When it comes to stakeholder engagement, miners have traditionally found themselves between the proverbial rock and hard place.
Reconciling the often competing needs of governments, local communities, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), employees and regulators – while still delivering return on shareholder investment – has become a delicate balancing.
If mining companies can align their investments with the underlying and long-term needs of disparate stakeholders, and explore the concept of shared value which demonstrates the interconnectedness of corporate competitiveness and community prosperity, they could earn not only the licence to operate, but the license to grow.
In Tracking the trends 2016, the Top 10 issues mining companies will face in the coming year, Deloitte explores the most pressing issues mining companies are facing. Changing the nature of stakeholder dialogue is one of them, and one that deserves our attention.
Miners interested in reclaiming their license to operate are coming to realise that a new form of stakeholder engagement is needed; one that balances the demands of multiple groups. The concept of “return to shareholder, return to country, return to citizen” is relevant here. Rather than simply reporting the amount of money spent on taxes and community initiatives, companies should aim to track and report on their impact on each stakeholder group.
Although mining companies rely on some social media to engage with stakeholders, they are not on the forefront of emerging trends. This puts them at a disadvantage to organisations capable of mobilising full-scale social media campaigns to back up their protests and concerns. It’s time for miners to get more active in this space by using social media to engage directly and share targeted information with their various stakeholders.
Beyond using social media platforms to communicate with stakeholders, miners should also leverage data analytics and “social listening” tools to track what is being said about their organizations in real-time. By alerting companies to reputational risks, community concerns or patterns that may signal social unrest, social listening provides companies with an early warning system that allows them to respond proactively.
Stakeholder management is rarely confined to negotiations with one or two discrete groups. More often, there are layers and sub-layers of decision makers, influencers, protagonists and antagonists that must be managed. To create win-win platforms that align miners with this complex web of stakeholders, companies must demonstrate a high level of commitment by engaging senior executives to play key roles in stakeholder engagement and solution identification.
Once miners come to understand individual stakeholder needs, it makes sense to hold dialogues across an entire mining cluster. By collaborating with employees, suppliers, government ministries, citizen groups, advocacy organizations, and even secondary and tertiary businesses, companies can expand the set of potential compromise outcomes that might meet the needs of typically divergent local groups and co-opt the entire universe of stakeholders into the solution-seeking process.
Governments eager to attract mining investment without alienating either corporate or community citizens would likely welcome input from industry stakeholders as they work to structure effective national mine strategies. Mining companies have a role to play in this regard as governments seek direction around policy.
Although few mining companies are willing or able to abandon viable projects, unreasonable pressures exerted by regulators or other stakeholders could tip an otherwise feasible project into the red. Mining companies capable of responsibly walking away from projects that no longer promise to deliver a solid business benefit would send a strong message to governments and local communities on what they potentially stand to lose by adopting an intransigent anti-mining stance.
Benoit Froment is Director North America for Metrix Software Solutions. He is responsible for leading the IsoMetrix operations in the US and Canada, including Sales and Marketing, Implementation and Customer Support. He is also an IsoMetrix Subject Matter Expert in Social Sustainability.