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Nine conclusions from Ethical Corporation’s Extractive industry CSR conference today

Today, for the fourth year in a row, Ethical Corporation’s CR in Mining, Oil, Gas and Heavy Industry conference began.

I had a long standing bet with one of Ethical Corporation’s original investors a decade ago that one day we’d run successful conferences on ethics in the oil and mining industries. He scoffed. I won, eventually.

Here’s some of the key findings from today’s opening session, which featured speakers representing Rio Tinto, ERM and AngloGold Ashanti, together with a lot of audience participation and insight:

  1. Responsible management is fast in extractives evolving as society asks business for ever more.
  2. Companies need to consider both Exogenous and Endogenous risks:

    – Risks which are created in, or by the company.
    Exogenous – Risks which are beyond the company’s control, but which can affect them.

    (Global food security and how it affects community relations in Africa is a good example of an exogenous risk)

  3. Just as embedding a safety culture is “horizontal“, so is embedding sustainability. We forget this often.
  4. Stakeholder engagement must be embedded across both senior management and operational teams as a management paradigm: or face the consequences.
  5. Companies in the extractives sector often “treat their tyres better than their trust“. A fundamental mistake.
  6. In extractive and engineering projects, sustainability related delays are three times more significant than technical delays.
  7. In current stakeholder engagement practice, companies have been asking narrow, self defined questions and not open, listening-oriented questions.
  8. Putting CSR into stage gates” is one way of embedding it better: Put CR risk up there with the project checks and balances in management.
  9. Social geology” is a new way of looking at this problem: Understanding the layers and complexities of society as well as the make-up of the ground we dig into.

    The conference continues tomorrow. More, here.