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!

Latest paper available at Extractive Industries in Society

As i tweeted yesterday, my latest paper ‘Political settlements, the mining industry and corporate social responsibility in developing countries’ is now available as a pre-publication online version at Extractive Industries in Society. This paper is a punchier version of my working paper last year just using the Zambian case and with more attention to what thinking in terms of political settlements would mean for research on mining and CSR. It’s behind a paywall right now but I’ll tweet a link with free access for 50 days when it’s published. I’ll also put a pre-proofs version on my university research page.

Here’s the abstract:

In this paper I take a ‘political settlements’ approach to examining the political effects of corporate social responsibility (CSR) in developing countries. The political settlements approach uses an integrated understanding of politics, power and institutional forms to explain how, given different political processes and incentives, the same institutional forms can produce different economic and developmental outcomes. I apply this lens to the CSR practices of large mining companies in developing countries, examining their impacts on local and national political settlements using the Zambian metals mining sector as a case study. Directly, CSR features little in the national debate on natural resource governance in Zambia but local CSR activity is considerable. I find that the CSR practices of large metals mining companies influence the governance of extraction and the possibility of inclusive development with notable consequences for institutions of traditional leadership. The resulting pattern of inclusion and development is argued to result from the interaction of two processes – elite bargaining and coalitions within exclusionary political settlements on the one hand, and CSR practices shaped by risk management on the other. I conclude by arguing that political settlements literature offers a rich seam for future research in the extractive sector if its limitations are addressed.

All feedback is welcome.

 

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 my PE3C talk on the ‘political ecology of the firm’ from July

So I realise I never uploaded this talk I gave in July. Which is a shame as I think it was quite good. It is, however, unashamedly theoretical and niche – it’s for researchers who are interested in political ecology theory, rather then the broader audience of mining and CSR that most of my blog is for. You can listen to the talk here:

I’m presenting tomorrow at the #DSA2016 in Oxford

I’ll be presenting a paper on How does corporate social responsibility affect national politics? The case of mining in Ghana, Peru and Zambia at the annual Development Studies Association Conference in Oxford tomorrow. The abstract reads thusly:

This paper examines the national politics of mining and corporate social responsibility (CSR) in Zambia, Ghana and Peru. The paper draws on research conducted as part of 3-year British Academy Postdoctoral Fellowship looking at the role of international standards in mining company behaviour in developing countries. It begins by outlining political settlements theory, focussing on elite bargaining and the drivers of political stability. The paper then uses this conceptual framework to explore the ways in which CSR and the behaviour of mining companies affect national politics and natural resource governance in Ghana, Peru, and Zambia. Geographical and historical specificity are argued to be central to understanding the ways in which CSR affects political settlements in these countries, in particular the role of memory and the timing of resource booms. These are explored in each case study country to show the different meanings and functions CSR takes on in different regulatory contexts before examining how mining companies use CSR to attempt to minimise regulation and taxation burden, effectively aiming to produce enclave forms of extraction. Here, CSR is argued to be a useful window into the political activities of firms and an important part of how they engage in the national-level politics of host countries.

I’m in session P19 in 4-5.30pm Room 7 (Examination Schools). See you there!

I have a book contract!

I have, today, signed a contract for a book with Oxford University Press. This is great news. This book is provisionally entitled Risk and responsibility: The politics of mining, corporate social responsibility and development. Though, this may well change as one of the bits of feedback from the reviewers was that they didn’t like the title. (Perhaps I should steal less from Austen for the title. Dickens instead perhaps?).

Risk and responsibility draft cover

Almost certainly what the book won’t look like

 

Here is a brief synopsis from the proposal:

Mining is at a pivotal moment. The recent commodities supercycle, in which mining companies expanded across the globe and boosted their CSR investment and activities, has ended. This expansion created multiple struggles and tension and has increased pressure from investors, national governments, civil society and local communities on mining companies to improve their environmental and social impacts. Expectations of mining company behaviour have been raised and are unlikely to fall. This book examines the drivers and consequences of the recent growth of CSR in the extractive industries. Risk and responsibility brings together literatures in geography, development studies and politics to examine of the political and development impacts of CSR in the mining sector. The book draws on over 200 semi-structured confidential interviews conducted in Canada, Ghana, Peru, USA and Zambia between 2011–2014 focussed on 6 case-study companies, to examine the functions and meanings CSR takes on across different scales of action. At the international level, CSR aims to attract capital and reduce shareholder risk; at the national level, it is used to improve the image of mining companies and curry favour with populations and regulators; at the local level, CSR profoundly reconfigures local political institutions to produce stable operating environments. In the mining industry, strategic pressures have come to be understood through the rubric of risk, for which CSR has come to be seen as the strategic tool which can unite the responses required of companies towards a range of stakeholders. Over eight chapters, Risk and responsibility examines the interplay of risk and responsibility at the heart of the political life of corporations.

It’s a ways off yet. My current best guess would be that it comes out in 2018.