Ask anyone who has been involved with environmental assessments or management systems of late, and they will tell you that the past few years have seen an ongoing shift in requirements. And with so much attention being paid of late to environment and social themes, including engagement, diversity and inclusion, equality, land ownership and rights, we shouldn’t be surprised to see more changes continuing into the near future.
In all categories, the language around stakeholder engagement and involvement, environmental performance and continuous improvement have strengthened, and the need for options or alternatives analyses, and lifecycle perspectives have become much more distinct, as opposed to being a consideration, or a check-the-box exercise.
For instance, ISO 14001 updates include strengthened attention on the concepts of:
- Risk-based prevention of pollution: Avoiding, reducing, and controlling waste and pollution in order to reduce adverse environmental impacts.
- Eco-efficiency: Implementing strategies for efficient use of resources, and for reducing waste and pollution.
- Proactive, life cycle thinking: identifying and evaluating environmental aspects related to the life cycle of products and services.
This is aligned with the federal and provincial environmental assessment processes that come into play for any larger industrial development that might have potential to have impacts on the land or the people around them.
Overall, what this means for developments and operations is that the environmental management system and the strategic planning process must be fully integrated to take into account:
- external and internal issues and interactions relevant to the organization (context),
- associated risks and opportunities,
- needs and expectations of “interested parties”, as well as to consider
- all outsourced processes – extending control and influence to the environmental impacts associated with product use and end-of-life treatment or disposal.
The organization’s environmental policy must include a commitment to protecting the environment and improving environmental performance (as opposed to improving management processes), combined with the use of performance data to validate progress towards goals set by the organization at a strategic level.
Finally, where many developments used to be able to focus only on the impacts of introducing new infrastructure and the operations of the facilities, this is no longer the case. Organizations must also pay more attention to their product’s life cycle, and the end of life of the infrastructure they are commissioning, when determining key environmental aspects, extending its control and influence to the environmental impacts associated with product use and end-of-life treatment or disposal.
Changes such as these are continuing to appear – in ‘optional’ standards such as the ISO management series, in federal and provincial regulations, and in environmental assessment requirements.
Add to that the increasing level of awareness by external stakeholders and observers, precedent-setting legal wins on Aboriginal land ownership and rights, development of non-standardized approval processes by various Aboriginal organizations, and project approvals being denied or significantly delayed due to opposition by dis-satisfied stakeholders.
With wins behind them, external stakeholders are gaining confidence, they have much more support to push their agendas, and they are gaining the legal powers to do so. It is clear that the way we do things needs to change, and we need to get ahead of the game – not wait until we are told.
Have you identified the risks to your projects? What are you doing to ensure the success (aka approval) of your developments?
About Karen Chovan…I’m on a mission to alter the way industrial developments and projects are planned, designed and operated – such that they have holistically and proactively pre-empted environmental and social risks from a full lifecycle perspective. I facilitate identification of new options, making better decisions, and generating or recognizing value where others see only cost, all in a streamlined and effective method of delivery. Visit www.envirointegration.com