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WSPs Emma Jenkins is a Digital Environmentalist Changemaker

WSP's Emma Jenkins is a Digital Environmentalist Changemaker

 August 22, 2022

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Emma Jenkins is a WSP Principal Environmental Consultant.

She's an environmentalist who believes there's no limit to what can be achieved. By looking at how things have been done in the past, Emma finds ways to improve them for the future.

Emma shares how she uses digital tools and reporting to transform how WSP delivers vital infrastructure projects.

Making a difference

Emma comes from a family of engineers, and has always had an interest in the environment and making a difference.

"I remember seeing construction work where I grew up in Aberdeen and feeling frustrated at the impact it seemed to have on the environment. I knew there had to be a better way, and I’ve always been keen to find it. I studied Geography and Environmental Science at university so I could find effective solutions," says Emma.

Finding cost and time effective solutions

As Principal Environmental Consultant, Emma undertakes and reviews environmental assessments, engages with clients and engineers, and hosts design meetings to find design solutions.

"Every project has its challenges, such as time pressures, cost limitations, and internal processes. But I’m always keen to question how things have been done in the past to see if we can make them better in the future," comments Emma.

"By asking these questions, we can approach designs differently to get the best outcome, often in a more cost and time-efficient way," she adds.

Digitisation to streamline systems

Emma is using this innovative approach to change how WSP presents Environmental Impact Assessments (EIA).

"Typically, EIAs are large, text-heavy documents that are difficult to understand especially if you don’t have a technical background. Current processes can lead to negative views from members of the public and longer decision-making of the development," she explains.

"I’m working on communicating our deliverables in a user-friendly, transparent, and accessible way so that anyone, regardless of their background or prior knowledge, can read, engage and understand them. Our digital reports feature interactive maps, videos, images, and sound bites. There’s also an opportunity to link the digital report to consultation materials, interactive consultation rooms, automated feedback links, and live chat functionality," says Emma.

"Having all the information presented in this way helps the decision-makers to respond appropriately. The digital tools can also automate some parts of assessments, saving time and money and reducing the risk of human error."

Using digital tools to mitigate risk

A good example of a digital tool in practice is the Looe Flood Defence and Regeneration Scheme where a Digital EIA Scoping Report was completed.

"Looe is the most frequently flooded coastal town in the UK, causing £39 million of damage to homes and businesses from 2013-2017. It was important to get the local community to understand what we were proposing and for the decision-makers to understand the information to assist with the programme. This could enable flood defences to be constructed quicker and effectively to save the town from further devastation," says Emma.

"A project like this is where digital reporting and tools come into their own. Having the information readily available to anyone can take away the fear of the unknown. It can help people to understand what’s going to happen, how it will benefit and protect their homes, see the flood maps, and can give progress updates on the project at any given time."

"We’re here for our clients to get their projects consented as quickly as possible but also in the best way environmentally. Digital tools highlight important information, ensuring the environment is protected the whole way through the project," she adds.

Embracing change for a better future

Emma is aware of the challenges in place that make the process difficult, and will remain difficult until change for a better future is embraced.

"The current planning process across the UK doesn’t allow us to submit digital EIAs for the application. So we’re still having to follow old procedures, such as printed or PDF versions of the EIAs and will continue to do so until the government embraces change for a better future," she explains.

"Many people are hesitant to change because they’ve been doing things the same way for years, but I want to continue to drive digital innovation in the industry. As Co-Chair of the Institute of Environmental Management and Assessment (IEMA) Digital Impact Assessment Working Group, I am involved in writing guidance for consultants, stakeholders, and decision-makers to help them better understand what they need from digital EIA and how to progress with it."

"I think as an environmentalist, there's no limit to what you can achieve. There's a massive drive for innovation now. Currently, my field has some catching up to do, but digital EIA will help us get there, and I want to help WSP to lead the way," concludes Emma.

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