Integrating impact assessment

Impact assessment refers to processes of examining the potential implications of proposed actions (be they project, plan or policy actions). These may be integrated, or have an emphasis on looking at the impacts (intended and unintended) around different areas of interest – environment, social (including health), cultural and economic. That analysis is then used to modify proposals, to inform final decisions about proposals, and to inform impact management plans. As the recent SIA Guidance Note points out, there is growing consideration that these documents can move beyond just static reports, and be placed within the context of planning and management documents required to underpin future-focused actions and procedures to manage identified issues. Adaptive
management is an important part of ensuring the realization of beneficial impacts, and to mitigate against the likelihood of adverse impacts.

Social impact assessment: Guidance for assessing and managing the social impacts of projects. This 2015 Guidance Note by Frank Vanclay and colleagues aims to provide advice to various stakeholders about what is expected in good practice social impact assessment (SIA) and social impact management processes, especially in relation to project development.  They highlight the increasing focus in SIA on enhancing the benefits of projects to impacted communities. Although the need to ensure that the negative impacts are identified and effectively mitigated remains, also of value is revising projects and ancillary activities to ensure greater benefits to communities. This is necessary for the project to earn its ‘social licence to operate’; and also because attempting to minimise harm (the traditional approach in SIA) does not ensure that  the project will be considered acceptable by local stakeholders, or that a project does not actually cause significant harm.

International Principles For Social Impact Assessment. The 2003 “International Principles for Social Impact Assessment” is a statement of the core values of the SIA community together with a set of principles to guide SIA practice and the consideration of ‘the social’ in environmental impact assessment generally.

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