Normally I would not copy and paste an entire article from another source. I do so below because I consider the article and news announcement about a new site from CIM on Corporate Social Responsibility significant. I trust Creamer Media’s Mining Weekly folk will not be offended if I repeat their article in full; they have done us a service in bringing it to our attention. I hope only to augment their efforts. Here is the full article.
The Canadian Institute of Mining, Metallurgy and Petroleum (CIM), in partnership with the government and other stakeholders, has set up a website to help mining, oil and gas companies based in the country and operating abroad meet their social and environmental responsibilities.
“This new website will be a one-stop shop with the latest information on corporate social responsibility rules, laws and best practices,” said Canadian Minister of International Trade and Minister for the Asia-Pacific Gateway Stockwell Day.
“It will also feature timely, practical information and advice on foreign countries, local networks and relevant experiences of Canadian companies, civil society and other stakeholders operating abroad,” he said in a statement.
The site is hosted by the CIM and was developed in consultation with the federal government, industry, civil society, academia, indigenous representatives and expert practitioners.
It will offer an inventory of experts, contacts, activities, reference materials, policies and regulations, country profiles and existing Canadian and international tools to assist companies in developing solid corporate social responsibility (CSR) policies.
It will also aim to provide a forum in which companies, CSR practitioners and stakeholders in Canada and abroad can share experiences and best practices, and facilitate the development of education programs for industry and stakeholders.
“If a Canadian company in the extractive sector wants to find information on how to set up a community development program in Peru, it will be able to go to this website and find partners, as well as information on local legislation and investment frameworks,” Day said.
The activities of Canadian miners operating in foreign countries grabbed headlines in the second half of 2009, when hearings were held into a private members bill that seeks to give the Canadian government the right to investigate claims of human rights or environmental abuses by Canada-based companies.
According to the Bill C-300, which is expected to go to a third-reading vote in the spring of 2010, taxpayer-funded financing, such as from Export Development Canada, would be withheld from companies found to have violated human rights or environmental standards.
I browsed the site. It is still in its infancy and has little of the information it promises. But there is a need for such a site and we wish the site and its workers well. No doubt they would welcome contributions.
I suspect the site and its launch are an effort to counter the drive to pass Bill C-300. I have blogged about this bill: in short it is seriously flawed, in my opinion, and would be a major headache for the Canadian mining industry without solving any of the issues it purports to address. Not that I am sure the new site will solve the issues either, but at least mining companies will have no excuse if they fall foul of the intentions of the bill which strangely enough are the intentions of the new web site. The problem remains: what to do about rogue companies flounting ordinary standards of conduct and decency? Neither the bill nor the web site will address that problem. In my opinion, only national laws and national action will suffice.
In this opinion I am joined by other critics—see this link, which notes:
Under the umbrella of promoting corporate social responsibility, the government set up a $20 million fund to help companies develop economically and socially acceptable projects abroad and launched a website with information on the topic.
But critics say the voluntary programs are half-measures that do little to ensure mining companies operating overseas are held accountable for their activities.
“It’s a useful effort but it’s wholly insufficient to deal with the scope of the problem,” said Jamie Kneen, communications coordinator for MiningWatch Canada, which has been pressing for tighter controls on the extractive industry.
“We’ve seen, over and over again, that even when there are rules in place, there are companies that are willing to break the rules.”
$20 million is a lot of money to establish and run another website on mining properly. Just imagine what the private sector could do with it. I might even be able to earn money blogging? As a taxpayer, I suspect it would be cheaper to pass Bill C-300 and let the NGOs and the mining miscreants fight it out. But who am I to say when it comes to government support of the mining industry? At least they say nothing about sustainable mining—a term and concept I reject. Although I bet the next topic we will see a $20 million government web site on Sustainable Mining. The truth is ICMM have already done a superb job in this regard. I cannot see why we need to spend more Canadian taxpayer money on a hackneyed topic. Sorry, I forgot, there is always the economic stimulus issue.
To repeat: corporate social responsibility is not a difficult topic–it is not rocket science. Why do we need to spend $20 million to emphasize the obvious points of decency at the heart of corporate social responsibility, which I may paraphrase as:
- Do not bribe the local thugs.
- Do not kill or arrange to have killed those who oppose the mine.
- Do not pollute.
- Do not move people who do not want to be moved.
- Obey the local laws–and if they are lousy, obey Canadian law.
- Engage the services of a reputable consutant or employ an in-house expert and take their advice. (Surely the shareholders, not the taxpayer, should pay for expertise.)
- Accept that a majority does not make it right–think of the Canadian parliament in this regard.
- Go see Avatar and learn the lessons: not eveybody wants to change their lifestyle for new schools and hospitals.
Then the final question: why spend all this money when Bill C-300 will never become law? Once the Olympics is over, parliament is un-prorouged, and the Senate is stacked with Conservatives, this bill will never pass. All we have here is an expensive response to a storm-in-a-teacup. Or a few nasty assasinations.