Creating the right conditions for consent

Published on
October 4, 2013

As resources and energy companies seek to find cost efficiencies, many are looking to low-income, resource-rich nations to develop projects.

However, the risks associated with these countries’ delicate institutions and governance systems often mean that attaining and maintaining enduring community consent is challenging.

There are a plethora of existing international standards and systems providing guidance on community engagement – much of which is publicly available – and most companies now recognise that a strong consensual relationship with those affected by a project can improve its long-term viability.

However, companies can still fall short:

  1. because of a failure to understand local political and community dynamics and the way they may change throughout the life-cycle of a project
  2. due to pitfalls with the delivery of their engagement with local populations.

As the World Resources Institute identifies, too often the rhetoric in support of community engagement does not match the practice. Put simply, it’s all about the execution.

Whether it’s through a failure to prepare communities (with little to no frame of reference of large-scale, modern resource development) for change, or ad hoc information dissemination rather than fostering authentic community participation in decision-making, the consequences of fragmentary engagement can create significant operational risks.

Former President of the World Resources Institute, Jonathan Nash says it best: “Is meaningful stakeholder and community engagement easy? Of course not. Is it worthwhile? Absolutely, and on very measure – from human rights, to ecosystem protection, to the bottom line.”

Effective engagement that is sensitive to the unique dynamics of a project’s host communities can produce mutual benefit – improving cost efficiencies for proponents and providing access to new opportunities for those who live within a project’s sphere of influence.

For further information about creating the right conditions for social consent, please contact Marc Joshi, Group Manager International Projects on 07 3229 4499 or marc.joshi@rowland.com.au