Sustainable decision making – exception or rule?

Sustainability on-site

Having a sustainability conversation on the station box floor during construction

Tip from an IS Verifier

By Scott Losee

The goal of the Infrastructure Sustainability Council of Australia’s (ISCA) IS rating scheme is to transform the infrastructure industry to be more sustainable.

A key to the transformation must be the way decisions are made regarding the creation and operation of infrastructure assets throughout their lifecycles.

The IS rating scheme picks this up in the Decision Making credit (Man-8). It is no accident that the scheme begins with the Management Systems category and it receives equal highest weighting. Within the category, Decision Making is weighted highest at 30 percent.

From my experience, the most common deficiency in addressing this credit is putting forward an isolated decision making activity for a sustainability initiative as evidence of a decision that evaluates environmental, social and economic aspects. For example, an assessor might point to a multi-criteria analysis spreadsheet evaluating three renewable energy options for a minor or temporary project component.

This actually signals that integrated sustainable decision making is the exception, not the rule.

The development or operation of infrastructure assets requires that decisions are made on a daily basis, ranging from trivial to highly significant. Deciding on a minor re-alignment to avoid an obstacle is an example of a routine but significant decision with economic, social and environmental implications.

Assessors should note the first three words of the credit’s criteria: ‘for significant issues’. Show us minutes of design team meetings or terms of reference for working groups. Work with the managers to implement simple, multi-criteria scoring of routine decisions. Encourage explicit decision making and documentation.

If a sustainability advisor gets in early with these ideas, they may not only improve the score for a key credit, but add considerable value to project delivery or asset management.

Deliberation on socio-environmental dimensions can catch overlooked risks or uncover community or environmental benefits that reinforce a decision’s rationale, providing a more compelling ‘story’ for stakeholders.

As processes like this permeate the infrastructure industry, ISCA will be realising its goal to transform industry to bring about better economic, social and environmental outcomes.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of Scott Losee and may not represent affiliated organisations and advice provided does not form part of the IS Technical Manual guidance nor is it an IS Ruling, IS Technical Clarification or IS Credit Interpretation.

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