Skills for
Environmental Decision-Making

Hari Srinivas
Policy Analysis Series E-004. June 2015

Much goes into the making of a good environmental decison-maker. This is a brief exploration of some of the skills that enhances the quality of decisions taken.

Knowledge and understanding

We take decisions everyday, as a part of our lives, our work, our future ... and every one of these decisions have an impact on the environment one way or another. Understanding the impact of our decisions on the environment, and taking decisions on proper management of the environment is a critical skill that we all have to possess, irrespective of our formal qualifications or jobs that we hold.

We will need competent knowledge and understanding of environmental decision making and relevant key concepts and how different perspectives and motivations of different people and groups affect environmental decision-making. A knowledge of the principles of sustainable development will have to be combined with formal environmental decision making techniques, including the role of models, monitoring and auditing; and abilities to define, plan and carrying out information gathering for decision making.

Many key skills go together to aid effective environmental decision-making. Communication is one of the formost of them
Cognitive skills

Cognitive skills remain an important component of the sliver of skills of a competent environmental decision-maker. The ability to analyse problems, sifting the irrelevant from the relevant and expressing the results using standard formalisms and notations, needs to be tempered with the ability to integrate knowledge and skills from various sources into a coherent whole, making the appropriate abstractions to produce overarching conclusions and to critically evaluate proposed solutions using appropriate proven methods. A good decision-maker should also be able to deal with complex issues both systematically and creatively, making informed judgements in the absence of complete data and demonstrate self-direction and originality in tackling and solving problems.

Practical and/or professional skills and attributes

Skills for effective decision-making are developed on a daily basis, from practical experience and from our understanding the impacts of our everyday actions, on the environment around us (and also the 'invisible' environment far away, which has produced the goods/servcices we consume). A professional who has to take decisions affecting the environment will have to be able to prepare cases advocating the appropriate use of environmental systems approaches and appraise technical or environmental systems developments and assess their applicability and implications to a particular area of academic or professional interest.

Legal issues are an integral part of this - and we have to demonstrate an awareness of the legal and ethical implications associated with environmental issues, show a detailed knowledge of the importance and application of environmental issues to businesses and society; and formulate an audit of an organisation for proper environmental management.

Key skills

Local and Global EnvironmentsMany key skills go together to aid effective environmental decision-making. Communication is one of the formost of them - to be able to communicate knowledge, ideas, and conclusions effectively using written presentations, producing detailed critiques, coherent project reports and other appropriate media, for specialist and non-specialist audiences; and to seek relevant information from appropriate sources. Numeracy skills and ability to interpret statistical data will also be important. The use of IT tools and skills, specifically retrieving information from the internet, transferring information by e–mail, and using commercial software packages, is now becoming an important part of the portfolio of key skills.

Ultimately, it will be a combination of formal knowledge along with everyday expereinces that will facilitate good decision-making. A good decision-maker will have to be able to advance his/her own knowledge and understanding through independent learning, develop problem-solving skills and apply them independently to professional or equivalent level tasks/projects/functions; work independently, reflecting on own actions and thoughts, and making effective use of constructive feedback; and also work with others to refine ideas leading to an improved understanding of key concepts within an environmental context.

APPENDIX Skills for Environmental Decision-making

1. Focus on leadership for environmental and ecological policy

An environmentalist has to be a leader, inspiring the constituency he/she is working with …

  • Leadership skills
  • Strategy development
  • Sound knowledge of environment
  • Clear sense of direction
  • Empower staff to deliver outcomes
  • Leading, mentoring, inspiring
  • Develop high standards
  • Integrity, tact, discretion
  • Personal confidence
  • Diplomacy, political sensitivity
  • Hands-on responsibility
2. Focus on communication and networking for environmental policy

An environmentalist has to be an effective networker, bringing diverse resources and communicating with diverse people …

  • Build links
  • Skilled interpersonal communicator
  • Find and nurture funding sources
  • Manage partnerships
  • Persuasive negotiation
  • Internal communications
  • Presentation skills
  • Planner, communicator, negotiator
  • Develop networks for resources
  • Interpersonal communications skills
  • Customer focussed services
  • Media relations
  • Campaigns and publications
3. Focus on implementation and management for environmental and ecological policy

An environmentalist has to be a good manager, being able to develop plans and implement them …

  • Develop action plans
  • Translate ideas into action
  • Programme management
  • Language skills
  • Plan and deliver business plans
  • Organizational development strategy
  • Planning, budgeting, goal setting
  • Develop ethical frameworks
  • Continuous improvement
  • Deliver political priorities
  • Problem-solving skills

4. Focus on monitoring and evaluation for environmental policy

An environmentalist has to be a sharp monitor, evaluating and continuously checking his or her activities for their impacts …

  • Analytical skills
  • Monitoring and evaluation
  • Monitor and manage budgets
  • Understand and evaluate data
  • Improve organizational programme
  • Continual improvement

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