Crowdsourcing the CSR microscope: Europe & Africa shape metanarrative

Tuesday, 29 July, 2014

All around the world people are looking at themselves. This is a truism most evident in the post-modern ubiquity of the accursed ‘selfie’ but adaptable to our own milieu this week in the context of two conferences. 

So - in a no doubt doomed attempt to shape the metanarrative to our own ends and thereby make the world a better place, her we go. Here in Europe, last week the EU Commission again publicised an ongoing public consultation on its corporate social responsibility strategy; in West Africa, meanwhile, a regional conference on sustainable mining convened African leaders and the World Bank in Côte d’Ivoire (or Ivory Coast, for those of us without the chapeau immediately obvious on our determinedly Anglo keyboards).

Most obviously, these events are both symptoms of the trend that’s currently seeing CSR move to take its necessary prominence in the extractives discourse. More specifically, they represent two quite different points on a line. In the European case, the EC is inviting comment to “seek feedback on the achievements, shortcomings and future challenges of the Commission’s activities on Corporate Social Responsibility,” with a view to developing specific policy. 

As far as target groups for the consultation are concerned, they’ve obviously gone for the broad church approach, focussing only on“Public authorities, Member States authorities, international organisations, civil society organisations, individual companies, industry associations, academia/universities, and other relevant stakeholders and citizens.” It’s a step in a mature CSR process that will hopefully lead to cornet and transparent results (though only, this being a mature jurisdiction, after jumping through a near-infinite series of procedural ouzelum hoops): 

“The results of this public consultation will be summarised in a technical report and further inform the preparation of the plenary meeting of the multi-stakeholder forum on CSR… planned for November 2014… Received contributions, together with the identity of the contributor, will be published on this website, unless the contributor objects to publication of the personal data…

In the interest of transparency, organisations are invited to provide the public with relevant information about themselves by registering in the Transparency Register and subscribing to its Code of Conduct…The public consultation offers citizens and stakeholders the opportunity to provide input to the Commission at an early stage of its policy making on CSR…”

It’s an initiative to be lauded, and hopefully one that will - as it is designed to do - result in CSR policy based on a transparent and inclusive process.

In the meantime, the Ivory Coast initiative takes place at the more practical, boots-on-the-ground end of the spectrum, as it seeks to encourage “South-South knowledge exchange on mining fiscal and legal regimes advances best practices.”  Here, a new World Bank publication was presented - A Practical Guide to increasing mining procurement in West Africa.

It’s an apposite region in which to do this, as West Africa supplies 9% of the world’s bauxite and 8% of its gold, and hosts some of the world’s largest iron ore deposits. Massive infrastructure investments (and legal bunfights) are ongoing and there’s no doubt mining (and oil and gas, for that matter) are there to stay - for better or for worse. And of course there’s no shortage of examples of both.

On the World Bank website, the Bank’s Country Director for Côte d’Ivoire, Burkina Faso, Guinea, Togo and Benin, Ousmane Diagana, is quoted as saying “Responsible mining is key to sustainability in West Africa; promoting mining best practice in the region enhances the value created by the industry and its contribution to poverty alleviation.” Which is pretty much the point of this website and a message we can get behind pretty solidly. Have a look at the piece and learn what happened. It might be useful.