An online catalogue of businesses operating in the Arctic could provide a comprehensive overview of each company’s employment record and regional impact, according to Tony Penikett, former premier of the Yukon Territory.
The database could help to establish best regional practices and lead to an “Arctic standard,” he said. This online directory would generate a high degree of transparency for regional communities and governments on what to expect from a company that is interested in operating in a specific Arctic territory, Penikett added.
“The database should include the whole range of factors that impact local communities,” he said. It would contain information about the percentage of local employment, wages, broad records of social impacts and environmental documentation, such as the companies’ performance with regard to air or water pollution and related countermeasures.
“Eventually, this knowledge database could create necessary indicators on how to define a so-called sustainable Arctic development,” said Penikett. Although the term is remarkably popular in Arctic discussions, “sustainable development” lacks a clear definition of what both “sustainable” and “development” actually entails in a Northern context.
Accordingly, Penikett encouraged young and aspiring PhD students or other academics to initiate his project idea.
“It could start with a pilot project for a single country, linked to the work already done across the universities in the Arctic. Given the relevance of this initial work, it could be expanded across the circumpolar region,” said Penikett.
Penikett’s idea is innovative and ties into a number of similar projects initiated across the region. The University of the Arctic is cooperating with Karin Berentsen from Kaisa Consulting A.S. to develop a unique online Arctic regulatory navigation tool that enables stakeholders to assess a business project’s social license to operate in the Arctic.
The project includes the Arctic Economic Council, Ramboll Group and the Arctic Slope Regional Corporation as main business partners, whereas academia is involved through the University of the Arctic, Nord University, UiT the Arctic University of Norway and Lapland University.
In turn, whether or not these project ideas will have the desired impact on company behavior and community engagement depends on how they are used at the local and national level.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Arctic Deeply.
A version of this story was originally published in High North News and is reproduced here with permission.