For 25 years now, Innergex has demonstrated its ability to create and maintain harmonious relationships with local communities. The Company has made social acceptability the cornerstone of its development strategy. What’s the secret? Michel Letellier, President and CEO, explains: “Our people in the field make all the difference. They are there from the start, well before a project gets under way, in order to gain an understanding of the needs and issues within the communities. By listening to people, choosing to develop projects that reflect their aspirations, and harmonizing the Company’s own objectives with those of the communities, Innergex builds solid long-term relationships and successful projects.”
The concept of social acceptability is embodied by people who hold unique responsibilities within the Company. Innergex can count on dedicated and passionate employees in the field, to represent the Company among its stakeholders. One of these employees is Liz Scroggins, Project Coordinator and Community Liaison, who works out of the Innergex office in Pemberton, near Whistler, British Columbia. Liz’s main focus is the Upper Lillooet Hydro Project, a large-scale project comprising two run-of-river hydroelectric facilities with a total installed capacity of 106.7 MW. Over the course of three years, more than 300 people will be working on the construction of this project.
Since 2010, well before the project broke ground, Liz’s main role has been to work closely with all of the project’s many and varied stakeholders, including area residents, First Nations, recreational users, hunters, landowners, municipalities, etc. Anyone with concerns or questions about the project can talk to Liz, who makes every effort to understand their concerns so that she can address them in the best way possible.
“Basically, my job is to make everyone happy,” she says with a smile. Liz has the ideal background for her position: not only does she have a bachelor’s degree in geology and a master’s in environmental science, she has also been living in Pemberton for almost 20 years.
The Upper Lillooet Hydro Project has a very high profile, and the importance of having a presence in the community is undeniable. As Liz explains, “People have a tendency to think of Upper Lillooet as really remote, but it isn’t. Geographically, Pemberton and Whistler are very close to Vancouver, it’s an active area with lots of recreational events. People feel personally concerned and want to know what’s going on with the project.”
Transparency is the order of the day. For the community to view the project in a positive light, Innergex has to be very open and transparent in its interactions with stakeholders at all times. It is crucial to give people the chance to learn more about the project and how the Company does things. Innergex believes that it is very important to explain the project and how it is managed, especially with respect to the Company’s efforts to minimize any environmental impact. “We are responsible for making sure that we do our best at all times and at every level. We care very much about Pemberton and the people who live here. If we do our job properly, we will earn their approval and their respect,” says Liz.
This community liaison work also presents some challenges. “We have to try to get everyone on the same wavelength,” says Liz. “Of course, there will always be people who don’t support the project. However, if we can engage in a respectful dialogue, people do take the time to listen, they learn, they often become more receptive and come to see things from a new perspective. The biggest challenge in my job is to create opportunities that foster this dialogue.” In addition to having opened an office in Pemberton, Innergex posts all of its environmental activity status reports online. Innergex exemplifies the whole idea of transparency by making these reports available to the public.
Social acceptability is an integral part of the concept of sustainable development. While all Innergex employees adhere to it, there are those who, like Liz, personify the relationship the Company has with its stakeholders and embody the Company’s sustainable and respectful behaviour on a daily basis.