By Katherine Neebe
Vice President of National Engagement & Strategy
Chief Sustainability Officer
The energy industry is in the midst of a massive transformation. As one of the largest utilities in the U.S., how we provide affordable, reliable and increasingly cleaner energy for our customers and communities, while at the same time considering our societal impact, has never been more important than it is today.
One of the opportunities where we need to engage with our communities through this transition is around environmental justice. At Duke Energy, we believe environmental justice is a business imperative, fundamental to our operations and a pillar of meaningful stakeholder engagement.
What does this look like in action?
Last fall, during our ESG Investor Day event, we shared that we are strengthening our commitment to environmental justice as we continually look for new ways to identify, communicate and engage with those potentially affected by infrastructure projects. Over the past year, we have worked with both internal and external stakeholders to build upon the principles that guide our work.
We recognize and understand the importance of both the impact of our work on communities as well as the importance of early engagement. We believe in being transparent on what we are trying to accomplish, seeking feedback and input, and adjusting and aligning where possible to bring about the best outcomes for the communities we serve. As we have talked to subject matter experts in the environmental justice field, we have learned there is an opportunity to create access to opportunities like jobs and economic development in order to help communities benefit from the clean energy transition. Our communities care about these issues and want to be included in the discussion.
Internally, our teams are purposeful in asking critical questions about projects and their associated impacts. We’re building a process that includes early development, analysis and assessment. In fact, we’ve taken significant steps forward to internalize our environmental justice principles.
A few examples include:
- Improving the quality and rigor of our screening process by incorporating the latest EPA screening tools and industry best practices as well as accounting for environmental justice inputs as we plan projects.
- Working with our community relations managers to help identify disadvantaged communities early in project development to engage in more meaningful and authentic stakeholder engagement.
- Improving the way we communicate environmental justice analysis to permitting agencies, policymakers and community members. This will help ensure we’re identifying the most critical community concerns earlier in the process and working toward constructive solutions.
We are mindful that our principles may evolve as we continue to engage stakeholders on environmental justice concerns. This will continue to be an important conversation as we strive to deliver a cleaner energy future for all the communities we serve.