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Six lessons/predictions for oil, gas and mining sustainability

Having just spent a couple of days chairing discussions and listening in on others at Ethical Corporation’s extractive conference this week, here are my ‘takeaways’:

1) Transparency is taking hold.

I blogged on this, from the conference, here. The short version is this: EU and US disclosures rules will change the game forever for extractive firms in 2012/13. Project by project financial disclosures may well soon become the norm.

2) ‘Community balance sheet’ thinking is on the boardroom table.

CEOs of companies such as AngloGoldAshanti now talk freely about the importance of sustainable communities and livelihoods. Whether that’s long-standing community acceptance or long term solutions for the problem of migrant artisanal miners, it’s on the agenda for CEOs in a way it wasn’t five years ago.

3) Traditional industry associations are more the problem than the solution.

There’s not much more to add than this: Associations mired in traditional thinking are often the last group to understand the importance of sustainability. Nowhere is this more evident than in the extractive industries.

4) New alliances of progressive companies will soon emerge.

The leading companies are beginning to understand why they should share lessons. Either via tools catalysed by the likes of the IFC, or bilaterally, pre-competitive areas where knowledge and management processes must be shared are becoming more widely recognised.

5) The value of CSR in resource access is increasingly recognised.

Mining firms, in particular, have never sounded so worried about licenses to operate being removed at the drop of a hat than they are today. The value of effective practices related to sustainability: land reclamation, neighbour relations, reputation, human rights and grievance management, are all firmly viewed as essential.

6) Biodiversity offsetting is not being seriously considered, yet.

Few projects are cancelled due to environmental concerns, but thinking may one day shift from mitigation of impacts to say, offsetting habitat impact to a value of say, more than a multiple of fifty, at some point.

A recent article from the March edition of Ethical Corporation on some of these issues is here.

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