Net impact assessment methodology

Secil Outão plantThere is growing interest amongst cement producers in various net impact approaches in relation to business and environmental and social issues.

Net impact approaches can be defined as those that “sum, set a target or display information relating to positive and/or negative environmental, social and/or economic effects caused over a period of time”. In this framework, the concept of Net Impact Assessment (NIA) has become increasingly established within the extractive industry, especially with regard to biodiversity.

Biodiversity assessment enables companies involving in extractive operations to measure both their positive and negative impacts and thus progress towards achieving net neutral / no net loss and even net positive impact. It is therefore possible, at least at some sites, to avoid and reduce negative impacts and to increase positive impacts on biodiversity, so that at least no net loss or ideally an overall net positive impact is achieved.

Main steps of the CSI NIA methodology are:
NIA flow chart white background

And the approach covers a number of essential elements:

  • Determine & compare biodiversity value for a certain moment in time against the baseline moment
  • Evaluate habitat types, coverage area & quality (importance and condition)
  • Inputs of historical data, ESIA, surveys, aerial photos, experts (use of “proxy” when info unavailable)
  • Consider negative as well as positive impacts

iStock 17986255 MEDIUMThe purpose of the NIA is to help companies measure their impacts on biodiversity, both positive and negative consistently using a standardized approach, so that appropriate management actions can be developed.

It can serve as an instrument to improve the knowledge of habitats existing at the operation sites over time and thus help to improve the outcomes of applied plans / activities for priority habitats and/or species. At corporate level, the application of a NIA methodology provides the opportunity for a company to show no net loss or net positive impact and finally create a “biodiversity balance sheet” to help internal decision-making and external disclosure.

A few crucial points about applications are highlighted in the document: 

  • Quarries or other operating sites after closure to evaluate rehabilitation results
  • Operating quarries / sites to assess effectiveness of applied rehabilitation and/or biodiversity management
  • Decision at corporate level whether to apply on a single site or across the whole portfolio 
  • Environmental / biodiversity managers responsible at corporate level; or quarry managers at site level
  • Input from local / regional experts recommended
  • Assessment recommended every 3 to 5 years
  • NOT intended to replace wider existing systems (ESIA, EMS, BMP, Rehabilitation Plan); whereas in some cases complementary

The objective for the cement sector overall is to use this approach as a tool for assessing the net impact and communicate the results to civil society and a wider community of interest. 

It is important to note that this NIA approach and methodology links to and is expected to complement existing business decision-making references, relevant to biodiversity, such as the Business and Biodiversity Offsets standards / handbooks and the Natural Capital Protocol.

The CSI "Methodology for the net impact assessment of biodiversity in the cement sector" is expected to be launched in Q2 2018.