TOOLS FOR DECISION-MAKING
A key feature of the SUSOP® framework is that risks and opportunities are recorded in a Sustainability Register™, which is similar to a conventional risk register. A “sustainability scorecard”, SD Balance Sheet™, is used to demonstrate the positive impact across environmental, community and economic measures and assists in business decision-making.
The SUSOP framework was applied to guide the selection on a sustainability basis of one of three possible sites as the project developer was unable to differentiate the sites using standard business practices.
IMPLEMENTING IDEAS EARLY
The project development plan was for the operations phase to commence 10 years after the concept phase. This would provide sufficient time and scope to test and trial the alternative energy sources and build skills capacity to a level that would significantly contribute to keeping down operating costs and delivering an asset in the lowest operating costs quartile.
Implementation of the plan would support several sustainable development benefits, including:
• Increased skill levels
• Lower greenhouse gas emissions, and
• Local community having a “stakeholding” in infrastructure
Given the importance of operating costs, the decisionmaking process on site selection was highly governed by those sites that were the most amenable to the application of alternative energy sources and access to local skills.
This provided clear points of difference between the sites and the proposed implementation plan supported key actions in the mining company’s corporate sustainability policy.
ABOUT THE PROJECT
A developer was faced with the decision to choose one of three potential sites for a new alumina refinery operation in West Africa. The sites were being used in the developer’s decision-making process to determine which half of their lease to retain, and which half to relinquish.
Unable to distinguish between sites through employing their standard business practices, the developer wanted to determine if the sites could be distinguished on a sustainability basis and adopted the SUSOP® framework to assist with the decision.
WHAT IS SUSOP?
SUSOP is a technique that identifies environmental, social and community threats and opportunities in the design and operation of businesses.
Somewhat analogous to HAZOP which brought a design methodology to safety, SUSOP brings a design methodology to sustainability issues. It uses systematic and rigorous steps allowing sustainable development principles to be translated into real operating designs and practices. Importantly, SUSOP does not compromise financial outcomes.
THE IMPROVED PROJECT
By applying the SUSOP® process and using leadingedge sustainable development techniques, the developer was able to:
• Gain guidance on site selection – by identifying the site that had better options for reducing operational expenditure and enhancing the project’s sustainability credentials
• Develop initiatives to support the aim of lowest quartile operational expenditure performance – using an integrated incremental plan that aided decision-making on site selection
Reference: Corder, G. D., McLellan, B. C., Green, S., 2012. ‘Delivering solutions for resource conservation and recycling into project management systems through SUSOP’ Minerals Engineering, Vol. 29, pp47–57\
APPLYING THE FRAMEWORK
The SUSOP framework was applied through a series of multi-disciplinary workshops and offline analysis, which included:
• Familiarisation with Sustainability Concepts and Project Context (workshop)
• Goal Scoping and Opportunities and Risks Identification (workshop)
• Analysis of Sustainability Opportunities and Risks
• Prioritisation of Sustainability Opportunities and Risks (workshop)
The workshops were run with key personnel from the project developer and members of the SUSOP collaborators team.
The study team identified nearly 70 possible opportunities across all aspects of sustainability. These were clustered into linked opportunities to generate an enhanced understanding of dependencies and deliver a better appreciation of the overall potential sustainable development benefits.
A critical aspect in the study was the prioritisation of
the ‘clustered opportunities’ as it enabled the study team to focus on what was considered to be the key to a successful project: an operating asset with operating costs in the lowest quartile.
The two biggest projected contributors to operating costs were:
1. High imported fossil fuel costs
2. High expatriate labour costs
Taking these into account, the clustered opportunities that were ranked higher than any others were related to alternative energy and local skills. As the project was at the concept phase it was possible to immediately start small-scale trials of different alternative energy sources and to start building a semiskilled, and then a skilled, workforce to support growing operating needs (see diagram).