In the December 2009/January 2010 Supply Side column of CIM Magazine, I provided a background on corporate social responsibility (CSR), and explained why it has become the leading global issue for the mining industry, and why this is important for mining suppliers.
The trend towards responsibility and sustainability — involving health and safety, the environment, human rights, community relations and other matters — affects mining suppliers as much as it affects their clients, the mining companies.
With a history going back four decades, the public’s interest in sustainability issues has greatly increased over the last few years. This has been picked up by our politicians, some of whom have set policies in motion that will not be helpful to either the industry or to the resolution of perceived problems.
Companies and associations in the mining industry have started to take action to mitigate problems, look for ways to operate more responsibly and participate in efforts to dispel the negative image that the public has about some aspects of our industry.
A case in point is Federal Bill C-300. Now close to its third and final reading in the House of Commons, this bill would define what CSR is and apply sanctions to Canadian companies in the extractive sector working in developing countries. This type of extra-territorial law could lead to halted projects, thus affecting mining companies, suppliers and investors alike. Collateral damage would include the moving of Canadian mining head offices to more welcoming countries.
I feel it would be wise for mining supply marketers to look at the world through the eyes of their clients. Exploration and mining companies are rapidly realizing that there are major penalties to be paid if they do not earn a social licence to operate. Suppliers need to cater to this.
Thus, those shaping the corporate images of mining supply companies should do all that they can to bring forward the CSR aspects of their own businesses. Their companies’ performance in health and safety, environmental and human rights issues should be prominent on their websites. In addition to persuading clients to buy from them, this will attract potential employees.
Of course, the CSR benefits that a company’s products and services will bring to client companies should also be emphasized. Mining companies will continue to place greater importance on CSR issues. Indeed, CSR may become as important in their purchasing decisions as productivity.
Jon Baird, managing director of CAMESE and the immediate past president of PDAC, is interested in collective approaches to enhancing the Canadian brand in the world of mining.