January 29, 2021 –– Green Marine has broadened the scope of its North American environmental certification program for the maritime industry by adding a performance indicator to assess community relations. The new indicator is the result of two years of collaboration among the industry, environmental organizations, social science researchers and government representatives.

Green Marine already has an indicator for landside operations involving community impacts, but it primarily focuses on nuisances, such as dust, light, and noise. “Our port members asked us to consider establishing a distinct performance indicator focused exclusively on community relations intended to foster dialogue and social acceptability,” said David Bolduc, Green Marine’s executive director. “The societal aspect of sustainability thus occupies an increasingly important place in our program.”

Developing this particular indicator presented a unique challenge inasmuch as it is not addressing a straightforward environmental issue as the other performance indicators do within the Green Marine program; it delves into the realm of perceptions, which can vary considerably according to the social norms and priorities in different geographic regions.

This aspect influenced the development process for the indicator’s criteria which was jointly developed by two workgroups, one holding discussions in English and the other in French. This facilitated a better understanding of the different linguistic, geographical, and societal realities of community relations for Green Marine’s landside participants across North America.

Getting everyone to agree upon what should constitute each of the program’s five performance levels for this indicator involved extensive discussions. “We took an in-depth look at how participants determine their relevant community stakeholders, how they relate information to them, their reception and management of various types of community feedback and concerns, as well as how they engage with these,” says Véronique Trudeau, Green Marine’s program manager responsible for spearheading this process. “Just agreeing on a definition of ‘communities’ took significant effort.”

As usual, the new Level 1 requires monitoring of current regulations. Level 2 calls for the sharing of information and development of a procedure to keep track of and respond to community concerns, as well as identifying relevant stakeholders. Level 3 requires participants to be proactive in terms of knowing and relating better to their communities; for example, by establishing strategies for communication, socialization or collaboration. Level 4 goes further by promoting active participation through the creation of a permanent citizens’ committee, or involvement in community groups. At the highest level, the indicator calls for concrete projects of co-creation as well as analysis of the perceptions of the communities affected by the participant’s activities.

The new community relations performance indicator will be optional during the first year of assessment (i.e. for reporting on 2021 progress), as is always the case when indicators are added to the program. It will subsequently be mandatory for ports to obtain Green Marine certification. All of Green Marine’s 2021 environmental issues and performance criteria are detailed on our website.