Internship Update: Contextual Risk Screenings!

These past few weeks, one of my favorite parts of my internship has been running potential projects through contextual risk screenings. Contextual risk screening is undertaken at the beginning of the due diligence phase to identify issues that specialists may need to look into further during due diligence. MIGA specialists run searches using an online Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) database called RepRisk, which scours the internet for any ESG-related information on companies, projects, sectors and countries. I screen projects by running keywords through RepRisk and reading through all of the articles it finds to determine if these are relevant risks for MIGA to consider. I also use Google to find more general information about project owners, investors, contractors, as well as the project country and sector. Then, I write up a summary of the findings, indicating the reputational, environmental and social risks that may be associated with such a project.

The contextual risk screenings inform the E&S specialists’ due diligence program and allows them to ensure that due diligence site visits and pre-visit meetings address the specific issues identified in the screening. I have really enjoyed this work, as it has allowed me to learn about many issues affecting different countries and business sectors. The screenings that I have undertaken have identified issues related to land tenure rights, indigenous peoples rights, and government policies that may affect certain sectors. Many of the topics I research concern national governments and their relationship with other countries, international institutions, and corporations. As an International Relations major and someone who wants to pursue a career in international law, learning about these links fascinates me.

I was also tasked with undertaking the initial biodiversity risk screening, which used the Integrated Biodiversity Assessment Tool (IBAT). IBAT is a site that compares a project’s location with publicly available information on the environmental and biodiversity features of the area, including bird migration flyways, nationally and internationally recognized protected areas, key biodiversity areas, WWF ecoregions, and unique/highly threatened ecosystems. MIGA uses this tool to help determine whether Performance Standard 6 on biodiversity conservation and sustainable management of living natural resources, will apply to a certain project.

To run a project through IBAT, first I have to identify its exact location, which I determine by reading through documents provided by the client. Then, IBAT prepares a report on the overlapping and nearby environmental features. Using the report and the map layering feature that shows the location of different areas in relation to the project site, I summarize the risks a project could pose to the environment, paying special attention to protecting biodiversity and critical habitats.

Running projects through IBAT is exciting, not only because I learn so much about biodiversity in many different places, but also because I know the background research I am doing will inform how MIGA ensures that their guaranteed projects are employing sound environmental practices. Conducting contextual risk and IBAT screenings has given me the chance to improve my writing skills, expand my knowledge of world events, and contribute to the work of the E&S team.