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Opinion: Renew Emphasis On Impact Assessment

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AS we know, “The Materiality Principle”, as defined in the G3 Guidelines (2006), has not changed in G4. The Materiality Principle states that the report should cover aspects that: reflect the organization’s significant economic, environmental and social impacts; or substantively influence the assessments and decisions of stakeholders.”. Here I am assuming companies are taking materiality seriously and are really serious about diligently undertaking materiality assessments before reporting. What changes in G4 is “Organizations are requested to identify and describe where impacts occur for each material Aspect identified. In setting the Aspect Boundaries, an organization should consider impacts within and outside of the organization.” Therefore the logical conclusion is that there would be a renewed interest in Social and Environmental Impact Assessments across the value chain.

In India, Social and Environmental Impact Assessments have been categorized according to the EIA 2006 notification. For all those companies that do not fall under the purview of this notification, EIA or Social Impact Assessments do not fall in their agenda at all. This does not however negate the fact that these companies are probably under the “non-polluting industries” or do not fit the criteria for categorizing of projects. Also Impact Assessment is necessary for obtaining environmental clearance and once the projects are operational continuous monitoring is something that is not strictly followed.

So therefore will the inclusion of assessment of significant economic and environmental and social impacts in the context of materiality bring back the emphasis on undertaking impact assessments without the stick of regulation. If it does, we would definitely have to restructure Social and Environmental Impact Assessments to adopt it to assess companies activities.

Some of the questions that come to my mind are :

 1. Do companies look at impact assessment in the context of materiality?

2. Do we need to rethink how to conduct effective impact assessments and adapt and modify the SEIA methodologies to identify sustainability risks and impacts and therefore opportunities for improvement?

If you have case studies you would like to share where impact assessment has been undertaken in the context of material issues for reporting, do write in to editor@thewpjournal.in