Stakeholder involvement

Sustainable development requires decisions that change the future. Considerations on stakeholder involvement and barriers for implementation are a strategic background in all our activities, but in some projects this aspect is more explicit.

Projects

The purpose of stakeholder involvement

  • to ensure that all relevant questions are addressed, especially when other stakeholders than the immediate decision-maker have influence on the decision or its consequences,
  • to identify barriers to implementation of the recommendations from a study, and finding ways to overcome these barriers, already as a part of the study. Barriers to implementation are typically financial, technological or psychological.

Financial barriers arise when the benefits of a sustainable solution falls at a later time than the costs, or when the benefits are received by another organisation than the one carrying the costs. Overcoming financial barriers typically involves the creation of a mechanism for transferring payment from the recipients of the benefits to those carrying the costs. For example, an innovation that reduces car accidents (e.g. an alco-lock) is an immediate cost for the consumers but lead to a later reduction in hospital costs and insurance payments. A subsidy for the consumer of the innovation, financed by hospital and insurance companies based on their future reduced costs, may be a way to overcome the financial barrier for the consumer to invest in the innovation. To arrive at such a solution obviously needs the direct involvement of those that receive the benefits.

Technological barriers arise when a new technology, with a large theoretical potential for sustainability improvements, competes with an old, optimised technology. For example, composting and biogasification of the organic fraction of municipal solid waste has taken a long time to develop to the level where it is now competitive to incineration. An assessment based on the early prototypes would have shown that it would be both economically and environmentally better to burn the organic waste, and would result in an overinvestment in combustion capacity. To avoid such technological lock-ins, it is important to include representatives of innovative technologies, and to avoid undue influence from those stakeholders that are likely to loose from the introduction of new technologies.

Psychological barriers arise when the implementation of a new technology requires a shift in behaviour or values. For example, both alco-locks in cars and the sorting of household waste requires changes in behaviour and also in values, i.e. acceptance of public interference in “private” decisions. Involving car owners and those managing wastes in the households could give ideas on how to design and introduce the innovations in such a ways as to minimise the opposition to the implementation. The psychological barriers related to introduction and maintenance of environmental management systems are treated on our page on employee participation.