A Social Environmental Impact Assessment (SEIA) follow-up is essential to determine the project’s impacts. Social baseline data gathered during SEIA preparation is not always used during or after project implementation; in most cases, data is handled as a statistical exercise and not used after SEIA approval, especially when related to social areas. However, companies can exploit social baseline as a foundation of their stakeholder activities.
SEIA follow-up comprises the monitoring, evaluation, management and communication of the proposed project’s possible impacts in the social and environmental areas.
- Monitoring comprises baseline data and data collection during and after project implementation.
- Evaluation is the assessment of initial predictions and performance.
- Management consists of making decisions and coordinating efforts based on the information collected in the previous steps.
- Communication is conveying information through the exchange of thoughts, messages, or information to the stakeholders about the SEIA and its results of development, as well as feedback on processes.
Stakeholder engagement being one of the most sensitive issues for many extractive projects, can also generate positive outcomes and benefits for communities when done properly. Stakeholder engagement data should not only be seen as valuable during to the design and construction phases of a project; it should be used throughout the other phases, including operation, decommissioning and closure.
For instance, Social Data from baseline surveys is useful to help understand the influence of different stakeholders on a project across its whole life cycle. Social data from SEIA should be used as a foundation to assist with:
- Identification of project stakeholders to gain better understanding of their concerns
- Tracking of all interactions with stakeholders: consultations, formal-informal meetings, etc.
- Identification of issues before they escalate to grievances
- Implementation of a grievance mechanism in accordance with best practice principles
- Registration and consolidation of all commitments during engagement activities until project closure
The implementation of an Information Management System (IMS) provides companies with the ability to manage, monitor and report throughout all project phases. This can significantly help companies to deal with large amounts of data and monitor their various activities efficiently. The IMS should support companies’ efforts to manage stakeholders engagement activities, by aggregating all information into a centralized database, generating reports, and sending alerts to notify users when certain activities are about to meet their due dates or when any activity is taking place.
Understanding that social data can be used for the SEIA follow-ups as well as other stakeholder engagement activities will have an impact on the design of SEIA surveys: it will reduce efforts and costs in the future. Using and updating collected data will help project managers to track engagements and make best uses of resources.
Both data and the IMS need to reflect best practices and should be based in well-defined methodologies to monitor, evaluate, manage and communicate. Basic stakeholder engagement activities processes such as stakeholder identification, analysis, consultations (formal-informal meetings), negotiations, issue identification, implementation of grievance mechanisms, and reporting should be covered by an efficient data management system. Social Data can also be used to track relationships with stakeholders, their interests and their level of support, while other data can serve to improve business and decision-making processes, and to ensure accountability and transparency.
The system should be adapted to suit the evolving needs and activities, control and report requirements, and integrate other relevant information. It should be used as a decision-making and management tool, the foundation to transform activities from reactive to proactive, and demonstrate transparency to stakeholders.
Clear criteria and KPIs are key in order to develop efficient systems and reporting tools. These need to be defined and agreed on right at the outset.
Systems implemented as a management instrument are used as:
- A decision-making and management tool in a range of activities and interactions
- Standardized processes within a project and/or organization
- A foundation to transform activities from reactive to proactive
- A means to demonstrate transparency to stakeholders and during assessments/audits
Social baseline design and data gathering efforts done during the SEIA preparation should be planned in early stages with the purpose to be used as the foundation for stakeholder engagement monitoring, evaluation, management and communication across the whole life cycle of a project. Adequate resources should be provided; time, staff and capacity must be appropriately planned. Follow-ups must be cost-effective, efficient and realistic.
The implementation of an IMS is an efficient solution to manage great amounts of data and monitor various activities efficiently. The IMS should gather the information collected during the preparation of the SEIA. That being said, the data should be completed, improved and updated during all project phases.