Using Stakeholder Processes in Environmental Decisionmaking I. Executive Summary Stakeholder involvement in environmental decisionmaking by government and industry is inevitable and

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  • Using StakeholderProcesses in

    EnvironmentalDecisionmaking

    An Evaluation of Lessons Learned, Key Issues,and Future Challenges

    Prepared By

    Terry F. YosieRuder Finn Washington

    &

    Timothy D. HerbstICF Incorporated

    September 1998

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    Acknowledgement

    This project was supported by a grant from the American Industrial Health Council, theAmerican Petroleum Institute, and the Chemical Manufacturers Association.

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    Table of Contents

    PageI. Executive Summary 1

    II. Introduction 5

    III. Lessons From the Past 10

    IV. Matching Stakeholder Processes to Problems 15

    V. Key Issues in Managing Stakeholder Processes 17

    VI. Comparison of Public and Private Sector Experiences 30With Environmental Stakeholder Processes

    VII. Challenges to Stakeholder Processes 34

    VIII. The Future of Stakeholder Processes 49

    IX. Appendices

    1. List of Persons Interviewed 552. Interview Questions 563. Interview Respondents Rankings of 59

    Selected Key Issues4. Stakeholder Processes Reviewed in 61

    Preparing this Report5. Case Studies 62

    Release of RMP Information, BASF, Freeport, TXBP Americas Stakeholder ForumColumbus, Ohio Priorities 95 ProjectHealth Effects Institute Review of MTBE and Other OxygenatesIntel Corporations Project XL Agreement

    X. Author Profiles 73

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    I. Executive Summary

    Stakeholder involvement in environmental decisionmaking by government andindustry is inevitable and will continue to expand. This study examines the majorreasons for the increased use of stakeholder processes, identifies some key issues andchallenges associated with managing them, and analyzes factors shaping their futureuse.

    The studys results are based upon an extensive literature review, an examination oftwenty-nine stakeholder case studies, and in-depth interviews with thirty-seven of thenations leading experts and participants (representing government, industry,environmental groups, and other perspectives) in environmental stakeholderprocesses. Key observations and findings include:

    The increased use of stakeholder processes over the past decade represents asocietal interest in more interactive forms of decisionmaking. Rather than atransitory phenomenon, this development reflects a culmination of a seriesof environmental, political, societal, and technological developments thathave begun to yield significant changes in the methods of makingenvironmental decisions.

    Forces driving the evolution of environmental stakeholder processes include: a lackof public confidence and trust in the environmental decisionmaking of manygovernment agencies and corporations; the increasing transparency of institutionswhose decisions affect environmental quality; greater societal expectations forimproved environmental quality; the enhanced ability of citizens to participate instakeholder processes; the growing diffusion of information technology and anassociated decentralization of decisionmaking in large institutions; and policycommitments made by government agencies and industries to expand stakeholderparticipation in their decisionmaking processes.

    Environmental stakeholder processes are frequently not well managedbecause a number of convenors, facilitators, and participants are not awareof, or have not made effective use of, knowledge and practices developedover time.

    Environmental stakeholder processes are not new, but they represent an evolutionfrom previous methods of soliciting public input. They are frequently managedin an ad hoc manner, thus failing to capture and apply historical insights and transferbest practices. The difference between success and failure in many stakeholderprocesses is often unclear. The inability to effectively use existing knowledge andidentify best practices has generated unrealistic expectations about whatenvironmental stakeholder processes can achieve and has resulted in an ineffectiveuse of resources, including stakeholders time.

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    There is a significant need to achieve a better match between the choice of astakeholder process and the problem it is attempting to solve.

    Participants in stakeholder processes have a variety of problem solving options, eachof which has strengths and limitations. A process designed primarily to shareinformation, for example, is not well suited for resolving legislative issues anddebates. Greater evaluation is needed to determine the suitability of individualprocess options (e.g., advisory committees, alternative dispute resolution, consensus-based decisionmaking, regulatory negotiation) for specific environmental problems.

    There are no specific agreed upon definitions of a stakeholder. Theidentification of stakeholders is influenced by such factors as the issuesunder consideration, the methods used to evaluate whose views need to besolicited, and the skill at which individual stakeholders or theirorganizations articulate their interests.

    Both individuals interviewed for the study as well as existing literature distinguishedamong various categories of stakeholders. These included people who are: 1)directly affected by a decision to take action on an issue or project; 2) interested in aproject or activity, want to become involved in the process, and seek an opportunityto provide input; 3) more generally interested in the process and may seekinformation; and 4) affected by the outcome of a decision but are unaware of or donot participate in stakeholder processes.

    In addition, various kinds of stakeholder processes exist ranging from those in whichstakeholders participate directly in making and implementing decisions todeliberations organized to obtain data, perspectives, or values on selected topics.

    The decision whether to utilize a stakeholder process should be guided by anevaluation of key issues.

    These issues include: 1) assessing the attitude of convenor organizations (to measuretheir willingness to listen to stakeholders views in a decisionmaking process); 2)evaluating potential alternatives to a stakeholder process; 3) determining whether thedecision has already been made; 4) identifying potential stakeholders for the specificissue under review; 5) clarifying the roles and capabilities of scientist and otherstakeholders; 6) selecting the kind of stakeholder process that should be used; 7)agreeing upon ground rules for the process; 8) establishing goals; 9) choosing thetypes of issues and decisions that stakeholders will address; 10) using evaluativecriteria to better assess the value and progress of discussions and decisions at variousstages of the process; 11) assessing the availability of resources to support thestakeholder process; 12) determining whether a process hammer exists or should beestablished; and 13) providing for transparency and communication to ensureongoing access to information and accountability of the parties to each other.

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    Addressing each of these issues creates an important set of management tools duringvarious stages of stakeholder deliberations.

    Stakeholder processes challenge the ability of the scientific community toeffectively participate in a growing number of environmental decisions. Newapproaches to delivering and communicating scientific information areneeded to better inform stakeholder deliberations.

    At present, science-based and stakeholder-based decisionmaking frequently representcompeting approaches to resolving environmental issues. Many environmentaldebates represent conflicts over competing social values as well as disagreementsover scientific and economic data. Stakeholders are frequently perceived bydecisionmakers as more legitimate and representative interpreters of societal valuesthan scientists. In addition, most debates in stakeholder-based decisionmakingsurround the quality of the process rather than the quality of the scientific analysis.

    Scientists traditional methods of providing input to environmental decisionmaking(e.g., use of peer review processes, reliance on published studies) often do not matchthe needs of stakeholder processes. While such methods are appropriate for peer-to-peer exchanges within the scientific community and technically trained managers,they do not facilitate direct interactions with stakeholders or provide information in aform most useful to stakeholder deliberations. As a result, many stakeholderprocesses do not obtain sufficient knowledge and insight from scientists and,consequently, are less informed.

    While increasingly participating in stakeholder processes, environmentaland business groups have growing concerns about their use.

    Both environmental and business organizations are major stakeholders and havemore opportunities to communicate their goals and perspectives. However, theincreased use of stakeholder-based decisionmaking challenges both environmentaland business organizations to devise new strategies of participation and expand orreallocate resources. In addition, they face capacity limits in the number of peoplethey can send to effectively represent their organizations in stakeholder processes.Many environmentalists are concerned about government agencies using theseprocesses to avoid making difficult and politically contentious decisions. Manybusiness groups view governments increased use of these deliberations, coupledwith expanded use of the Internet, as a retreat from more scientifically rigorous risk-based decisionmaking.

    The future use of stakeholder processes will be significantly influenced bythe ability to successfully manage five major challenges.

    On the basis of interviews conducted for the study, assessment of case studies, andthe literature review, these challenges include: