Strengthening Community Engagement in the Just Transition

Anna Triponel

December 15, 2023
Our key takeaway: Engaging local communities in meaningful, rights-respecting ways is the linchpin of the just transition. The Extractive Industries Transparency Index (EITI) engaged with diverse stakeholders across Colombia, Ghana and Indonesia over the course of two years to understand their perspectives on the energy transition. Even across different geographies and when discussing different types of projects—from extraction of transition-critical minerals to implementation of renewable energy projects—communities expressed the same views: that they, as the people often most at risk from adverse impacts, want information and greater transparency from companies and governments alike about these projects; that this information needs to be shared in a way that is accessible and understandable; and that—crucially—they need to be involved as active participants in the dialogue and decision-making across the full lifecycle of a project. EITI shares top recommendations for companies, which are also relevant for business in other sectors. These include routine, proactive disclosure on the impacts and contributions of transition projects to communities, especially impacts on their livelihoods; finding community-appropriate ways to share information about projects in the face of barriers like illiteracy or lack of technology, and building on channels that already exist; leveraging opportunities for face-to-face dialogue, like community meetings and multi stakeholder sessions; and ensuring that community members, especially vulnerable people, are made central to decision-making and project implementation from planning to closure, through direct consultation.

The Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) published Engaging Communities in a Just Transition (December 2023):

  • “Ensuring information is relevant to community needs”: Affected community stakeholders interviewed for the report called for transparency on the impacts of energy and extractives projects on themselves and their communities. For example, in Indonesia “some stakeholders demanded greater transparency over the processing of transition minerals,” while in Colombia community members requested more information on the potential impacts of renewable energy projects. The report also highlighted that communities seek information from companies and government on the economic contributions of energy transition projects, and how their own livelihoods may be adversely impacted. The EITI recommends that companies regularly and proactively share “detailed project-level information on employment, spending on community projects and environmental and social impacts” with the people who may be impacted.
  • “Making data accessible”: The report points out that simply disclosing information about projects and their economic contributions isn’t enough—this information needs to be shared with communities in an accessible, understandable and culturally appropriate format. Low literacy or education rates, poor telecommunications connectivity and lack of access to technology can all hinder whether companies and governments are increasing transparency in a meaningful way. For example, stakeholders noted that highly technical data and online portals are not helpful for them. Greater transparency often needs to be coupled with other interventions to help people understand the information they are given. The report recommends that companies and governments work together to “improve existing disclosure channels, such as websites, reports and community information centres, to provide more timely and relevant data.” They can also convey information verbally through community meetings, especially when the primary language of the community is not the dominant language of the company or government.
  • “Sustaining community participation in dialogue and decision-making”: Meaningful stakeholder engagement underpins the sustainability of energy transition projects and is a critical pathway towards a just energy transition for all. The report urges companies and governments to ensure that communities and their representatives are involved in project planning and decision-making across the full lifecycle of the project, “from the decision to develop new projects to closure planning” and not just at token moments. The report recommends that companies and governments “leverage existing platforms such as townhall meetings and community events for regular multi-stakeholder dialogue at the community level.”

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