Beginner's Guide to Environmental Mediation

As more and more large companies aim to complete their projects in an entirely eco-friendly and socially responsible way, now’s the time to take a real vested interest in dispute resolution with local stakeholders - especially when it comes to environmental concerns.

For those involved directly in the delivery of infrastructure and urban development in proximity to local populations, this is key to build not only financially successful projects, but also environmentally and “community-friendly” projects.

Local or host community acceptance has always been a constraint for the development of infrastructure, sometimes making or breaking a project proposal, or often leading to fractured relationships between project promoters and local communities.

This is where the structured approach of ‘Environmental Mediation’ comes into play.

What is Environmental Mediation?

Environmental Mediation is a well-established method for solving environmental, urban, and territorial conflicts in private or public spaces, national or international, often involving a range of parties from several sectors with different, and sometimes incompatible interests.

This method is a sub-field of dispute resolution - with an already substantial amount of literature documenting case studies, mediation techniques, and processes - beginning to gain real traction at the international and local level.

It aims at establishing dialogue, mutual understanding and, if possible, agreements between affected parties, often including government entities, as well as local stakeholders.

What are the Benefits of Environmental Mediation?

This method of dispute resolution aims to promote dialogue and debate in a professional and impartial manner, establishing group dynamics in the discussion, planning, and decision-making processes in order to develop common and consensual proposals.

According to a survey conducted by the Construction Industry Federation of Ireland (CIF), the preferred method of alternative dispute resolution to resolve construction disputes by those surveyed was mediation (52%), followed by conciliation (45%), and then arbitration (3%).

In 91 mediation cases at the CIF, a settlement was reached in 81% of cases. In contrast, out of 63 conciliations conducted during the same period, the settlement rate was only 49%.

Clear benefits of Environmental Mediation as a method of dispute resolution include:

- creating a more effective and rational result, usually in a relatively short space of time.

- avoiding disagreements escalating into more destructive conflict.

- being substantially cheaper than attempting to navigate legal disputes.

Developing Trust and Understanding

Environmental Mediation allows the participants to speak openly and realistically about issues in dispute – both the pros and cons – enabling informed decisions based on potential risks and benefits.

Frank conversations such as these rarely occur as part of formal legal disputes, and may in fact help to build trust and understanding among the participants, perhaps even avoiding any potential for further conflicts down the line.

The Irish Law Reform Commission noted in its paper, Alternative Dispute Resolution: Mediation and Conciliation, that “…mediation and conciliation may be appropriate for the resolution of shareholder disputes under section 205 of the Companies Act 1963 and should be considered prior to litigation.”

If you’d like to know more about Environmental Mediation, as well as dispute resolution in general, why not have a look at our own internationally recognised Global CPD course?

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Internationally Recognised Global CPD Course