Course #1. Using the Mitigation Hierarchy to Mainstream Biodiversity in Impact Assessment: practical approaches to risk assessment, avoidance and minimization




The Mitigation Hierarchy (to avoid, minimize, restore, and, if necessary, offset) is a key mechanism for understanding and reducing project impacts on biodiversity. Rigorous application of the Mitigation Hierarchy is a central plank of accepted international standards for good biodiversity management such as IFC’s Performance Standard 6. While the two first, preventative steps of the Mitigation Hierarchy—avoidance and minimization—are often the most useful and cost-effective, they are often not fully applied. This course aims to demonstrate how avoidance and minimization, based on appropriate risk screening and risk assessment for biodiversity, can be better integrated into impact assessment and result in improved outcomes for development projects.

Building on the recent ‘Cross-sector guide on implementation of the Mitigation Hierarchy’ (CSBI, 2016), co-authored by two of the trainers, the course takes a practical approach with an emphasis on exploring real-life examples, challenges, and opportunities. Specific attention will be given to the marine realm, which often receives less emphasis than the terrestrial. Practical exercises will occupy around half of the course time, based on a hypothetical case study including both marine and terrestrial components to illustrate risk screening, application of the MH at project level, and dealing with cumulative impacts.

Level: Introductory to intermediate
Prerequisites: Understanding of key concepts in biodiversity and IA. Some experience in carrying out biodiversity-focused risk review, risk assessment and/or IA.
Duration: 1 day (16 November)
Min/Max: 10-25

Leon Bennun, The Biodiversity Consultancy Ltd (United Kingdom)

Neil Cousins, Bluedot Associates Ltd (United Kingdom)

Robin Mitchell, The Biodiversity Consultancy Ltd (United Kingdom)


Leon Bennun is Technical Director at The Biodiversity Consultancy. He has wide and varied experience over three decades in the practical application of biodiversity science to policy and management. He works across a broad spectrum of issues but with particular focus on mitigation design and implementation, monitoring and metrics, priority-setting, strategic planning and policy development.

Leon has been at the leading edge of many important technical developments in applied biodiversity science, including the Red List index, the Key Biodiversity Areas standard and the Integrated Biodiversity Assessment Tool (IBAT). Over the last few years he has led on developing industry-standard biodiversity management guidance for biodiversity management guidance for the Cross-sector Biodiversity Initiative (extractives and finance), IPIECA (oil and gas), the Southern Africa Development Community (extractives) and the Australia Government (extractives).

Leon is an expert trainer and facilitator and has designed and delivered numerous training courses and workshops.  He has published extensively, including more than 90 scientific books and papers, and numerous technical reports.

Leon previously worked for BirdLife International, the Tropical Biology Association (setting up their field training courses) and the National Museums of Kenya. He holds a DPhil in Zoology from the University of Oxford, UK and an MA in Natural Sciences from the University of Cambridge, UK.


Neil Cousins is Managing Director of Bluedot Associates and has over 19 years’ experience in delivering international environmental studies across a wide range of projects and environments. He is particularly focused on the coastal and marine environment with a specific specialism in biodiversity and physico-chemical themes.

Neil has extensive experience of delivering international projects in Africa, Middle East and Asia-Pacific as well as in the UK. He has managed and implemented numerous biophysical field studies and assessments, including IFI-level ESIA studies internationally. His wide consultancy experience has been supplemented by work as an environmental regulator and within academic institutions.

His sectoral expertise includes, for example, offshore oil and gas projects, offshore wind farms, submarine cables and pipelines, ports and harbour development, dredging and disposal, coastal hinterland development schemes, coastal defence, adapting to climate change impacts, coastal habitat creation, catchment flood management, shoreline management and protected areas management etc.

Neil is an experienced trainer, providing guest lectures for postgraduate modules at Swansea and Exeter Universities that give students an insight into marine EIA approaches within industry. Neil was employed in the School of Biological Sciences, University of Liverpool, for over 6 years, where he led coastal and marine research projects, mentored students and acted as a PhD tutor. Neil holds an MBA (Environmental Management) and BSc (Physical Geography) from the University of Liverpool, UK.


Robin Mitchell is Regional Director, Pacific Rim (and formerly Managing Director) at The Biodiversity Consultancy. He has twenty years’ of professional experience in biodiversity and sustainable natural resource management projects. This experience has been gained in the government, university, NGO and consultancy sectors. During the last ten years Robin’s work has focused on assessing impacts to biodiversity and “natural capital”, and on designing or evaluating the performance of mitigation strategies for large and small private sector development projects, in various non-OECD countries and in New Zealand. Work has incorporated all elements of the project cycle including: feasibility, design, construction, operations, closure as well as monitoring and evaluation, reporting and auditing.

Robin has managed, overseen or technically directed well over 100 biodiversity impact assessment and sustainable natural resource use projects often working across technical disciplines. These projects have spanned the mining, oil & gas, infrastructure, agriculture and renewable energy sectors, and often been subject to International Finance standards. Robin has a track record of achieving successful biodiversity outcomes by working diplomatically with a diverse range of stakeholders, and regularly advises on pragmatic corporate and national EIA & biodiversity risk- management policy development.

Robin’s is an experienced trainer and workshop facilitator: recent experience includes conducting a training workshop on application of the mitigation hierarchy for the South Pacific Community. Robin holds a PhD in restoration ecology from the University of Canterbury, New Zealand and a BSc in biology from Bristol University, UK.