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Other CARR-funded research 2000-2005

Risk, Regulation and the 'Right to Know': exploring the consequences of access to information on the management of complex environmental risks

Andrew Gouldson (CARR/Department of Geography and Environment, LSE)
Sponsored by BP

This project addresses the consequences of access to information for the management of complex environmental risks. The project examines stakeholder issues with reference to the complex environmental risks associated with the chemicals sector in the UK. It compares regulator-industry-stakeholder relations around major chemical complexes in England and Wales - where site-specific information on emissions is available online - with those surrounding similar complexes in Scotland, where access to such information is much more limited. The research finds that increased access to information has had a variety of impacts. Although community groups at the local level commonly find it hard to access or to understand the information that is now available, national level pressure groups have used this information to develop more sophisticated and more influential campaigns. As their performance becomes more open to scrutiny, regulators and firms find it necessary to behave in ways that enhance rather than erode public confidence. In turn, this is leading to the emergence of new forms of engagement and to new spheres of influence.

Organisational Decision Support for the Management of Complex Risk (CRISP)

Jonathan Rosenhead (Operational Research, LSE) and Tom Horlick-Jones (Cardiff University)
Sponsored by BP

This project examines how problem-structuring methods (in conjunction with ethnographic methods) can be used to manage complex, ie, multi-source, risk in Railtrack (now part of Network Rail) and the Greater London Authority. Key findings support the role of problem-structuring methods in conflict situations, utilising mixed methods and improvisation to reveal unspoken working practices, and forms of practical reasoning about risk in organisations, in particular the micro-politics of blaming. A close examination of the often messy processes of everyday practical reasoning and sense-making that constitute risk-related practices reveals that risk issues are often 'about' matters quite distinct from the ostensible subject.

These insights raise important questions about the efficacy of orthodox approaches to decision support for organisational risk management. Many of these are reductionist in their (sometimes implicit) conception of the nature of risk. In conceptual terms, they place important limits on the scope of grand theorisations to capture the concrete detail of organisational risk-related practices. They point rather to the need for specific understanding to be rooted in investigations which are sensitive to a variety of interactional dimensions.

The CRISP project ended at the end of October, 2002. A concluding inter-disciplinary workshop is still to take place, and further analysis of the project data will continue.

Commercial Partnerships with Non-Governmental Organisations for Risk Management

Stephen Tully (CARR)
Sponsored by BP

Tully commenced his BP postdoctoral research into the prospects of civil regulation and co-operative partnerships between NGOs and corporations. The Energy and Biodiversity Initiative, a partnership between four corporations and five environmental organisations, has been selected as a case study. The initiative has as its objective formulating performance standards, identifying best corporate conservation practices in biodiversity sensitive areas, indicating appropriate investment site selection criteria and advocating the business case for biodiversity protection. Tully's project, which reflects CARR's broader interest in the impact of civil society organisations as regulators of corporations, will document the effectiveness and implications of the initiative.

Strategic Decision Making in Large Complex Organisations

Charles Baden-Fuller (Cass Business School, City University)
Sponsored by BP

Risk&Regulation article

Risk Research Institute

The Institute was a unique partnership between PricewaterhouseCoopers Global Risk Management Solutions practice and the London School of Economics and Political Science to establish an international centre for research in risk management.