Environmental protections and public opinion have become significant issues in the process of project acceptance and implementation.
The proponents therefore have the advantage of establishing a development strategy, from the outset, that will promote project acceptability in a context of sustainable development. Here are recommendations to promote environmental and social compliance of your projects.
The regulatory approvals process
Regulatory compliance and the process to obtain approvals required by law can be complex, if not costly. But above all, they must be seen as:
- A proponent’s roadmap
- Assurance that the project can be implemented
- An estimate for carrying out an acceptable and sustainable project
- Strategic development thinking, and not a simple project description
By giving importance to assessments and allocating the necessary resources to complete them, proponents will acquire a thorough knowledge of the receiving environment and the potential effects and risks of the project on this environment. Proponents can then reduce or mitigate the impacts and, at the same time, increase project acceptability.
(P) Projects are assessed by ministerial analysts based on their impacts on various valued components of the receiving environment and the regulations that protect and control them. As such, mitigating impacts to comply with existing laws and regulations requires rigorous planning of project activities and its footprint, as well as appropriate use of technologies (e.g., wastewater decontamination, filtration of atmospheric pollutants).
This step is an internal technical challenge. To meet this challenge, the first thing is to design and implement a high quality project, then to optimize its planning and wind up with the best plan. This way, all the planning work performed upstream and the appropriateness of the chosen plan can be demonstrated.
(P) There are numerous examples of projects that, although they receive the necessary government approvals, could not be implemented because of a lack of social acceptability. Whether based on well-founded reasons or lack of information, public opinion has become an essential decision-making criterion in project development. It is therefore important to create winning conditions for all stakeholders and to convince them that the project is both well-planned and socially acceptable.
This step is an external social challenge. To meet this challenge, it is important to understand the history and characteristics of the area as well as public concerns and expectations. At this step, it is important to listen to the various viewpoints, and not just present your project. This approach will allow the proponent to achieve several objectives:
- Gain a better understanding of the concerns of various stakeholders
- Establish a trusting relationship with stakeholders and gain their respect
- Demonstrate an attitude founded on transparency, openness and inclusion
- Explain project objectives
- Aim at harmonizing uses
- Focus on common values
Once this step is completed, planners will know what the irritants are and mitigation measures can be incorporated into the project to optimize planning. Performed upstream, this work will greatly enhance project acceptability, since stakeholders will have behaved proactively and not reactively.
Here are some other reasons why it is important to start environmental and social assessments early in project planning:
- The approval process is subject to logistical and governmental administrative constraints (expect analysis delays).
- Biological characterization periods for the receiving environment are linked to seasons (e.g., snow cover, migration and spawning periods, vegetation growth season).
- It is therefore much simpler to explain the project and reflect public demands in the planning process.