The benefits of digital first EIA reporting

Digital first EIA reporting is quickly becoming more popular
Written by: Marcel Rosenbrand

Dutch engineering and project management consultancy Royal HaskoningDHV already published a few hundred digital first Environmental Impact Statements during the last few years. And other consultancies also made the first steps in digital first EIA reporting.
Why is this? In this article I describe the 3 main benefits of digital first EIA reporting.

What is EIA reporting?

EIA reporting stands for Environmental Impact Assessment reporting. It refers to the process of examining the anticipated environmental effects of a proposed project - from consideration of environmental aspects at design stage, through consultation and preparation of an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).
For many years, the EIS has been widely regarded as an obligation rather than a useful tool for decision-making. It was characterized by its size (often a few hundred pages) and text driven content, making it a difficult document to create and to read.
Digital first reporting changed that.

Benefit 1: The publication process becomes more efficient

Digital first reporting makes it possible to collaborate online during the creation of an EIS. By combining content from various sources in a safe online environment, a single version of the truth is created. This version is then published to multiple channels, such as a responsive website, pdf and - if needed - print.
Working together on one online version of the truth which can simultaneously be published to multiple channels not only saves time, but it can also reduce production costs significantly.

Benefit 2: Stakeholders become more engaged

Content that is published online can be presented interactive and much more visually appealing. For example, maps, video and 3D animations create better insight when using less text. Navigation techniques like faceted navigation and search functionality improve the accessibility of information. And using a responsive design makes it possible to reach a bigger audience.
All these possibilities lead to more engagement among stakeholders.

Benefit 3: Digital EIA reporting improves decision making

Finally, digital first reporting leads to better decisions. Not only because stakeholders are informed better, but also because digital communication makes it possible to collect feedback from them. Digital EIA reports can be provided with functionality that lets stakeholders participate online in the decision-making process. For example, by filling questionnaires and polls or by pointing desired locations on maps.
By moving from 'sending information' to 'sending and receiving information' EIA reporting finally stops being an obligation and becomes the much desired and useful tool for decision-making. 

Conclusion

The digitization of EIA reporting is a logical next step. It streamlines production processes, leads to more stakeholder engagement and improves decision making.