Environmental agencies play a vital role in progressing understanding and policy change, on matters from energy infrastructure through to the protection of indigenous species. It’s crucial that they consult and engage with experts and the public. Recently, many have been moving to do this online.

Read our full briefing paper: trends in digital consultation amongst environmental agencies (pdf)

Here’s a quick look at some of the reasons behind this move to digital and a couple of examples of how the Scottish Environmental Protection Authority (SEPA) and Forestry Commission have made the switch.

Why the move to digital?

  • Cost-effectiveness: an online platform enables both the delivery of specific literature and gathering of response data in a visually appealing and cost-effective format.
  • Integration: responses to consultations are collected in one place and can even be published for complete transparency – especially important when it comes to the kind of contentious issues typically needing to be considered by environmental agencies.
  • Demand: the public expect things to be online, including reports and resources, as well as the ability to comment on them.
  • Ease: all of this can be done by obtaining a piece of software that’s tested, built and supported – no need for a big, expensive IT project.

Case study: SEPA

Example of map, graph, table and questions from a SEPA consultation

Example of map, graph, table and questions from SEPA

SEPA used Citizen Space (a comprehensive online consultation system) to display the kind of detailed and varied information required in their consultations.

This image shows just a few examples from a recent SEPA consultation on the river basin of a Scottish waterway.

SEPA used a mixture of tables, charts, graphs, maps, images and detailed supporting information as part of their engagement exercise. You’ll notice a select few questions to gather guidance on actionable outcomes from the literature.

Have a look at SEPA’s Citizen Space in action.

Case study: Forestry Commission

Another organisation moving environmental engagement forward online is Forestry Commission. They consult regularly on UK forests and woodlands, and the huge range of activity in these areas, from dog-walking to tree felling.

Forestry Commission excel in planning consultations with analysis in mind and feeding back reports and results. They frequently make use of a feature called ‘We Asked, You Said, We Did’ to nicely sum up the results of surveys and feed back to the public (see image).

image of the we asked you said we did feature on Citizen Space from Forestry Commission

Forestry Commission feedback results in an easily digestible format

There are plenty more examples from environment agencies that are ahead of the curve in terms of online engagement, so we’ll no doubt post more showing how they do it digitally in the next few weeks.

For a bit more detail right now, check out our guide to online consultation for environment agencies (pdf).