IEMA Impact: Shaping a sustainable future with impact assessment

27th November 2023


Lisa Pool on how IEMA is shaping a sustainable future with impact assessment

For more than three decades, IEMA has been setting standards in the complex realm of impact assessment (IA). In a field where legislation often sets the boundaries but lacks specificity, IEMA’s guidance has demonstrated influence and expertise when environmental impact assessment (EIA) was a budding field (it only gained substantial recognition in the late 1980s).

IEMA’s guidance carries significant weight with key stakeholders, experts and regulators. It possesses a unique soft power – its ability to fill the gaps left by legislation. Planning officers, inspectors and statutory consultees frequently advise applicants that IEMA’s guidance should be followed.

In April 2022, the secretary of state for transport made extensive reference to IEMA’s IA and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions guidance in the decision letter for the M54-to-M6 link road application. This endorsement underscores the trust placed in IEMA’s expertise, transforming its recommendations into a de facto industry standard. More recently, in a landmark Supreme Court case over the expansion of oil wells in Surrey, the lawyer representing the appeal referenced the guidance. In the absence of stringent laws, professionals turn to IEMA as an authoritative source.

A growing influence

Another example is the Landscape and Visual Impact Assessment guidance, first published in 1995 by IEMA and the Landscape Institute. This document has become a recognised framework, with updated editions published in 2002 and 2013. It is still used by professionals today, with a recent volume of the Impact Assessment Outlook Journal providing thought pieces from UK practice. This illustrates the essential role that IEMA plays in standardising practices.

Moreover, IEMA’s guidance goes beyond professional circles. Non-governmental organisations (NGOs) as well as government advisory bodies such as Natural England have embraced IEMA’s recommendations. Members of the public are empowered to question why IEMA guidance hasn’t been followed.

Internationally, IEMA’s IA guidance has become a touchstone for nations striving to develop robust EIA frameworks. Governments from Iceland to Jordan have used the guidance, appreciating its international thought leadership. In the digital realm, IEMA’s influence continues to grow; both Nigerian and Danish governments have adopted aspects of IEMA’s Digital Impact Assessment primer, attesting to the adaptability and relevance of the guidance in an increasingly digital world.

The global reach of IEMA’s influence was exemplified during the formulation of the European EIA regulations in 2017. During the call for evidence, IEMA led a consultation exercise. The sheer scale of participation from IEMA members eclipsed the collective response from the rest of Europe. This strong voice had a tangible impact, with IEMA’s submission being referenced and adopted in 28 EU states, making a significant mark on European environmental policies.

Crucially, IEMA’s guidance is not crafted in an isolated office; it’s a collaborative effort from IEMA members, who invest their time and expertise to ensure it remains relevant and practical.

Telling a story

A remarkable example of this dedication is A New Perspective on Land and Soil in Environmental Impact Assessment, a pioneering document that marks a paradigm shift in the IA landscape. This guidance has the potential to influence projects for the next two decades or more.

IEMA’s work in IA is not just a set of recommendations; it’s a story of how dedicated individuals have, over three decades, shaped the fabric of IA. IEMA’s guidance will continue to serve as a compass, guiding professionals and policymakers toward a sustainable, environmentally conscious future. Each project, recommendation and policy contribution by IEMA and its members resonates far beyond the documents – they echo in the decisions made, the policies formulated and the landscapes preserved, ensuring a greener world for generations to come.

Lisa Pool AIEMA is head of marketing at IEMA



Stay informed

If you’re passionate about impact assessment, log in to iema.net/myiema now to subscribe to IEMA’s Impact Assessment Network. Through newsletters, announcements and active engagement, members keep abreast of developments. Joining means becoming part of a vibrant community, where knowledge is shared, insights are exchanged and each member contributes to shaping environmental assessment.

Subscribe

Subscribe to IEMA's newsletters to receive timely articles, expert opinions, event announcements, and much more, directly in your inbox.


Transform articles

Reforms to the Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects consenting process

IEMA responded in September to the UK government’s consultation on the details of the operational reforms it is looking to make to the Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects (NSIP) consenting process as put forward in the NSIP reform action plan (February 2023).

24th November 2023

Read more

Members of IEMA’s Impact Assessment Network Steering Group have published the 17th edition of the Impact Assessment Outlook Journal, which provides a series of thought pieces on the policy and practice of habitats regulations assessment (HRA).

26th September 2023

Read more

In July, we published the long-awaited update and replacement of one of IEMA’s first published impact assessment guidance documents from 1993, Guidelines for the Environmental Assessment of Road Traffic.

1st August 2023

Read more

Are we losing sight of its intended purpose and what does the future hold for EIA? Jo Beech, Tiziana Bartolini and Jessamy Funnell report.

15th June 2023

Read more

Luke Barrows and Alfie Byron-Grange look at the barriers to adoption of digital environmental impacts assessments

1st June 2023

Read more

Susan Evans and Helen North consider how Environmental Statements can be more accessible and understandable

1st June 2023

Read more

IEMA’s Impact Assessment Network is updating its advice note on non-technical summaries (NTS).

31st May 2023

Read more

Matthew Coe looks at the challenges of securing biodiversity net gain on environmental impact assessment projects

25th May 2023

Read more

Media enquires

Looking for an expert to speak at an event or comment on an item in the news?

Find an expert

IEMA Cookie Notice

Clicking the ‘Accept all’ button means you are accepting analytics and third-party cookies. Our website uses necessary cookies which are required in order to make our website work. In addition to these, we use analytics and third-party cookies to optimise site functionality and give you the best possible experience. To control which cookies are set, click ‘Settings’. To learn more about cookies, how we use them on our website and how to change your cookie settings please view our cookie policy.

Manage cookie settings

Our use of cookies

You can learn more detailed information in our cookie policy.

Some cookies are essential, but non-essential cookies help us to improve the experience on our site by providing insights into how the site is being used. To maintain privacy management, this relies on cookie identifiers. Resetting or deleting your browser cookies will reset these preferences.

Essential cookies

These are cookies that are required for the operation of our website. They include, for example, cookies that enable you to log into secure areas of our website.

Analytics cookies

These cookies allow us to recognise and count the number of visitors to our website and to see how visitors move around our website when they are using it. This helps us to improve the way our website works.

Advertising cookies

These cookies allow us to tailor advertising to you based on your interests. If you do not accept these cookies, you will still see adverts, but these will be more generic.

Save and close