The Ghana-Canada Chamber of Commerce is spearheading an initiative to promote social and environmental responsibility in the extractive sector in Ghana.
The initiative,“Towards Sustainable Mining (TSM)”, which is already being implemented in Canada, seeks to enable companies to meet societal needs for minerals, metals and other energy products in an economically and environmentally responsible way.
The Extractive Sector Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Counsellor of Canada, Mr Jeffrey Davidson, said the TSM was now extending its reach to other mining associations, including that of Ghana.
In an interview on February 16 after a business networking forum in Accra, Mr Davidson said there had been talks with the Ghana Chamber of Mines to adopt the TSM, as it had worked in other countries that adopted the model.
“This might be something worth looking at. I already had a meeting with the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Ghana Chamber of Mines. I suggested that if there was any kind of interest in exploring it, then we could facilitate it,” he said.
“We can facilitate a video conference between the Chamber and some of its members through the high commission in Ghana. The association of mining companies in Canada developed this tool and they can explain it to them. If there is any interest, we begin to work from institution to institution to create something that works for Ghana,”he added.
According to Mr Davidson, most companies in the extractive sector tend to cut down on CSR initiatives in case of difficulties but companies must rather strengthen the relationship with the community during those times.
“When the market is down and resources are limited, there is always the decision to cut back on the labour force and CSR initiatives; but smart companies won’t do that. If they plan to stay in the country and want to hang in during the downturn of the country, it will be in the interest of the company to maintain its relationship with its local stakeholders and keep it strong.” he said.
Sharing his experience, Mr Davidson said while working in Venezuela, his company had to suspend its operations and withdraw all the technical people, but he was kept there to explain issues to the people for them to understand what was really happening.
For most companies, CSR tends to focus on infrastructure, that is, schools, clinics, water projects and others, but in reality, engaging with the community was the best initiative.
“We have to move from just infrastructure-based CSR to a more engaging approach in communities that you are working with. You have to listen to the people, engage them and resolve their issues over time,” he said.
The TSM is part of the Government of Canada’s strategy for promoting social and environmental performance of Canadian oil, gas and mining companies operating abroad.
It also seeks to promote transparency in operating practices that embody best industry practices and to ultimately provide lasting benefits to those affected by their projects.
The initiative, he said, had worked well for member companies, affected communities and other interest groups in Canada.