I was a novice when I went to Ghana and became involved in the social aspects of mine development for the first time. I didn't make a conscious decision to move from engineering to community, it just sort of happened. I actually went over to oversee some early on-site pre-construction activities but things didn’t go according to plan (the project ran into some unexpected permitting barriers) and I found myself dealing with the many community issues that came up - some easy to work through and others not so. The project did finally receive its approvals but not without a lot of angst and missteps.
My idea with the SLO-toolkit was to bring together experiences and lessons from my time in Ghana and since with the aim of creating an easy-to-use resource that is equally useful as a how-to guide for a new starter and as a memory jogger for a more experienced manager.
I'd like to think that these easy-to-do essentials will help you to take your first steps with a bit more confidence.
Companies wanting to operate responsibly, to systematically address the social challenges they face, earn their social licence and take control of their social risk are more likely to succeed when they stay focused on the company actions that determine social acceptance.
It is difficult to deliver full value to the bottom-line without a social licence to operate.
One approach for earning a social licence uses this simple cause-and-effect model.
Chances are you don't realise how much useful information is within easy reach.
When you go to site, cross-check your desktop work and also do the following.
Doing the right thing isn't complicated. These ten very simple actions will take you a very long way towards earning your SLO.
Click on the more resources tab to see more useful info.
In the beginning...
My social licence journey began I went to Ghana as part of a team planning to build a new mine. I had been working on the studies and design work for the company's Ghana projects for five years so I was very familiar with the project but not particularly familiar with Ghana which I had visited only three times, two of those being very short project kick-off trips. I was also a complete community novice, with Ghana being my first overseas assignment so, perhaps not surprisingly, I made plenty of mistakes. What follows is a look back on some of the processes we put in place and the results we saw in three important areas...
Ten need-to-actions for a stronger social licence (updated)
Check-out the one-minute video before looking deeper into the need-to-actions to demonstrate the behaviour needed to establish trust and build relationships. Without trust and good relationships the likelihood of success (for the business generally and for community-facing activities in particular) is greatly reduced...
Management systems supporting the pursuit of excellence and continuous improvement are found in all other aspects of business - technical, financial, administration and health and safety and environmental performance - so why not community relations and social performance? Why not indeed…
Taking complaints seriously and establishing a good complaint handling procedure is one of the most effective ways of dealing with local concerns. Implementing a simple, well-designed procedure demonstrates a willingness to take community members and their issues seriously. A good process can play a major part in building better relationships with local communities, will help with the early identification and resolution of concerns and will reduce the potential for unanswered questions to escalate into something more serious.
Social Licence to Operate is a mining industry concept. The expression was first used by Canadian Jim Cooney in 1997. This was a decade after the landmark 1987 Brundtland Report and a few years after the concept of the triple-bottom-line was first described by John Elkington. Its use has now spread well beyond the mining industry and as has happened with triple-bottom-line and sustainable development, the term "social licence" has been interpreted and used in many ways. Licence to Operate is currently seen by many as one of the biggest risks to the mining and metals industry, just as it was back in the 1990’s when Jim Cooney coined the term...
I've written before about ten must-do-actions for a stronger social licence. These come from personal experience working in company-community relations on mine sites in Africa. This new / different / alternative take on doing what matters comes from local communities, reflecting directly on their concerns for the well-being and development opportunities for individuals and the collective community...
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 references the SDGs in theirGood Practice Principles. Another good source has been a think-tank reportmapping 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.
This short piece highlights a few simple actions you can take that will reduce your community-related project risk.
My suggestion is that whether you are taking on an existing project or you’ve acquired it through a purchase or takeover, the simple act of talking to the in-country site team can save you a lot of grief. If they are on-the-ball they will be a good source of information to help you get up to speed…
If you're working on an overseas project and have never visited the site you'll be well served to make some pre-departure arrangements ahead of your first visit so that you can tick off the actions on your "what do I need to get out of my first visit checklist". The more advice, views and ideas you can gather early on the better informed you’ll be and the less likely it is that you'll make costly mistakes. Having "been there done that", believe me when I tell you that it is not a good place to be...
In the context of exploration, project development and mine operations, project related activities and physical structures will directly, indirectly, and cumulatively change community exposures to environment-based health risks, communicable diseases, equipment accidents, and exposure to hazardous materials or conditions. Communities, households and individuals, government health services and privately operated health services are all affected to a greater or lesser degree, with women, children, the elderly, and minorities – being particularly vulnerable to health-related issues. While public authorities have a role in promoting the health and safety of communities, companies have a responsibility to avoid or minimise the risks and negative impacts to community health and safety that may arise from activities and changes related to their projects...
Project Induced In-migration (PIIM) is the movement of people into an area in anticipation of, or in response to, opportunities associated with the development and/or operation of a new project and is an inevitable consequence of project development. Exploration and development activities may directly induce in-migration or may be a catalyst for the broader economic development of the region that leads to in-migration. Either way, companies can contribute to a reduction of in-migration and prevent and/or mitigate the impacts. In-migration affects individuals, households and communities, traditional authorities and local government. Women, children, the elderly, and minorities – are particularly vulnerable to disruptive change. Unlike some other company related impacts, addressing PIIM is often not well understood so here are a few ideas you might want to consider...
Land access needs to be viewed in two parts. Land Access can be temporary and short-term and in the context of mineral exploration is associated with initial reconnaissance, surveying, test-pits and drilling. Camp facilities are usually considered temporary although their use may extend for many years. These activities can cause temporary loss of economic benefit from land use as a result of short-term restricted access for farming and damage to / loss of crops. Temporary land access should not result in physical displacement.
The second aspect is Land Acquisition and Resettlement. This is associated with accessing land required for building new (greenfields) or expanded (brownfield) operations. Large-scale land acquisition, involving large numbers of individuals, significant areas and resettlement is typically associated with greenfield projects, and is a complex and costly (typically running to $Ms) and lengthy (2-5 years) undertaking that must be managed using robust project management processes. The work is usually outsourced to resettlement specialists...
Must-do-actions are all about demonstrating the behaviour needed to establish trust and build relationships. Without both the likelihood of success (for the business generally and for community-facing activities in particular) is greatly reduced.
IFC Webinar: Performance Standards 101
A good way to spend an hour getting an introduction to how the performance standards work. You'll find more useful IFC-generated information here.
SDGs - Forty achievable targets
This list of 40 targets is the result of mapping the seventeen global goals against the company actions in the SLO-framework. It trims the number of targets from 169 by focusing on company activities and local communities, bringing the global agenda down to something achievable at a local level by smaller companies.
SLO Idea: Checking the state of your relationship
We know that the level of social risk associated with a project is linked to the quality of relationships with local people but how can you know where you stand? There are two simple ways to do this. The first is to pay attention for changes in the tone of meetings with government agencies, partners and community members. The second is to use this one-page checklist to note changes you see happening in the community over time.
SLO Idea: Getting the most from baseline studies
We know that decisions that are well informed are more likely to lead to better results than decisions based on assumptions and inadequate data. Pulling together the socio-economic information needed, in a manner that is appropriate for setting, scale and stage of the project can seem overwhelming but, as this simple, one page guide shows, it doesn't need to be...
SLO Idea: Leaving early
If you have done a good job with your community engagement you will have explained the unpredictable nature of your project and the industry. Even so, your departure from the site – whether it is for the season, until the market recovers or for good – will be a shock for the community. Leaving on good terms will be critical for the future of the project and can seriously affect your company reputation as well as that of the industry...
Social Licence in a minute
At some risk of oversimplifying...
Zandvliet and Anderson: Getting It Right
This book has been written for corporate managers who are responsible for company operations in societies that are poor and politically unstable. Many such managers are frustrated with the situations they face. They try their best to run effective, profitable and beneficial operations that take account of the needs of all their stakeholders, including local surrounding communities. But, even with their best efforts, they encounter community dissatisfaction, unrest, opposition, and delays and, worse yet, threats and violence. Why does this happen?
I was fortunate to have the opportunity to work with Luc while I was feeling my way during my early days in Ghana and am forever thankful for the lesson (obvious with the benefit of hindsight) that resource development by default creates tension and conflict, and that it is how companies approach conflict – as an opportunity or as a threat – that shapes the ongoing relationship between company and community. Some of the ideas in the book have been particularly sticky:
Relationships matter – at a personal and business level this seems a no-brainer but sometimes the connection seems to get lost when it comes to communities
Company impacts are never neutral – they can be negative or positive but from the time a company starts work on-the-ground it starts to create change
People everywhere get annoyed about the same issues – this one gave me a lot of comfort that I could be confident applying the ideas to my particular circumstances plus, the issues are not complicated – behaving appropriately, taking responsibility for impacts and fair distribution of benefits are the keys
Relationships require ongoing effort – again not really earth-shattering news, so it is somewhat surprising how often it happens that over time we take things for granted and it takes a nasty wake-up call to show us how far we’ve gone off the rails
Company actions shape the nature of relationships – this last one relates back to the third point, because the reality is that the three issues that most influence a relationship - impacts, benefits and behaviour – are all company initiated actions, and it is totally within the company’s control to determine what it is going to do and how it is going to act