The increasing importance of SIA

Though it is a subject with many layers, at its core, Social Impact Assessment (SIA) is about effectively managing change. It’s about proactively identifying the likely social impacts of a proposed development and the extent and duration of these impacts, but it’s also about a whole lot more.  

SIA delivers greater fairness in how the impacts (costs and benefits) of planned change are distributed, along with giving communities a voice in matters that affect them directly or indirectly.  

SIA provides clarity around the consequences that change brings from a personal, social, and cultural perspective, while facilitating appropriate strategies to manage or enhance these impacts. 

And with the NSW State Government currently in the process of making changes to SIA guidelines – changes that will place a greater emphasis on SIA in the planning of State Significant Development (SSD) projects – we thought it’s a good time to revisit the importance and benefits of SIA.  

Social Licence 

Developing a strong social licence stands a project in good stead through assessment and determination phases, and if approved, through to operations. Likewise, good SIA can facilitate more acceptable and sustainable project outcomes, and can assist in the following ways: 

  • Reduces project risk 
  • Improves project acceptability  
  • Focuses assessment programs on issues that matter 
  • Improves planning and design 
  • Assists in in timely project delivery 
  • Reduces conflict and develops trust 
  • Facilitates relationships and partnerships 
  • Creates co-ownership of project outcomes 
  • Reduces costs associated with project delays  
  • Improves or maintains company reputation 
  • Affords shared value and benefit.  

Better projects, better management of impacts, better outcomes 

Attention to social impacts at the outset of development planning processes, as well as throughout a project’s operational life cycle, leads to better managed projects and operations. In the smooth delivery of projects, operations and transition programs, greater involvement and acceptance of key stakeholders and host communities can be achieved.   

Building trust, reducing conflict 

SIA facilitates relationship building and partnerships between key stakeholders and the local community. Through understanding the social impacts from the perspectives of all parties involved, SIA delivers proactive strategies that address negative social impacts while enhancing positive ones. Not only does this result in more rigorous project assessment and more timely assessment processes, but it also builds trust between parties, while reducing dispute and conflict. 

Project solutions + community support 

SIA can also reveal solutions to project design and impact management that might not have been envisaged without it. This means that impacts and issues can be further reduced.  

Additionally, SIA can result in a range of shared benefits and value initiatives that can support and enhance local livelihoods and further develop a community’s capital assets.     

SIA makes good business sense 

Most companies have a strong Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) agenda reflected in company standards and guidelines. At a project stage, good SIA can set a project up for success, providing the ability to develop relationships and work with stakeholder collaboratively in project design and planning stages, providing a solid foundation for a project as it moves into operations.   

Here to help  

Putting people at the centre of the projects that affect them is not rocket science, but it is social science at work. At Umwelt, we have a talented team of passionate social and community practitioners, with a strong track record in implementing successful SIA programs across Australia.

Discover how the NSW Government has expanded its guidance around SIA. Join Umwelt and a panel of government and industry experts 

If you are keen to better understand how the new SIA Guidance relates to you, join Umwelt and a panel of government and industry experts in a live webinar on September 7, 2021, at 10.00am. If you are interested in registering for this event, please email the social team.

To learn more about how Umwelt can support your teams in addressing government requirements around SIA, contact our nationally recognised social team.