New open access paper available on risk and CSR in the mining industry

Another paper! Hooray!

imageResources 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!

I’m giving a talk at Ryerson next week

On my current trip to Canada I’ll be giving a talk at Ryerson University’s Institute for the Study of Corporate Social Responsibility on ‘What’s the political impact of CSR? Evidence from the mining sector in Zambia, Ghana and Peru’ 12–2pm Tuesday May 22nd. More details and a link to the livestream for those interested but unable to attend can be found here. I’m pretty sure they archive the screencasts too so you can watch them later if you wish. I’ll be mainly presenting this paper, but also some of my more recent thinking on the topic of CSR and politics.

Free working paper on mining, CSR and politics out now!

The Effective States and Inclusive Development Research Centre have just published a working paper by yours truly on ‘Corporate social responsibility and political settlements in the mining sector in Ghana, Zambia and Peru’. It’s really a first cut at some of the findings from my work in 2014 which I’m currently writing up into some papers and a book. The abstract reads thusly:

This paper explores and compares the political effects of corporate social responsibility in the mining sector in Zambia, Ghana and Peru. The paper adopts a political settlements approach to answer the question: How do the CSR practices of mining companies affect local and national political settlements? After setting out the main tenets of the political settlements approach, this is articulated with literature on the politics of natural resource extraction and CSR. The paper then sets the wider context of the international drivers of increased attention to CSR in the extractive sector and before exploring the impact of the CSR practices of mining companies on the political settlement in Ghana, Peru and Zambia at the national and local levels. The final sections offer a comparative discussion of what the findings mean for understanding CSR’s role in inclusive development and natural resource governance. The paper argues that recent increased CSR expenditure does not necessarily translate into development for those living near mining companies, particularly in contexts of exclusionary political settlements, of which all case studies exhibited characteristics. There are a great many institutional and contextual limitations placed on the ability of CSR to deliver development for affected communities. Across the case studies, the opportunities CSR programmes afford tended to aimed at those with the greatest capacity to disrupt operations rather than those with the greatest need. In concluding, I argue that, despite some obvious limitations, the political settlements approach can generate new insights through its focus on the politics of development, and, in particular, the politics of stability.

Available here – Go check it out! All feedback welcome.

Listen to the talk I gave in Edinburgh this week

I recorded the talk I gave to the Centre of African Studies at the University of Edinburgh this week and you can listen to it here:

I really enjoyed the opportunity to talk to such an interesting crowd and got some great questions (which aren’t included). I have high hopes we can get some future research collaborations with folks up there.

Listen to my talk on politics, CSR and development

Following the success of my last podcast I’ve decided to record my talks and stick them on this blog. So, here is the audio for my talk ‘Talking about politics: corporate social responsibility and development in Ghana, Perú and Zambia’ at Mining and Communities Solutions 2016, University of British Columbia, 5-8 June 2016.

Despite this being my first talk at a mining industry conference, it went down really well and provoked quite a bit of discussion. Listening again I hear it mainly as a masterclass in saying ‘erm’ a lot (I was rather nervous) but I did get my main points across quite well. I had little reason to be nervous it seems as my message – that we need to talk about CSR as a political intervention into host countries and communities – was broadly well received. This conference was a gathering of people who really do what to improve the impacts and benefits of mining for local communities and therefore very encouraging. I’ll be posting about my ‘take homes’ in the coming days.

Do let me know what you think.

I have a podcast!

A first! A few weeks back I gave the departmental seminar in my department as I’m coming to the end of my current research project (though the writing will continue for some time) and they recorded it and put it on Soundcloud. So, should you wish to hear my recent thoughts on mining and CSR, do have a listen. Should you wish to hear them again, you can download the podcast for your repeated listening pleasure. It has received some favourable mentions on the Twitter already. From people I have no idea who are, which is nice.

 

 

The irony is that seen as this was my first recorded talk to be distributed online it is also one of my least well prepared (It was recorded very shortly after my recent job interview). Which, I think, means that I come across much more black and white and critical than I would have intended. Ah well. Here’s hoping I have more time to get my message straight before it’s recorded for posterity next time. This has inspired me to record the talks I’ll be giving over the summer and upload them.