I thought I would continue on the theme of my previous post where I mentioned the glazing of the eyes of students when faced with theory of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) versus the reality of applying CSR in the business context, especially in emerging markets with its specific challenges.
CSR has to be above all things practical, achievable, measurable and in many ways the practice of Social Impact Assessments (SIA) when embarking on new projects embodies this.
SIA is the little brother of EIA (Environmental Impact Assessments). EIAs are mandated for in most countries when it comes to breaking new ground on infrastructure projects, new factories or mines. EIAs include the measurement of baseline information on soil, water, and air quality and ascertain what the impact of said road, dam, factory or mine might be on the area.
SIAs are not often mandated for, or are a small component of an ESIA (Environmental and Social Impact Assessment), they are there to ascertain the social (human) situation on the ground before the project starts up e.g. who lives and works in the area where the project will take place. SIAs can vary in depth, once you know who lives in a project area, you find out how they will be impacted by the project, both negatively and positively. Will they benefit from job creation or will their livelihoods be compromised e.g. loss of habitat for hunting or farmland. An SIA can then elicit what mitigation the proponent can put in place to help with negative impacts. They might be able to train people to take advantage of new job prospects, build infrastructure such as schools, clinics, roads, to help local people to keep their livelihoods or improve on them.
SIA is really a form of risk management, if an SIA is performed and stakeholders are engaged or consulted then the proponent will benefit from earning its “social licence to operate”, rather than risk sabotage, boycotting, and reputation damage.
CSR has many facets and of course there is no social or environmental responsibility without economic responsibility. The firm’s fiduciary duties mean that it must take care of these and a good way to do so is through risk management or social impact assessment.
Dr. Marina Curran, Professor at BSL