Combining Science and Social Risk
Updated: Feb 12
Currently, Social Risk is believed to be the greatest risk to any development project. Social risk is becoming a more familiar concept to those within industry, yet how to identify and mitigate this risk remains wildly unknown. It involves the human aspects of a project: people’s issues, questions, emotions, and opinions that can create apprehension for decision-makers to allow projects to move ahead.
As with any form of risk management, social risk must be identified, prioritized, and managed.
So how can we use science to help mitigate this human risk factor?
We recently spoke with three technical leaders in their fields who supply science and engineering based information to guide a project proponent through regulatory requirements as well as a tool to educate stakeholders. One leader provides shadow flicker assessments and solar glare analysis to wind and solar energy projects. This assessment work, which is completed before an application is made to the regulator, can provide insight into how shadows and glare can impact surrounding residents and their enjoyment of life. The next leader conducts emissions monitoring utilizing innovative technology that can assess and determine emissions output ensuring appropriate levels are maintained. And the third leader, a leading noise assessment engineer, helps companies meet regulations, control costs, and mitigate risk.
Each leader shared their experience of where the information they gathered helped to inform project development and meet regulatory requirements. They also provided how this information provided valuable insight and facts to help educate stakeholders and communities on the impacts of the project so they could ask questions and make informed decisions.
Interestingly, each leader also agreed that the science alone isn’t enough. If reputation, rapport, and relationships hadn’t been firmly established by the company with the stakeholders, the information typically was lost.
You may have experienced this during a project where there was overwhelming data to prove minimal impact of the development, yet the information didn’t resolve stakeholder concerns. Was the data insufficient, was it not presented well, was it not understood? Possibly. More often than not, it is because the stakeholder didn’t care to take in or understand the data. A typical outcome if they feel they haven’t been understood, valued, or truly listened to. Without this foundation of trust, no amount of data could absolve these concerns.
Huge advances in science, technology, and engineering have positively impacted development projects. They play a vital role in meeting requirements and providing information for people to make informed decisions. When utilized properly, and relationships with stakeholders is established early on, education is a powerful tool to help discuss and resolve concerns and perceptions.
Do you have a project that needs stakeholder acceptance?
Fill out our Needs Assessment and book a call to examine how our team can support your stakeholder engagement, reduce risk, and achieve project approval.