Another paper! Hooray!
Resources Policy has published a pre-press version of my latest paper ‘Corporate social responsibility, risk and development in the mining industry’. Wonderfully, my University has paid for the paper to be open access so it is free for all, pretty much forever. This paper explores why mining companies engage in CSR activities and why these often don’t lead to much in the way of development for people living near operations. There are lots of reasons for this, but in this paper I look at how companies think about CSR as a form of risk management. This approach, I argue, crowds out other aims for CSR (such as equity, sharing the wealth etc.) and leads to activities which are unlikely to support local development. The full abstract:
In this article I examine how metals mining companies understand and act upon CSR as risk management and the consequences for community CSR projects. I begin by exploring the literature on CSR and development in the mining industry, motives for CSR engagement in the industry, and risk and risk management. I then draw on my research data to map how CSR programmes are seen as an important method of managing strategic challenges to firms — categorised here as reputational, operational or regulatory ‘risks’—and note how competition for capital and recent changes in the legal environment have furthered this process. A focus on CSR as risk management can illuminate the poor development outcomes of community CSR projects, despite recent rises in spending. ‘CSR as risk management’ introduces immanent limitations including treating CSR as PR, targeting those that pose the greatest threat rather than those with the greatest need, excessively simplifying complex processes and focussing on maintaining the status quo. In risk management thinking, CSR activities may be a high organisational priority, integrated into central decision-making processes and subject to a great deal of investment, but still see little progress towards inclusive development for those living closest to mining operations. I conclude by reflecting on what this means for future action and research.
This is basically my first cut at a bunch of my interview data on how mining companies think about CSR. I’ve got lots more to say on this issue but that will likely mainly be in the book I’m drafting. So, until then, this paper is a good summary of my thinking on mining companies and CSR, go have a look for free now!