One of the biggest challenges confronting policy-makers, public and private, is how to make sure that their policies are sustainable. It is no longer simply about meeting the below the line expectations of the passive shareholder or the service needs of the citizen. Given the many pressures confronting people every day there is a new expectation that the company, the council, the department will act ethically with a view to avoiding the possible negative legacies that might be created through their actions and plans. Thinking sustainable development is now an expectation right alongside the need to meet investment rates of return or creating employment and having business growth in a community. These, at times, conflicting interests have much in common. There is little point in having huge profits at the expense of the long-term sustainability of the company, that is a lesson which is all too clear from the recent past in Ireland. Equally from a public policy point of view, taking short-term or poorly considered decisions can and does create unnecessary barriers to the social and economic sustainability of the very communities for whom those decisions are being taken.
Sustainable development is not just about protecting the environment or underpinning social cohesion. It is about placing at the core of decision-making, the long term viability of our communities here in Ireland and across the world. Both the environment and social outlook are valuable resources which are as central to the future of the country as is good transport, better communications and capacity to export. It is no coincidence that countries that recognise this are those which count among the most successful in the world. Many of the building blocks to position Ireland and its communities to be sustainable are already around us. It just needs the policy-makers, public and private, to have the willingness to take on the challenge of moving towards integrated long-term socio-economic planning.
Integrated Socio-economic Planning
Communities across the globe are coping with the dramatic economic shifts of the past three years. In an effort to re-position themselves we have helped communities in Ireland and the UK to move towards integrated strategies for economic development. In several cases we have been commissioned to work with communities that have been confronted with a major industrial closure or re-structuring.
Project Management for sustainability/environmental impact
We can manage large scale strategic environmental assessments of policies and programmes in both the public and private sector. In addition, we have considerable experience preparing environmental impact studies and managing the environmental assessment process for a range of infrastructure including transportation, leisure and amenity facilities and residential developments.
Increasingly international investors and finance providers such as the World Bank and the International Finance Corporation require building in full sustainability appraisal for major projects and the planning of programmes and policies. Sustainability appraisal moves beyond the purely environmental focus of strategic environmental assessment to include social and other factors that are key to creating good quality of life conditions.
Developing sustainability/quality of life indicators
A constant challenge for the policy-maker or the manager of a company is to be alert to the environment in which services and products are being delivered. Increasingly and particularly in the public arena, policy-makers need to keep focused on achieving positive outcomes that can be defended and can be used to support continued investment and resourcing. A central feature of sustainable development is the adoption of sustainability outcomes which will demonstrate the success of a policy initiative to the organisation’s stakeholders.
For more information take a look at this case study.