Exploring governance for sustainability in contexts of violence: The case of the hydropower industry in Colombia

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Background: The hydropower industry in Colombia is developing in contexts of violence because of armed conflict. The companies that drive hydropower development are usually large and benefit today from lessons that have been learned around the world. However, there is little understanding of how these good management practices are addressed in contexts of violence. This paper contributes to the filling of a knowledge gap between the energy business practices and the local implications of the armed conflict. Large companies would have to incorporate a holistic view of the power generation business that connects financial performance with both environmental protection and social equity. The governance of business sustainability is analyzed within violence, drawing upon a case study from the hydropower industry to explore emergent issues, dominant players, and tools that may provide solutions. Methods: The case study method is based on the hermeneutical analysis of 16 in-depth interviews with employees from the energy sector, the public municipalities, and local leaders. The interviews were coded and occurrence rates were used as ranking criteria. Two co-occurrence matrices were constructed in order to estimate the ranking of the interests of the players and the tools of action they prefer. Results: The results exhibited conventional problems such as climate change, dwindling biodiversity, and the deteriorating condition of natural resources, in addition to the characteristic difficulties of armed conflicts, such as illegality, distrustfulness, and lack of opportunity for local populations. In view of both the weakness of the state and the scarcity of social capital, energy companies emerge as a central player in association with nongovernmental organizations. The tools used are more geared toward planning than they are toward joint action and evaluation. Conclusions: It was concluded that the management of hydropower stations in the contexts of violence requires companies to orient their actions toward results and evaluate the impact of its management. Such management must be based on transformational relationships aimed at reducing the existing asymmetry between players and distributing the costs and benefits of the hydropower station more equitably.




Polanco, J. A. (2018). Exploring governance for sustainability in contexts of violence: The case of the hydropower industry in Colombia. Energy, Sustainability and Society, 8(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s13705-018-0181-0

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