Recommendations for Extractive Projects
Activities of consultation and communication with stakeholders should be established in a comprehensive and inclusive manner throughout the life of a project. Compliance with laws and requirements set by the governments (for example: Environmental Impact Study (EIA) approval) or the borrower should not be the only motivation behind them. Such a short-term vision transforms into a series of meetings that have no value when it comes to establishing a constructive relationship with communities.
This article – which is divided in two posts – will discuss some practices that have proven to be successful in various projects in the extractive industries (mining and oil & gas) with regard to maintaining an effective relationship with stakeholders. Before implementing the recommendations offered, their applicability to each specific context should be analyzed.
Identification of Stakeholders
Identifying the project stakeholders is the first step is to take. Stakeholders who are directly or indirectly affected by a project. People, organizations and / or key groups and their relationships need to be established. The leaders of the different organizations must be identified as they have influence.
Identification of stakeholders becomes more sensitive in cases where there are indigenous communities or vulnerable groups who may be unrepresented, and when there are gender issues in specific contexts.
Governments are primary actors and the associations already formed and functioning can be allies in implementing projects, or in validating accountability of the company to the community. This is an important element that should not be overlooked.
A helpful tool to identify potential interest groups is the list proposed by ICMM in the document Community Development Toolkit.
Analysis of Stakeholders
Having identified the stakeholders, their analysis continues. It includes discovering in what manner and extent they will be affected by the project. Their interests or positions, and their attitudes towards it must also be determined.
Not all individuals who form a group or organization will have the same position or opinion on the project or different topics related to it (e.g. Supplementary projects, Resettlement, local employment, etc.). The type of communication that will take place must be selected once identified.
With the different types of stakeholders known and identified, it is possible to establish criteria for evaluating different alternatives to improve the relationship between the company and the various stakeholders.
Basic rules should be followed for any interaction, such as attention, respect, accountability, impartiality and transparency. These are key issues that both partners must work continuously maintain.
Attention: to the safety, health and welfare of employees, contractors, partners and host communities
Respect: for people and the environment, ensuring sensitivity to the issues and the ability to respond to the values of the host society, that is, the receiving community
Accountability: to do what you say you will do. Uphold and respect commitments
Impartiality: as the basis for the distribution of benefits and opportunities to employees, host communities and governments
Transparency: interacting in an open and inclusive way, to jointly address the challenges and opportunities being faced
Recommendations to Improve the Relationship with Stakeholders
From experience in the different projects, we can mention the following points to be considered in order to have an open dialogue and cooperation with stakeholders:
1. Communication strategy with a long-term vision
2. Initiate the dialogue as soon as possible
3. Do not initiate communication before a problem occurs
4. Use smart goals in the communication strategy, which are specific, measurable, achievable, results-oriented and timely
5. Communicate within the company, and inform subcontractors of the communication strategy
6. Keep control over communication and involvement with the community subcontractors and manage risk
7. Remain consistent in communication and in the message provided to avoid confusion, frustration, or anxiety
8. Manage communication with stakeholders as one more function of the company, with clear objectives, and allocated resources and budget
9. Perform quality control of the relationship with the various stakeholders. It should be noted that this can change qualitatively over the project
10. Share relevant information with useful and meaningful content
11. Avoid bombarding the Stakeholders with too much information, consultations, meetings and surveys
12. Establish a dialogue and consultation that is consistent with the established decision-making process of each social group. For example, for indigenous groups
13. Give the message in a comprehensible, easily accessible manner, using appropriate channels of communication. Interact with stakeholders in their native language and in their respective community, to ensure understanding.
14. Explain how company representatives can be contacted and how to do so
15. Respect the legal context and best practices in relation to human rights. E.g. : United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
16. Be transparent and clear about the information provided
17. Explain the uncertainties that the company is dealing with and explain the different possible scenarios and their consequences
18. Get involved in the consultations held by the government institutions
19. Ensure participation of stakeholders interested in monitoring projects. Hold community consultations where they can express their views on issues that concern them.
20. Get feedback from stakeholders. Ensure that communication is two-way and you can anonymously offer ways of raising grievances.
21. Take into account the comments and feedback received from the stakeholders
22. Inform stakeholders who have been consulted on what happened, why the various decisions have been made in relation to their comments and feedback with and report on the next steps
Transparecy and Accountability
23. Implement an efficient and easily accessible mechanism for claims and complaints.
24. Implement an efficient management system for commitments
25. Have reasonable response times
26. Conduct negotiations that meet the interests of all parties
27. The company should always follow up on their proposals and keep their promises
28. Document consultation activities and outcomes. Reports with quantitative information are much more robust. A good tool such as Borealis stakeholder management software helps not only to monitor, but also to manage
29. Disclose information and prepare reports for stakeholders
The benefit of having a good relationship with stakeholders is to lay the groundwork for the creation of a cooperation network, the development of trust in stakeholders, the creation of an atmosphere of safety and support. It allows the company to be proactive and anticipate managing expectations of stakeholders and potential problems. It creates the conditions in both directions to address sensitive issues, to reduce or eliminate frustrations and to create a trusting relationship that allows stakeholders to have confidence in the company message.
Companies must maintain good communication from the start of the project with prefeasibility studies, just as during project planning, government approval (ex. EIA), construction and operation, including decommissioning and closure. Therefore, a long term vision and including the relationships with the various stakeholders in the project cycle is a key factor.
Disclosing information in a transparent manner is a good practice. It can be done by keeping a register of your Stakeholders and a communication management system, both formal and informal, as well as complaints, claims and commitments. The system should allow you to generate reports while giving timely follow-up to each activity. For more information, view our Stakeholder Engagement module.