Measuring sustainable livelihood restoration in hydropower : commensuration and its effects on voluntary adoptors of the IFC performance standards
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- Master Thesis 
An increase in stakeholder focus on the environmental and social impacts of large infrastructure projects has led many actors to engage in Corporate Social Responsibility. In no area is this truer than in large scale hydropower projects, where developers have often been criticised for putting profits ahead of the livelihoods of Project Affected People. To address this criticism many actors have begun adopting the International Financial Corporation’s Performance Standards which amongst other things mandates livelihood restoration for Project Affected People. In order to meet this commitment however, livelihoods need to first be measured and then the restoration of these livelihoods evaluated. This thesisfocuses on how the complex, diverse and qualitative nature of household livelihoods are transformed into a quantitative metric via the process of commensuration. The paper follows a case study approach with the subject being a hydropower project in Albania. the project operated by a Norwegian energy producer. I contribute to the existing social science literature on commensuration through providing rich descriptions detailing the process in a livelihood restoration context. My findings support earlier case study literature noting that commensuration is achieved through the exclusion of information deemed irrelevant or incommensurable and the simplification of the remaining information. Furthermore, I find that the process masks some of the underlying uncertainty inherent in the measurement of livelihoods. The majority of hydropower developers complying to the IFC Performance Standards are required to do so due to their project financing obligations. “HyrdoCo” has no such requirement for the current project which makes the company one of only a few international hydropower developers voluntarily adopting these standards. It is through the context of voluntary adoption that this study aims to contribute to the academic literature, given this phenomenon has not been examined in detail by other scholars. I find HyrdoCo deals with the ambiguity in the performance standards through applying industry norms and relying on management’s previous experience with the IFC Performance Standards. I also find that without adequate disclosure and reporting transparency the uncertainty and embedded assumptions within the calculation of Project Affected Peoples livelihoods limits external stakeholders’ ability to evaluate the success of livelihood restoration.