Working in Partnership Towards Shared Development Goals: AngloGold Ashanti's Journey in Sustainability
Trust and legitimacy are critical attributes for any business. At AngloGold Ashanti, we have always tried to engage respectfully and in the spirit of good neighbours. However, in the past we have sometimes tended to direct engagement efforts rather than act as active participants in a shared effort to achieve community and national goals.
We need to move beyond lip-service stakeholder engagement to honestly soliciting the input of governments, local communities and civil society as partners in a journey of achieving sustainable development. This requires a conscious recognition that AngloGold Ashant is not a landlord having power over communities, but rather that AngloGold Ashanti is a tenant within the communities in which we operate. Only an organization in tune with the needs and expectations of all of its key stakeholders can create a model for sustainability that meets the eternally changing imperatives of our complex society.
AngloGold Ashanti’s Vision: The Leading Mining Company
AngloGold Ashanti’s vision is to be the leading mining company. We operate in regions that possess a unique suite of challenges borne out of, in some cases, more than a century of commercial mining. In Africa in particular, AngloGold Ashanti holds vast mineral endowments across the continent. In a global industry characterised by dwindling resources, these tenements represent an opportunity for effective environmental management and rehabilitation and the upliftment of host communities.
Mining can bring vital benefits to countries through revenues, taxation, and employment. But we know that we need to avoid doing harm and that we can do more good. Governments and civil society are increasingly emphasising the need for mineral development to maximise benefits to citizens and for mining operations to be managed in a transparent and accountable manner. Mining companies’ strategies need to be aligned with government planning processes. Successful sustainability interventions will align closely with the key priorities of governments and communities. In Africa, among other locations, high levels of youth unemployment and poverty, limited job opportunities and prospects, imbalances in wealth distribution, have created an increased demand for businesses to deliver on social dividends above and beyond the creation of local jobs and local commercial opportunities.
The question for today’s leading practitioners of corporate sustainability is: how can we ensure corporate sustainability goals are grounded in local content, yield significant benefits to stakeholders and are in line with business objectives?
AngloGold Ashanti’s Values: Communities Are Our Future
At AngloGold Ashanti, we see the first step to achieving this goal is to Do No Harm. We need to stop making today’s decisions tomorrow’s regrettable legacies. This requires understanding the full sustainability impact of our business, meeting our sustainability commitments and being fully transparent for what we are responsible for. We also need to be mindful about what we can achieve on our own, and what we can only achieve in collaboration with others.
When it comes to developmental needs – be it health, education, energy use or environmental stewardship –we simply cannot succeed alone. As a company we must have a better understanding of what it is our stakeholders expect. Our plan starts with a humble approach. First, we ask governments and civil society, “What are your priorities?” by listening to what they tell us, can we then move on to ask “How can we help?”
This is a complete change from previous approaches which often tended to be driven from a perspective of what we assumed was needed by stakeholders. Today we are not seeking to rush into implementing perceived “solutions”, but rather seeking to approach the problem together with our stakeholders as partners, listening and being prepared to give and take. This deep-rooted engagement with stakeholders is the cornerstone of AGA’s approach to sustainability (See Box 1).
For decades, the industry has dabbled in small-scale sustainability projects such as educational grants to families, setting up a few schools, or health interventions at local communities. While these efforts have made a difference in people’s lives, the long-term impact has been limited.
At AngloGold Ashanti we have an ambitious vision. We want to transform our approach in sustainability from one-off, project based interventions to a broad strategic program for change and impact over the long-term. We want to move away from a situation where our contributions to local development are ad hoc, fragmented and inefficient. We have been developing a Sustainable Development Strategy Framework. In our Continental Africa Region we launched in 2012 a regional Sustainability Strategy.
As a result of this strategy development process, we have chosen to align our sustainability development goals with the internationally accepted Millennium Development Goals. The MDGs, as they are more commonly called, are comprehensive targets for reducing poverty and improving the health and well-being of communities. Importantly, these goals have been accepted by all African governments, and are a common, international framework for planning and measuring the benefits of social and economic progress. While the MDGs provide a starting point for community expectations and measuring performance, we must remember that community needs are local, and must be considered on a case-by-case basis.
The Mine Sustainability Strategy: Defined at the local level, aligned to corporate objectives
Transforming a company of over 60,000 employees, with some 15,000 employees in our Continental Africa Region where we have with eight operations across five countries, requires an operational model that can be understood and integrated across the enterprise. While the strategic direction comes from the corporate level, the action happens at the business unit level. Local staff need the flexibility to create solutions that work for their communities. AngloGold Ashanti’s sustainability approach, while coordinated at the corporate level, has its roots at the mine.
Real sustainability means demonstrating that mining benefits families, communities and the societies in which we operate. People need to see the unique value that AngloGold Ashanti brings to the table. At the same time, businesses need to be aware of areas where they have full responsibility for their actions. AngloGold Ashanti’s sustainability strategy incorporates both internal and external focus areas to provide a holistic view of AngloGold Ashanti’s role and responsibilities in terms of sustainability.
The internal focus is on issues where AngloGold Ashanti’s business units and mines have sole responsibility and accountability. A core element of the internal perspective is the AngloGold Ashanti Sustainable Development Strategy Framework which ensures compliance to all corporate policies as well as to mine-specific legal and other requirements.
The external focus is to create shared value at the community level. A core component here is the support to government to formulate MDG-based local development plans which contribute to accelerating progress towards achieving development goals, in particular the MDGs. In this external perspective, AngloGold Ashanti is a partner with other stakeholders, notably governments, to achieve shared development objectives. The plan includes information on the company’s role and contribution to making communities better off and will be measured against performance indicators such as the number and quality of external partnerships with local governments and community leaders, as well as actual social progress on the ground.
The outcome of the overall strategy is an Investment Framework which supports implementation of the MDG-based local development plans, and provides an opportunity for other public and private sector partners to invest in the long term development of communities.
Box 1: Siguiri Stakeholder Mapping Exercise
In January 2012, AGA conducted a stakeholder mapping and analysis with Siguiri Gold Mine (SAG) and its stakeholders. Included in this exercise were representatives from the local government and local NGOs. Through facilitated, candid discussions, a number of emerging themes were distilled, which are now being used by SAG in developing their Mine- Sustainability Strategy and MDG-based local development plans
1. The stakeholder landscape is complex and constantly evolving: There is a multitude of stakeholders with complex local and national power structures in Siguiri. Despite a current environment of relative calm, expected changes in local power dynamics could challenge SAG going forward.
Business as usual, when it comes to sustainability, is no longer enough. We have an opportunity to redefine sustainability and work in partnership with governments, local communities and other stakeholders, to transform social development in Africa and around the world. Engagement at this level will take time and effort. At AngloGold Ashanti, we have just started this journey. Achieving these ambitious objectives will require teamwork and dedication, not to mention a dash of creativity. We know that with perseverance and a resolve to work together with our partners in the region, we will achieve our vision to be the Leading Mining Company.
Laurent Coche is Senior Vice President Sustainability at Continental Africa, AngloGold Ashanti
This article was published in GREAT Insights Volume 1, Issue 5 (July 2012).