From the Global to the Local: The impact of CSR policies at the community level

The past two decades witnessed the emergence of numerous industry-led socio-environmental initiatives that target different aspects and phases of mineral development. Although there is a growing body of literature that compares different corporate social responsibility (CSR) frameworks, less well understood is how these policies affect on-site operations. Thus this research considers the degree to which local mining communities are familiar with, and engage in company-subscribed corporate social responsibility policies.
Primary data collection focused on key informant interviews in four mining-based communities. Between 2011 and 2013, we spoke with 90 people, representing a variety of stakeholders including industry, government, labour, environmental organizations and the general public. These data were supported by reviews of several key CSR policies, as well as direct observation at each locale. Data analysis took a grounded approach, focusing on aspects such as community-driven sustainability goals, local minesite priorities, and knowledge of government- and industry-led governance policies.
Findings suggest there is significant variation with respect to corporate engagement in local sustainability priorities. At the community level, government regulation and organizational-specific contracts (including impact and benefit agreements, and environmental agreements) remain key tools of governance. Local knowledge and use of CSR policies and initiatives remains more elusive. Results suggest there is a need to improve company-led programs surrounding CSR initiatives and opportunities at the mine-site level. If companies seek to use CSR to foster sustainable development, it is critical to bring in expertise related to local governance processes and policies. Company priorities and local program decision should be made in conjunction with mine-site communities, rather than being facilitated through head offices. Second there is a need to develop and strengthen exchange networks between communities. Although sustainability priorities are place-specific, much can be learned from community-to-community about best practices, particularly surrounding corporate practice.
Funding for this research was provided through the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, and the University of Winnipeg.
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