Researcher/Writer: Costs of Green Conflict

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The Institute for Human Rights and Business (IHRB) seeks a Researcher/Writer to support a project on the costs of company-community conflict across the renewables sector. This research will attempt to assess and quantify, through literature review, case analysis, and primary interviews, the costs to companies when their operations are delayed or disrupted due to conflict with local communities and other stakeholders. These costs may be operational, reputational, or opportunity related, and require the successful candidate to have a solid grasp of the renewables value chain across a diversity of technologies as well as both quantitative and qualitative research methods.

ABOUT THE ORGANISATION


IHRB was founded in 2009. Our vision is to achieve a more just, regenerative global economy where:

  • Workers and communities are free and able to use their voices effectively to ensure their rights are respected.
  • Businesses demonstrate respect for the rights of workers and communities, and the natural systems they depend on, in their purpose, operations, relationships, and value creation.
  • Financial actors use their leverage to positively impact the scale and performance of their partners’ human rights and environmental responsibilities.
  • Governments actively implement a smart mix of long-term incentives and disincentives that drive rights-respecting and planet-aligned business.

IHRB’s mission is to make respect for people and planet part of everyday business. We advance our mission through human rights-based research, targeted convening, and development of collaborative action with businesses, governments and civil society to shape policy, advance practice, and strengthen accountability at all levels.

PROJECT BACKGROUND


Clean energy systems are required urgently and at enormous scale. In a sign of things to come, the planet will for the first time breach 1.5C warming in 2024. Governments aren’t moving fast enough, with a significant gap between their climate commitments and actual action taken. Extraordinary growth in renewable energy uptake and infrastructure is required over the next six years to achieve our all-important 2030 interim targets toward net-zero.

But with great speed and scale comes significant risks to the human rights of workers, communities, indigenous peoples, and marginalised and vulnerable groups. Social disruption in response to insufficient and poorly planned climate action could quickly become the greatest threat to achieving net-zero in time.

Rapidly expanding renewable energy projects around the world are already causing significant distress to indigenous groups, communities, and workers around the world, for example in ColombiaKenyaIndonesia, and beyond. In response, we are seeing a predictable and growing pattern of dissent against and disruption to renewables projects, slowing or halting their rollout.

PROJECT OBJECTIVES


We know from historic research the corporate costs of community conflict in the hydrocarbon sector. That research found that company-community conflict at hydrocarbon extraction sites could cost a business: as much as $10,000/day during initial exploration; up to $50,000/day during advanced exploration; and as much as $20mill/week during operations.

There is now an urgent need to convey to key actors across the renewable energy industry the costs of getting the social dimensions energy transition wrong, and how this threatens the energy transition and their company’s bottom line. The Costs of Green Conflict project, through desk research, global case review, expert interviews, and multistakeholder dialogue, will seek to demonstrate the operational and reputational costs to renewable energy companies of failing to secure or maintain their social licence to operate.

This research and analysis will focus on conflicts between workers, communities, and indigenous groups and public and private companies that can arise from:

  • mining of transition minerals for renewables technologies
  • renewables infrastructure and production rollout
  • grid improvements/expansion

Quantifying the costs of company-community conflict is not an exact science, nor is there one size that will fit all companies. But the attempt to quantify, even anecdotally, the financial value at stake for renewables companies provides an additional means by which to convey the importance of human rights due diligence and early, ongoing, and meaningful stakeholder engagement to prevent conflicts and minimise any escalations.

WHAT YOU’LL BE DOING


The Researcher/Writer will lead the development and execution of the project methodology to analyse and quantify the costs of company-community conflict across the renewables sector (in close collaboration with IHRB’s Head of Just Transitions, Just Transitions Programme Manager, and strategic input from IHRB’s wider team). This includes the following broad project phases:

  • Literature and Case Review (Q1/2 2024): Desk review of relevant industry, scientific, and policy literature to understand the extent to which the renewables sector is already included as a key set of actors shaping the global energy transition and local socio-ecological systems around the world. Analysing publicly available information about recent and current cases of company-community conflict around transition minerals, various types of renewables production, and grid improvements. This stage will also include a review and final determination of the specific renewables technologies in focus, for example wind, solar, geothermal, green hydrogen, as well as transition minerals and/or grid improvements.
  • Quantitative Analysis (ongoing): A central aspect of the project is the task of making sense of the quantitative and financial data that comes through in the literature review, case analysis, and interviews. This will require developing a method for achieving equivalency to identify an overall figure (or series of figures) that convey the financial value at stake for renewables companies when they fail to meaningfully engage local affected groups and this leads to conflict, disruption, and delay. Financial equivalency over time, across companies, and across currencies will be a core aspect of the role.
  • Interviews (Q3/4 2024): A series of in-depth and confidential interviews with corporate, finance, legal, and sustainability professionals across a range of renewable energy companies and sub-sectors. Here we will “stress test” our initial findings and better assess the costs resulting from different types of conflict at different stages of business operations and project cycles, as well as how renewables companies are interpreting, accounting for, and responding to these conflicts.
  • Convenings and multistakeholder dialogue (Q1/2 2025): Further validate the project’s draft findings through the coordination and chairing of 1-2 multistakeholder convening(s) with a range of relevant industry actors and experts. These will also be used to build a broader community of practice around the project’s final findings and recommendations. The ideal date/location for these dialogues will be identified and announced later in 2024.
  • Drafting the final report (ongoing, concluding in Q3 2025): Drafting of the final research report in a compelling and accessible format (to be jointly developed and agreed with the wider project team). This includes both the long-form report, as well as working with IHRB’s communications team to distill key findings into short-formats such as infographics and data visualisations, podcast or webinar discussions, as part of a co-created project communications and dissemination strategy.

Other key activities will be agreed on an as-needed basis throughout the ongoing collaboration.

TIMEFRAME AND CONTRACTING

  • Timeframe: The project runs from January 2024 to January 2026. The individual or agency will be recruited for a one-year period initially, with a view to extending for another year dependent on performance and quality. The level of engagement is expected to be 0.5 FTE equivalent as a part-time consultancy, and candidates must be able to commit up to 10 days per month to the project. Exact working patterns will be agreed with the successful candidate.
  • Contracting: This post will have a consultancy agreement subject to UK law.
  • Compensation: IHRB can offer a day rate of up to £300/day including VAT for a maximum of 112 days per year.

REQUIREMENTS

Experience & Knowledge

  • At least 5-7 years experience in research and writing functions, particularly those balancing quantitative and qualitative analysis.
  • Demonstrable knowledge of the renewable energy industry across a diversity of technologies, including but not limited to:
    – Wind
    – Solar
    – Geothermal
    – Green hydrogen
    – Transition minerals
    – Battery storage
    – Grid
  • Demonstrable knowledge of the renewable energy industry at an operational level preferred, in particular:
    – mining of transition minerals
    – infrastructure and production rollout
    – grid improvements/expansion
  • Experience writing compelling communications content (long- and short-form) to suit and engage a range of expert audiences (companies, governments/regulators, as well as local and international worker and civil society organisations).
  • Demonstrable commitment to working on human rights, climate, or development economics issues preferred.
  • Experience undertaking work that requires awareness of political sensitivities and careful diplomacy.

Skills and Abilities

  • Strong quantitative research skills and abilities, with experience applying quantitative approaches to highly qualitative fields (such as human rights and social impact) preferred.
  • Demonstrable interview and presentational skills, particularly with senior corporate practitioners across a range of business functions, in particular finance, legal, and sustainability.
  • High capacity to organise and manage multiple priorities and work under time pressure and with a fully remote team, demonstrating entrepreneurialism, adaptability, and a positive approach to problem solving.
  • A fluid, natural, and clear communicator who has experience writing and presenting solutions-oriented analysis and recommendations.
  • Ability to read, write, speak, and understand English required. Additional language skills desirable but not essential.

Location and Travel

  • Location is home-based and therefore flexible globally, but timezones within 1-2 hours of GMT will be preferred in order to coordinate well with the rest of the project team.
  • Willingness to travel long distances up to 2 times a year.

APPLICATION PROCESS

Click on the “Apply Now” button to answer some specific application questions.

  • Deadline for applications: Sunday 25 February 2024 EOD.
  • Interviews: Shortlisted applications will be invited to an initial 30-45 min video interview via TeamTailor. The first round of interviews will take place on the 4th and 5th March between the hours of 2-6pm GMT.
  • Expected start date: As soon as possible, ideally in March 2024. A consultancy offer will be subject to receipt of two satisfactory references.

This position is open to both individuals and agencies.

Apply here!

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