GREEN-SORT: Global Research and Engagement Network for Socially Responsible Transitions
Background, motivation and aims
As the world’s nations have committed to advance a low carbon energy transition that limits climate change, a need is emerging on research and communication activities locally and across regions to help ensure a socially responsible transition. With the aim of contributing to a green transition that is holistically sustainable, GREEN-SORT aims to reconcile the social aspects of the transition with the technical, economic, financial and other elements of that pressing global challenge. Our motivation is that the urgent transition to mitigate dangerous climate change may be delayed without a holistic approach that takes account of societal impacts of the necessary technical adaptations and economic activities and works actively to address adverse impacts in collaboration with those affected.
The aim of this network is to address the potential and actual impacts on local communities of renewable energy, agro-industry, mining for green-tech minerals, or other extractive activities related to the green transition. Our activities involve research and communication of research-based insights. We cultivate research options within our focal topic, plan and implement research, and communicate new knowledge through a variety of channels. As part of this we engage with various stakeholders, ranging from (but not limited to) affected communities and civil society to companies, public organisations, institutional investors, and remedy institutions. Our global scope aims at identifying similarities and differences across regions, and to help share knowledge and insights on practices to societies and groups who may encounter similar challenges despite their very different environments.
Why a holistic approach to the green transition is essential
Neglect of the social impacts of the shift towards a green economy may result in unfair or unequal impacts, and cause resistance that may eventually delay the necessary transition and impede urgent action. For the green transition to be truly successful, social impacts must be identified and understood in order to be properly managed with adequate regard for the affected individuals and communities. It is also important to plan and develop ideas together with affected individuals and communities, so as to harness their insight and inventiveness, to ensure local uptake of technological solutions, and to ensure that plans adequately incorporate local needs and concerns as well as views on alternative locations for economic activities.
Yet, a great deal of research and the majority of research funding focus on the technological aspects without including the social dimension. We work to address that knowledge gap from a diversity of academic perspectives.
The green transition creates a market for products required for renewable energy, in particular bio-fuel crops and certain minerals. Innovation, development and production of technologies require capital, and investments. Solar power panels, batteries for storing wind-based power, and batteries for electric cars all require minerals. The production and storage of ‘green’ energy depends on the use of raw resources – ranging from wind or water to agri-fuel and minerals - whose production can cause risks to the livelihoods of local communities, health and safety problems for employees, and other negative human rights impacts and conflicts with communities and indigenous peoples.
The rise in political and economic interest in bio-fuel, such as maize and palm oil, has contributed to a growth in agri-businesses, plantations and investments, especially in emerging economies of the Global South. Agri-industry may create benefits for local stakeholders (such as new employment opportunities) but it often causes affected small-scale farmers and communities to experience infringements on land rights, cultural traditions, or rights to participate in decision-making regarding the governance of resources located on the territory that they occupy.
Questions are being asked about whether processes to plan and implement solutions for renewable energy are adequate with regard to public consultation and participation at the strategic or project-level, and whether they live up to public and private commitments in those regards. Studies are highlighting societal risks caused by the mining of minerals for green-tech solutions. Incidents in several countries have seen the siting of windpower farms is being challenged by indigenous peoples who claim it violates their rights to the land and rights to continue their traditional practices. Other renewable energy projects are also being challenged as infringing upon the rights of local communities and indigenous groups.
Producers, funders and buyers of technical products for the green transition have roles to play in ensuring that social impacts are identified and addressed in culturally appropriate fashions. Among economic actors, institutional investors have a role in addressing the adverse effects of governance gaps by careful assessment of the impacts of their investments and relevant follow-up.
We are a multi-disciplinary group based worldwide, with research interests particularly in the Global South and the Arctic and sub-Arctic. This enables us to develop unique comparative insights. Our members are academics trained in management, law, engineering, sociology, communication, political science, anthropology, and related fields. We have expertise in climate change studies, mining and other extractive areas, impact assessment, risk-management, business and human rights, indigenous peoples’ rights, community engagement methods, global value chains, sustainability management, traditional knowledge, the social licence to operate, regulatory strategy and governance.
Current supporting projects and institutional host
GREEN-SORT brings members of three separate research network projects together to create synergy and develop knowledge beyond what is possible within each of the separate projects on their own. The projects are all based on grants won by Professor Karin Buhmann, CBS as the principal investigator (PI). They are:
a) Best practice for Impact Assessment of infrastructure projects in the Nordic Arctic: Popular participation and local needs, concerns and benefits (grant provided by the Nordic Research Councile under the NOS-HS facility)
b) Natural resources, risk-based due diligence, stakeholder engagement and public participation in decision-making: building comparative Arctic-Global South sustainability research (grant provided by the Danish Agency for Science and Higher Education (DAFSHE) under the International Networks facility (9th call) [grant No.]
c) University of the Arctic (UArctic) Thematic Network on Arctic Sustainable Resources and Social Responsibility(grant provided by DAFSHE with UArctic) [grant No.]
The website of GREEN-SORT is institutionally hosted by Copenhagen Business School.
Last updated by: Administrator User 03/06/2019