Our goal is to have a positive impact on the communities in which we operate, both directly and indirectly. We strive to employ local labour, identify needs in local communities for our community development programmes and maintain open and transparent dialogue with relevant stakeholders.
Solar power plants have an impact on local communities. The changes are usually positive, bringing social, economic, and infrastructure improvements, but the possibility of unintended consequences cannot be overlooked. The potential impact includes physical and economic displacement, changes in vegetation and infrastructure and increased activity levels in the area. During construction, consequences such as traffic, noise and dust are considered limited and effectively mitigated where and if there are communities nearby.
We often operate in countries where the legal frameworks and governing structures do not necessarily protect the communities, we might have an impact on to the same extent as in more mature economies. Solid interaction with our project neighbours and the establishment of good relations are therefore essential. In all of our operating projects, we have local community engagement and impact assessments.
If dialogue with affected parties is not carried out in a timely and integrated manner, misunderstandings and concerns might arise in the local communities.
Since our founding, we have gained considerable experience in working with local communities in different countries. We follow the IFC’s Performance Standards when we develop our stakeholder engagement analyses and plans for all projects.
Engagement in local communities
There are various ways in which projects engage with local communities. To inform the communities about the project and its potential impact, to manage expectations and to ensure local support for and understanding of our projects, regular meetings with local leaders and representatives from local communities are held in all communities where we have a presence. We usually experience a lot of engagement in local communities during the initial project phases of development and construction. Early dialogue and involvement are critical. Through bi-weekly progress reports, the Executive Management Team receives communication on all material matters raised during local stakeholder meetings.
South Africa: Stakeholder Engagement Forums (SEFs)
In South Africa, we have set socio-economic development (SED) and enterprise development (ED) commitments under our agreement with the South African government.
- To strengthen our engagement with local communities surrounding our Upington solar plants in South Africa, we decided to establish SEFs to identify and develop local leadership capacity to ensure local champions and management of community development.
- The SEFs engage various stakeholders who meet on a monthly and quarterly basis, working together to build and develop local leadership and co-plan and co-create socio-economic solutions.
- All project selections are informed by SEF caucuses centred on the strategic themes of education, health and well-being, youth development and local economy.
Read more in our annual Sustainability Report.