" groups, government-led initiatives and "corridor" coalitions of groups across extended areas. They recommend a virtual handbook of best practices for industry, regulators and community leaders in the following areas:
- Building Multi-Stakeholder Groups and Networks: Local or regional industry working groups including industry representatives provide a valuable means of strengthening connections with local governments and communities, public health authorities and local emergency response professionals. These groups reduce risks, address community concerns, and respond more effectively to occasional emergencies.
- Multi-Jurisdictional Projects: Multi-jurisdictional initiatives require parallel processes that respect legal, institutional and social differences in various jurisdictions. The authors find successful examples of formal multi-jurisdictional advisory processes in British Columbia that could inform future negotiations elsewhere.
- Engaging First Nations and Aboriginal Communities: Consultation prior to detailed project design or approval has become a central factor influencing First Nations' acceptance of resource projects affecting traditional lands.
The energy sector's involvement in hundreds of diverse communities points to a number of lessons. Provincial and federal governments and regulators can do more by promoting multi-stakeholder groups and disclosing more about emergency response plans. Industry bodies should promote cultures of continuous improvement reinforced by benchmarks and internal reporting requirements that demonstrate adherence. Energy firms themselves can look to international certifications of their processes of social partnership, or pool resources to achieve similar objectives.
The C.D. Howe Institute is an independent not-for-profit research institute whose mission is to raise living standards by fostering economically sound public policies. Widely considered to be Canada's most influential think tank, the Institute is a trusted source of essential policy intelligence, distinguished by research that is nonpartisan, evidence-based and subject to definitive expert review.
SOURCE C.D. Howe Institute
For further information: Geoffrey Hale, Professor of Political Science, and Yale Belanger, Associate Professor of Political Science, University of Lethbridge: 416-865-1904 or email: [email protected]