I first heard the words “meeting under the mango tree” as a euphemism for having a predictable, easy to access process for enabling community members to raise issues and concerns in a safe and familiar place.  There is no fixed agenda and no one-size-fits-all for these exchanges. With one company we set up drop-in centres in each local village with a designated community officer in attendance everyday. Another made it known that a company person would be available “under the mango tree” for two hours every market day. I am hoping this blog will achieve something similar – the regular, free and open sharing of ideas and experiences. Time will tell how well it works out.

Linking company actions to the SDGs

Responsible Business Management |  2 April 2020

Making a contribution to the Sustainable Development Goals.

For the last few years I have been making the case that junior and mid-tier explorers and operators can contribute to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (the SDGs) and just as importantly to be recognised for what they do, to the extent that shorter life-cycles, smaller physical, environmental, social and economic footprints, leaner management structure and lesser lobbying strength allow. So I’ve been digging away, looking for ideas to borrow and tweak. The ICMM was quick out of the blocks, mapping the SDGs to their Sustainable Development Principles. Another good source has been a think-tank report mapping mining to the development goals. Both have been useful but they definitely reflect the capabilities and strategies of the big-end of town. More recently IPECA has published a guide for the oil and gas industry and the US FAO has incorporated SDG considerations into their Sustainable Forest Management Toolbox.

Mapping the SDGs

As a starting point I mapped the seventeen global goals against the company actions in the SLO-Framework, trimming the number of targets from the seemingly overwhelming 169 to a more achievable 40 by focusing on company activities and the people and communities within the project impact area, bringing the global agenda down to something that I think can be achieved at a local level by smaller players.  

It is important to keep in mind that what I am talking about is voluntary – as with the broader SDG agenda there is absolutely no obligation for business to do any of this – you are free to make your own decisions and can choose to ignore it all and keep doing things the way they always have.

A second point to note is that this is not an all or nothing proposition. I am not saying that companies have to try and address all 40 targets. Actually, I would suggest that you don’t (try for all 40 that is). Instead, you could choose to focus on the 1, 5, 10, or however many make sense for your business and your situation.

There is also nothing to say that companies can’t do their own filtering exercise, going back to the 169 and going through the process of picking and choosing the ones to focus on. You'll find them all on the UNDP website and summarised here.

Irrespective of whether the starting point is a filtered list of 40 or the full 169, contributing effectively is all about finding the sweet spot(s) where there is overlap between company business drivers, the SDG targets and local development needs.  The company can then decide how much time, effort and resources the company wants to or can afford to put in. A presentation to the Australia - Africa Minerals and Energy Group back in 2016 was my first attempt at articulating how the 40 targets can be used to hit the sweet spot of overlapping interests. 

SDGs and the Social Licence Guides.

Since the AAMEG presentation I have worked my thoughts into the social licence toolkit guides where it made sense to do so, starting with the link between SDG3 and SDG6 and Community Health. Others, like SDG16 (Peace and Justice) and SDG17 (Partnerships) cut across most aspects, and while “Peace and Justice” might sound a bit utopian the goal is actually pretty solid and definitely hits a sweet spot. When you dig into the targets for SDG16 you'll see that they are difficult to argue against - 1) minimizing project-related conflict and violence; 2) promoting the rule of law at the local and national levels; 3) adopting a no tolerance approach to corruption and bribery in all project-related transactions; 4) supporting the development of effective, accountable and transparent institutions at community, local and national government levels; 5) ensuring responsive, inclusive, participatory and representative decision-making when addressing project-related issues; and 6) ensuring public access to project-related information.

Having started with Community Health, the SDG are now integrated with all eleven Social Licence Guides.

I have been surprised at how easily this approach resonates when I have incorporated these ideas into training activities. I am guessing one reason is that community managers and their teams often have NGO backgrounds so are familiar with the SDGs, making the training task one of reframing rather than introducing a new concept. Maybe more surprising is how it seems to work for managers in other parts of the business, where the ah-ha moment is often the realisation that they are doing a lot of it already and that doing their bit for local communities doesn't have to mean more work.

Encouraging enough on both fronts to keep pushing on.


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