- Dayna Morgan
3 Trends Affecting Public Consultation for Development Projects
Completing a public consultation program for a development project is no longer about referring to a guideline and checking off a checkbox. Below we talk about 3 trends, changes and social influences affecting how consultation is conducted.
Trend #1: Movement Towards Proponent Led Engagement With A Wholistic Approach
With proponent led engagement, the proponent needs to analyze the sufficiency of its engagement and consultation efforts. Was engagement thorough, meets requirements, are mitigations in place, is consultation documented, and is the proponent now comfortable moving forward with an application? This change is less about a black and white prescribed process and takes more of wholistic approach. Regulators want to see stakeholders and the public included in the life cycle of the project. There continues to be a large focus on stakeholder and public engagement as part of the process and application. We have seen this in recent regulatory changes and proposed updates:
AER Public Involvement Draft Directive – released for public comment in 2019, takes a wholistic approach to applying for an entire program rather than by activity and with that consulting with stakeholders on a broader project level.
CER’s Early Engagement Guide – updated in April 2020 includes expectations for engagement to be initiated as soon as possible in the planning phase, to be accessible to and inclusive of all potentially affected persons and communities, be shaped by input, be responsive and continue throughout the regulatory process.
AUC Rule 007 – requires participant involvement documentation by way of a detailed summary report as part of application.
BC EAO – new Act and Regulations came into effect December 2019. Three core areas include: Enhancing public confidence by ensuring impacted First Nations, local communities and governments and the broader public can meaningfully participate in all stages of environmental assessment through a process that is robust, transparent, timely and predictable; Advancing reconciliation with First Nations; and Protecting the environment. Engagement is at the forefront of the requirements.
Trend #2: Increased Records Management
Regulators in Canada began shifting their expectations in the early 2010s by asking for proponents to provide evidence of consultation. We saw that it was no longer enough to check that checkbox and say consultation is complete because regulators started to say “prove it”. Where did that leave us? Since then there have been advancements in the records management space from lengthy excel spreadsheets to robust stakeholder engagement tracking and reporting software.
With this in mind, our top tips when considering your records management strategy include:
Start your records management early – be Non-Routine ready!
Design internal protocols for consistency in recording all communications
Scrub the records, audit and write in a consistent unbiased voice
Use your records data to report back to stakeholders and to support application requirements
At BRITT RADIUS, C3 Management is designed to streamline the content process of consultation tracking and anticipate regulatory requirements. We know what to track, how to track it, and when it is important to implement strategies for concerns and commitments tracking.
Trend #3: Louder Voices And An Outrage Culture
We see the news, the tweets, the bad press that can follow a project and a company when public consultation has gone wrong. There are both regulatory paths and social outlets for the public to voice concerns. And the results of this are real and substantial; delays, increased cost, unpredictability in application approvals, and negative affects on corporate trust and reputation.
At BRITT RADIUS, we strongly believe that social risk is a material risk, and is the #1 hurdle facing projects today.
Applications Not Getting Approved
Increased Project Time, Budget
Damage to Reputation & Lost Trust
Reputation & Trust
An organization’s ESG rating is now impacting investment capital. And the “S” in ESG has become the focus point since 2019. “A company’s social footprint - the social impact of the way it does business -becomes a material social risk when its negative social impact grows with the company.” ~ Fortune
Managing your “S” can be impacted by your project team and how relationships with the public, stakeholders and Indigenous communities is established and nurtured.
So Now What?
As risks increase, so do the opportunities to be creative and have meaningful and impactful relationships with your stakeholders and the public. A solid engagement and consultation plan will ultimately support project success, create more predictable outcomes and enhance an organization’s social reputation.
Not sure where to start?
We can help! BRITT RADIUS’ online Needs Assessment is a great starting point. From there we can discuss where your pain points, opportunities and unforeseen obstacles may be. We love this work and helping our clients achieve compliance and acceptance on their projects.