CSR, WWF and environmental alarmism

For me, the corporate social responsibility (CSR) of a company is to satisfy its (a) customers via good quality products and services at a good and competitive price, (b) workers via good pay and benefits and safe working conditions, (c) shareholders via good returns on  their investments. For companies in the extractive sector like oil, gas, mining and quarrying, (d) minimize environmental damage and have rehabilitation after site closure.

I do not believe that a company has the “responsibility” to provide scholarships to poor students, conduct medical missions, reforestation, etc. while it bleeds its employees with very low wages and dangerous working conditions, or produce lousy or over-priced products and services to its customers.

Any PR services like giving scholarships, medical missions, etc. can be done after satisfying the three (or four) important players in the company. And these can be called as corporate social volunteerism (CSV) and not a mandatory “responsibility.”

Nonetheless, drawing up a CSR varies from one company or industry association to another, there is no single “CSR for all companies” in a given industry, sector or country. And it’s good to have variety and diversity in how companies and private enterprises define their own CSR.

During the Mining Conference 2012 in Sofitel Hotel, a presentation by the Institute for Development and Econometric Analysis (IDEAS), CSR Mining Scorecard Initiatives: Zooming in on the CSR Industry Scorecard, these slides were shown.

CSR of the Chamber of Mines of the Philippines (COMP), and its CSR Guidebook. Each of the six pillars of the Code have “elements” and details.

The “Australian Minerals Industry Code for Environmental Management” or “The Code‟ of 1996. This is to ensure that the country’s practices in uranium mining, milling and rehabilitation meet world-class standards.

And South Africa’s “Broad-based Socio-economic Empowerment Charter” (BBSEE), with a vision of  “A globally competitive mining industry that draws on the human and financial resources of all South Africa’s people and offers real benefits to all South Africans.”

Then it has a scorecard for SA’s mining industry focusing on human resource development, and employment equity.

What caught my attention in Australia’s Code is that “The Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF) stepped in to review the Code in 1999, coming up with a scorecard to have a more concrete basis in reviewing performance and adherence of companies to the Code.”

The WWF drew nine performance indicators, the first of which is “External verification” with a 15 percent weight in the scorecard. It says,

WWF believes external verification of the data and the company‟s environmental & social performance will assist stakeholders in evaluating whether the report is consistent with the company‟s environmental and social performance. Providing space in the environmental report for stakeholders, such as community groups, to give their views on company performance, also enhances the credibility of the report….

I thought that mining and natural resource extraction is a contract between a private company and the owner or guardian of the resource, the government. The latter represents the people and communities in the mining and surrounding areas. A publicly listed company also reports certain mining operations data to the public and the stockholders. Now there is a third player that the private company (and the government?) must submit data to, and they can possibly harass the company for producing “inaccurate data”.  Who appointed the WWF to be that “external verifier”, they themselves? Shame.

Then the WWF lists down many data requirements that must be reported including technical data like

environmental and social impact of its mining and exploration, information on inputs (resource consumption) and outputs (emissions, tailings, and other waste), impact at the mine site, biodiversity, the views of local communities…. 

quantitative assessment of the company‟s environmental performance and comparisons to be made with the environmental performance of other companies. Company-wide and individual site data, covering a wide range of environmental performance indicators, environmental performance targets, progress and trends… 

Compliance information indicates the extent to which the company is meeting the requirements of its operating license(s) and its own internal standards, and how it addresses incidents of failure…. 

information on the consultation process and the extent to which it is incorporated into the company‟s planning, development, operation and decommissioning of its sites, issues raised by stakeholders, how these were addressed, and feedback from stakeholders including their views on the process and the company‟s performance… 

Environmental performance targets with accompanying timelines, set for a wide range of environmental indicators, demonstrate a commitment to improving environmental performance….

The report should be easy to understand with text that is well supported by tables and graphs. The style should be transparent and open, such that it seeks to inform rather than to obscure, i.e. it covers successes and failures. The report should be readily available, both in hardcopy and on the internet, and have a feedback mechanism.

Can you believe that — self-styled, self-appointed activists dictating their terms and expectations how mining companies should report to them, as if there are no prior and existing government requirements on mining that these companies must comply. The WWF thinks they are the “second government” that private enterprises must report to? Shame.

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