Social impacts in infrastructure
: Social Impacts in Infrastructure Business Cases
Sponsored by Arcadis
When we look at major projects in Australia like the Melbourne Metro Tunnel, Sydney Metro, the Pacific Highway upgrades and many more, we think about how much they are going to improve our journeys.
We quantify the financial investment and what they’re expected to return, how many jobs will be created and how the asset might reduce traffic.
The merits of a project’s social impacts are rarely top of mind. Though, this idea has slowly been creeping into our consciousness.
We are now increasingly considering the environmental, community and cultural value of these major projects.
The question is how do we quantify these often un-quantifiable results?
This was the question the Infrastructure Sustainability Council of Australia (ISCA), Consult Australia and Building Queensland discussed in a recent webinar entitled ‘Social Impacts in Infrastructure Business Cases’.
Consult Australia is an association representing businesses in design, advisory and engineering. In late 2020 it released a report entitled ‘Considering social impacts in infrastructure business cases’.
The report looks at the methodologies for including social impacts and experiences, such as through frameworks, tools and analysis methods to demonstrate the impacts and benefits of these outcomes.
It highlights the effect COVID-19 has had on our economic outlook and the changes it has made to the way we use infrastructure, citing that now is the time to increase our focus on social value.
Nicola Grayson, Chief Executive of Consult Australia explained some of the benefits the report found could be achieved when considering social impacts at the business case stage.
“By considering the social impacts in business cases we will have a stronger understanding of project benefits. If we spend this time taking a deep dive into social impact we can get much clearer insights and also draw on previous experiences,” Grayson said.
“In doing this we can also realise increased likelihood of project success, which we all want, which is about clearly informing the problem definition and possible solutions.”
She noted that while there are a number of different methodologies that can be used, the best approach will depend on the context and objectives of each project.
One such organisation embedding social impacts into its standard business case, such as for the Toowoomba Hospital redevelopment, is Building Queensland.
CEO of Building Queensland, Damian Gould was next to present in the webinar, outlining some of the ways in which the organisation implements social impact into its current business cases.
“In April 2020, we completed the latest update to our Social Impact Evaluation Guide material. The update included a specific guidance manual in relation to development of social impact evaluation processes in business cases,” Gould said.
“Understanding the social impact is really commencing at the start of the infrastructure proposal where it’s really important to identify all the social impacts, identify the social context of the project and that all stakeholders will be potentially impacted by the opportunity or the proposal and if there are negative impacts associated with that, how you can identify mitigation strategies.”
Social outcomes are a dedicated theme in ISCA’s Infrastructure Sustainability rating framework and CEO Ainsley Simpson agreed that these outcomes need to be considered at policy planning and procurement to reduce social risk on projects.
“I think it’s really prudent that we look at policy, planning and procurement so we can reduce social risk, we can build credibility for the proponents developing infrastructure be it economic or social and that we enable much greater social licence,” Simpson said.
The thought provoking webinar highlighted the importance of embedding social impacts throughout infrastructure projects nowwhile we have a chance to shape the economic decisions and allocation of funding in order to boost the economy post 2020.
To view full webinar, click here
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