Infrastructure investments

Diane
Diane Crocker
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Financial, environmental and social implications are all part of the process

Dennis Bruce, senior vice-president, HDR Corporation, was the guest speake at ACAP Humber Arms coasta matters session Feb. 19, 2014.

Gone are the days when infrastructure investments are made solely on the basis of financial gain or risk.

Today, the financial aspect is just one thing that needs to be examined as part of the decision making process. Others include environmental and social implications.

That’s where Dennis Bruce said the economic analysis framework of sustainable return on investment (SROI) comes in.

Bruce, senior vice-president of HDR Corporation, talked about the framework during an ACAP Humber Arm Coastal Matters session at the forest centre at Grenfell Campus, Memorial University of Newfoundland on Wednesday.

Bruce said a community, no matter what route it decides to go, should understand the implications of a decision.

“It’s the total return you get that includes not just the hard costs, the financial, but as well when you really consider the environmental and social implications,” said Bruce following his presentation that was attended by 14 people.

“So it’s a holistic return on investment.”

During his presentation Bruce said studying an issue using the sustainable return on investment model is a four-step process that begins with developing the structure and the logic. That’s followed by assigning monetary values and risk ranges. Then workshop sessions with stakeholders are held to present those findings and finally the process concludes by simulating and quantifying the outcomes.

It’s a process that can be applied to any project, however, Bruce said it works best where there’s a lot of uncertainty, where there is contention and a lot of different viewpoints.

“And where there’s known implications on both the economy as well as society as a whole through the environment or through other social considerations,” he said.

Bruce said even controversy has a role to play in process.

“In most of the cases where I think we’ve had the most interesting results is those situations, cause you get so many different viewpoints.”

He said not until something is discussed can people really understand.

And, he said, they need to understand.

Bruce said it’s the information age and environmental groups are raising issues and putting pressure on communities to provide answers.

“People are more aware,” he said.

In his presentation he gave examples of some projects his company has used the sustainable return on investment framework on. They include a case study in Holland, Michigan on whether or not to proceed with constructing a new coal plant, another for the Great Lakes Commission on if the Great Lakes and Mississippi basins can be separated to prevent the spread of Asian carp and a healthy living study in the Niagra region.

Organizations: HDR Corporation, Memorial University of Newfoundland on Wednesday.Bruce, Great Lakes Commission

Geographic location: Holland, Michigan, Great Lakes, Mississippi

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