Posts Tagged ‘Corporate Social Responsibility’

Mar31

The Corruption of Keystone: Congressional Permits to Drill Don’t Change Public Opinion

This article has been reposted from Truth-Out.org. The article was originally published on March 27, 2015.
Copyright, Truthout.org. Reprinted with permission.

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) signs the Keystone XL Pipeline bill during a ceremony on Capitol Hill in Washington, February 13, 2015. The bill was sent to President Obama, who vetoed it. (Jabin Botsford/The New York Times).

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) signs the Keystone XL Pipeline bill during a ceremony on Capitol Hill in Washington, February 13, 2015. The bill was sent to President Obama, who vetoed it. (Jabin Botsford/The New York Times).

By Rebecca Adamson

When TransCanada Corporation announced its plans for a Keystone XL pipeline expansion project in 2008, the company projected capital costs to be $4.3 billion for the entire project. After 6 years of waiting for US executive approval, including countless congressional votes, a Nebraska Supreme Court case and a president who has yet to budge, TransCanada increased estimated capital investments for the pipeline another $2.5 billion. The reason? “Lengthy delays,” undoubtedly exacerbated by community protests and opposition from environmental and social interest groups.

One of the loudest proponents of pipeline opposition, and arguably the most vulnerable, are North America’s Indigenous Peoples. For extractive companies, indigenous lands are one and the same with their profit source – approximately 30 percent of current extractive production is located on indigenous lands, along with an approximated 60 percent of future reserves. For indigenous communities, the presence of corporations in indigenous territories, regardless of consent, is fraught with social costs – extractive projects often threaten indigenous cultural practices, sacred sites and subsistence livelihoods. Corporations must be held accountable for the losses they impose on indigenous assets.

And in some ways, they have been held accountable. Social responsibility has been on the corporate radar for over a decade now, thanks to NGOs, student movements, protests and the legal system holding corporations morally accountable for their actions.

One major missing link in demanding corporate accountability: the government. Surprisingly Congress, meant to be the biggest advocate of the American public, has transcended silence on the pipeline to promote active pursuit of exploration and drilling permits. Our entitled government has taken it upon itself to grant TransCanada a social license to operate, as though it were another pithy “ye” or “nay” vote interrupting their afternoon nap.

Congress cannot grant a social license for the Keystone XL pipeline – the only people who can grant a social license to operate is the American public, the local communities and stakeholders affected by the project. Moreover, Congressional permits shoved down the American publics’ throats won’t change their opinion of the pipeline. Congress needs to realize that a social license to operate, much like a congressional mandate to lead, comes from Main Street – not Wall Street.

There is no way to gloss this over as Congress acting “for the common good.”When governments make decisions without citizens’ consent or support, including those of indigenous peoples’, they hurt the businesses within their borders. A recent report from First Peoples Worldwide found that governments that failed to recognize Free Prior Informed Consent (FPIC) or respect indigenous rights hosted extractive projects at the highest risk of community protests, work stoppages and inevitable profit loss. This is becoming increasingly evident in Canada, Indonesia, Ecuador, Peru and other emerging resource economies.

In 2013, a consortium of Canadian leaders (including industry representatives) warned that Canada is “heading for a gridlock in energy development that will rob the country of future wealth unless it can solve vexing environmental and Aboriginal conflicts.” Indonesia has become saturated with violent resource conflicts, with more than 2,230 indigenous communities requesting investigations into violations of their land rights. Also in 2013, auctions for oil and gas concessions in Ecuador and Peru encountered both vehement opposition from indigenous peoples and “underwhelming” interest from companies – raising speculation that the indigenous protests influenced companies’ decisions.

It’s a simple formula to understand – when a government doesn’t listen to its people, protests happen. Protests around extractive projects cause work stoppages and overrun budgets for companies like TransCanada, which is spending an extra $2.5 billion on its “delayed,” and heavily protested, Keystone XL pipeline.

The Keystone XL pipeline debate is not about climate change, oil independence, or increased jobs – it’s about government corruption. A government that overruns its peoples’ lands by granting eminent domain to corporations is the same government that causes civil unrest, corruption, violence and therefore high risk for companies. Without a social license, TransCanada Corporation faces a future of continued protests, site closures and diminished shareholder ratings – ultimately amounting to profit loss. The American public’s opposition to the pipeline is going to keep costing TransCanada, regardless of whether or not Congress grants the necessary permits, or even if the State Department signs off on the project. When both governments and extractive industries lack a social license to operate, it’s a lose-lose game.

 

Rebecca Adamson is a Cherokee economist and the founder and president of First Peoples Worldwide. A leader, activist and ground-breaking Indigenous woman, she has dedicated nearly five decades to the Indigenous movement, both in the US and globally.

Mar05

Rape, Sex Trafficking, and the Bottom Line: Corporations’ Complicity in Violence Against Women

Rosa Eblira Coc Inh, one of the plaintiffs. (Photo by Roger LeMoyne, MacLeans)

Rosa Eblira Coc Inh, one of the plaintiffs. (Photo by Roger LeMoyne, MacLeans)

By Katie Cheney

On January 17, 2007, 9 men entered the temporary home of Rosa Elbira Coc Ich, a Mayan Q’eqchi woman in Guatemala. 12 days earlier, Rosa and her family had been forcibly evicted from their home – now, she faced a second eviction, as hundreds of policemen, military, and security workers entered the settlement. After pointing a gun to her head, these 9 officials – one by one – proceeded to rape Rosa. They followed suit with 10 more Mayan Q’eqchi’ women in the community.

Gender-based violence is considered a pandemic by the United Nations, as 35% of women worldwide have experienced physical or sexual violence. Women and girls are victims of violence at the hands of their partners, family members, communities, and governments – and now, increasingly, the private sector.

The officials that entered Rosa’s settlement allegedly did so based on a land dispute, between the Fenix mine, then owned by Skye Resources, and the Q’eqchi’ Mayan community of El Estor, Guatemala. The community claims the land on which the mine sits as their Indigenous territory, and has argued that the land concession was granted without the community’s consultation or consent. Skye Resources allegedly hired security officers to “guard” the mine against the local community – the same security officers that carried out the evictions and rapes in El Estor In 2007.

On March 28, 2011, the 11 Q’eqchi rape survivors filed a lawsuit in Ontario’s Superior Court against Hudbay Minerals, which acquired Skye Resources in 2008. It is the first time a Canadian court is hearing a case against a Canadian mining company for overseas human rights abuses. The company is also facing lawsuits from the El Estor community for shootings in 2009 that left one man dead and another paralyzed, investigations into which are ongoing in Guatemala. Hudbay Minerals has denied all allegations against them, saying they are “without merit”, and has vowed to “vigorously defend itself” against the allegations of rape. The company’s stance on its former operations in Guatemala can be accessed on its website.

Rape: A Weapon of Corporate Warfare

In 2010, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon invited CEO’s and Corporate Executives the world over to join in the fight to end violence against women and girls – but what about corporations that are perpetrating, and at the very least permitting, violence against women?

Over the past decade, more and more cases of corporations complicit in violence against women have surfaced across the globe, particularly in the extractive industry. Anvil Mining in the Democratic Republic of Congo provided transportation (planes and vehicles) to the Congolese Armed Forces as they raped and tortured civilians near Anvil’s Dikulushi copper mine. Unocal Oil Corporation was sued for permitting (and arguably encouraging) rape, slave labor, murder, and forced displacement during the constructing of their gas pipeline in Burma. Royal Dutch Shell Oil is infamous for suppressing protests against their operations in Nigeria in the early 1990s, during which the military systematically targeted Ogoni villages, murdering, looting, and raping Ogoni women – on behalf of Shell’s operations.

An overwhelming number of lawsuits against extractive corporations that cite human rights abuses include rape and sexual assault of women. Rape has been used as a weapon of war for centuries, and was deemed a war crime in 1998 as a result of the Rwandan genocide. According to UNICEF, “Sexual violation of women erodes the fabric of a community in a way that few weapons can. Rape’s damage can be devastating because of the strong communal reaction to the violation and pain stamped on entire families. The harm inflicted in such cases on a woman by a rapist is an attack on her family and culture, as in many societies women are viewed as repositories of a community’s cultural and spiritual values.” Albeit on a smaller scale, corporations are waging wars against communities, and using sexual violence as a weapon.

 

Bakken: the Sex Trafficking Boom

While many of these cases happen internationally, extractive corporations have not excluded the United States from this trend of gender-based human rights abuses. The Bakken oil formation in North Dakota has boomed – over the past five years, it has increased daily production of oil from 200,000 barrels to 1.1 million barrels, becoming the second most oil-productive state in the country. Thousands of highly-paid workers have flocked to the region, settling in “man camps” that encroach upon the Native American Three Affiliated Tribes of the Fort Berthold Reservation. The combined influx of cash and oil workers has sparked a considerable crime wave – crime has tripled on the reservation in the past 2 years, including murders, aggravated assaults, rapes, and robberies – 90% of which are drug related. Most alarmingly, a burgeoning illegal sex trade in the region has put Native American women hugely at risk to sex trafficking.

The trafficking of Native American women started in the colonial era, and has not abated – many major sex trafficking centers in North America are in cities in proximity to First Nations reserves, Indian Reservations, and Alaskan Native communities. Of female trafficking victims in the U.S., Native American women are disproportionately over-represented – in Anchorage, 33% of the women arrested for prostitution were Alaska Native, yet Alaska Natives make up only 7.9% of the population. In Canada, researchers have found that 90% of children in the sex trade were Native, and First Nations women and youth represent between 70 and 90% of the visible sex trade in areas where the Aboriginal population is less than 10%.

Reports of Native American women and girls being trafficked to the Bakken has put the Three Affiliated Tribes community on high alert – according to Sadie Bird, director of the Fort Berthold Coalition Against Violence, “We’re in crisis mode, all the time, trying to figure out…these new crises that are coming to us that we never thought we’d have to worry about. No one was prepared for any of this.” While trafficking has been a concern among Native populations in Minnesota and North Dakota for a long time, what’s unique about the spike in sex trafficking in the Bakken is its source of fuel – the oil workers.

How have companies operating in the Bakken responded to this trend? They haven’t. Companies including Apache, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil, and Hess have taken zero responsibility for their workers’ collusion in the growing sex trade, increased drug violence, and general crime wave in Fort Berthold over the past two years, let alone the rest of the Bakken region.

Sadie Young Bird, the director of the Ft. Berthold Coalition of Domestic Violence, listens during a breakout session during the 2014 statewide summit on human trafficking put on by North Dakota FUSE at the Bismarck Civic Center in Bismarck, N.D. on Thursday, November 13, 2014. photo credit: Carrie Snyder / The Forum]

Sadie Young Bird, the director of the Ft. Berthold Coalition of Domestic Violence, listens during a breakout session during the 2014 statewide summit on human trafficking put on by North Dakota FUSE at the Bismarck Civic Center in Bismarck, N.D. on Thursday, November 13, 2014. photo credit: Carrie Snyder / The Forum]

 

Zero Corporate Social Responsibility

There is no indication that companies are having any substantive conversations about the impacts of their operations in the Bakken region. This trend of neglecting social risks, as companies in the Bakken have done repeatedly, has permeated corporate interactions with the communities they impact across the globe.

In the example of the Hudbay Minerals case in Guatemala, the company could have avoided its current legal challenges, had it given stronger attention to the social risks involved with acquiring Skye Resources. Despite making a number of community investments (link), the company remains exposed to financial, legal, and reputational risks related to the actions of its predecessor in the concession.

Hudbay is not the only one with poor social risk management. First Peoples Worldwide’s Indigenous Rights Risk Report found that only 8% of U.S. oil, gas, and mining companies have operating policies that address human rights or community relations. According to the report, virtually all communities that host or are proximate to extractive projects are unprotected from the project’s potential negative impacts – as we’ve seen, given case after case of corporate abuses against women.

 

The Price of Cooperation

Corporations can’t get much worse than perpetrating violence against women – except when they attempt to bribe their victims to keep quiet. Barrick Gold’s Porgera gold mine has produced more than 16 million ounces of gold since 1990, an amount equivalent to about US$20 billion today. To protect the mine, Barrick employed a private security force of nearly 450 personnel, who also monitor the mine’s waste dumps. Hundreds of local people scour the waste dumps daily in search of minute traces of gold, at the risk of arrest by the company’s security officers.

At least 170 women have allegedly been raped at the Porgera mine as of 2013, by those same security officers employed by Barrick Gold. A report from Human Rights Watch recounts horrifying stories of gang rape and physical abuse, in the name of “protecting” the waste dumps from illegal mining. Many women reported that after they were arrested, they were given a choice between gang rape or going to prison and paying fines. Several were raped regardless of their choice to go to prison.

It allegedly took Barrick Gold 5 years to acknowledge the rapes. In 2013, the company set up a grievance process at the mine site to receive complaints from the rape victims – allegedly forcing women to return to the site of their attack. In Barrick Gold’s remediation strategy, if womens’ reports of rape were validated by the company’s complaints process, they qualified to receive a benefits package – on the condition that “the claimant agrees that she will not pursue or participate in any legal action against [Barrick Gold or its subsidiaries] in or outside of [Papua New Guinea].” Barrick Gold’s conditional remediation package, including items such as access to counseling and micro-credit, is an appallingly inhuman response to the rape of 170 women.

Not surprisingly, a chillingly similar case occurred at Barrick Gold’s North Mara mine in Tanzania, where police and security guards sexually assaulted 14 women, originally arrested for also scouring waste dumps for tiny bits of gold. This is in addition to allegations that security police at the North Mara mine killed six local villagers and injured many more.

Barrick Gold has repeatedly made systemic failures in both recognizing and addressing the social risks of their mining operations, and at this point, hundreds of people have faced sexual assault and violence because of it.

 

Corporate Warfare

Imagine if we were to add Barrick’s number of rape victims to those attributed to Hudbay Minerals, Shell, Anvil Mining, and Unocal Oil. Then, we accounted for every sex trafficking victim in the Bakken, whose exploitation was supported by various extractive corporations’ employees. To be thorough, we add in the number of murder, torture, and assault victims linked to corporate abuses. War has traditionally been defined as conflict between political entities – yet if we consider corporations collectively, is their accumulation of victims and use of force not increasingly similar to warfare?

Account after account of gender-based violence is adding up to a war – waged by corporations, against women. Their weapon of choice: rape, sex trafficking, and violence, all for the sake of the bottom line.

 

Jan28

The Importance of Inclusiveness

Screen Shot 2015-01-21 at 4.25.45 PM

Following fines and delays at its Pascua-Lama project in Chile, Barrick Gold signed a Memorandum of Agreement (MoU) with twelve Diaguita communities and three Diaguita associations that provides “a six-month period in which mining details will be divulged to the communities for discussion.”

The MoU does not indicate community support for the project, but provides a formalized conduit for dialogue between parties that did not appear to be in place before. The MoU is open to Diaguita communities and associations with recognized status. However, one of the project’s most vocal opponents – the Huascoaltinos – are unrecognized, and thus excluded from the agreement. Such exclusiveness could mitigate the company’s chances of obtaining broad community support. According to Barrick, the Huascoaltinos are “not among the 22 recognized Indigenous Diaguita communities in Huasco province because they are organized as an Agricultural Community under Chilean legislation…While members of this community have objected to the MoU and are opposed to the Pascua-Lama project, Barrick remains open to engagement with the Huascoaltinos on issues of concern to them.”

Sources: Mint Press News

This post is excerpted from First Peoples Worldwide’s Corporate Monitor, a monthly report on key trends affecting companies interacting with Indigenous Peoples. To sign up for monthly e-mail updates, click here.

Jan16

At A Loss: The Unmentioned Social Risks of Keystone XL Approval

Ignoring public opposition to the Keystone XL Pipeline is a lose-lose for the US Government and TransCanada Corporation

[photo credit: IVN.us]

[photo credit: IVN.us]

Washington, DC – Protests of the Keystone XL Pipeline over the past two years have sent a clear message to the U.S. Government – a message that Congress persistently ignored as pro-pipeline legislation progressed toward the White House this week. By voting for the Pipeline, Congress is creating a volatile business environment for extractive companies, which ultimately has and will cause profit loss for corporations like TransCanada. Indeed, TransCanada Corporation has already increased estimated capital investments for the Pipeline by $2.5 billion since 2008 due to “lengthy delays”, many of which were caused by community protests and opposition from environmental groups. A recent study by First Peoples Worldwide found that governments that ignore public concerns over resource extraction (the U.S. not excluded) foster community opposition and protests, which in turn increase site closures, production costs, and damaged reputations. The Keystone XL Pipeline is a lose-lose for communities, corporations, and the U.S. government.

Arguments for the Keystone XL Pipeline claim that it will create jobs, increase domestic oil supply and lower gas prices. President Obama’s biggest argument against the Pipeline is the opposite: “Understand what this project is: It is providing the ability of Canada to pump their oil, send it through our land down to the Gulf where it will be sold everywhere else. It doesn’t have an impact on U.S. gas prices.”

However, congressional approval for the Pipeline is a moot point as long as TransCanada Corporation lacks a social license to operate, or the acceptance of the project by local communities and affected stakeholders. Without a social license, TransCanada Corporation faces a future of continued protests, site closures, and diminished shareholder ratings – ultimately amounting to profit loss. Ernst and Young rate the “social license to operate” as one of the top three business risks to the extractive industry sector, citing that “the frequency and number of projects being delayed or stopped due to community and environmental activists continues to rise.”

What’s more, the recently published Indigenous Rights Risk Report shows that extractive companies couldn’t care less about the communities their projects affect – only 6% of publicly-held US oil, gas and mining companies utilize adequate risk management tools when working with communities. Moreover, only 8% of extractive companies implement any policy that remotely addresses community relations or human rights. At this rate, TransCanada has two options: either expect profit loss due to community opposition, or adjust their community engagement policies.

As long as protests continue, a social license to operate won’t materialize – and there is no end in sight for community opposition to this project. Recently, the Sioux tribe of South Dakota vowed to close their reservation’s borders, through which the Pipeline is set to run, if construction is approved. Right before the Senate vote on November 18, environmental activists installed an inflatable pipeline in Senator Mary Landrieu’s yard, one of the most outspoken proponents for the Pipeline. The First Nations-led Idle No More movement in Canada has been protesting the Pipeline north of the border for nearly two years. Those that would be directly affected by construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline, including landowners and ranchers, are some of its strongest opponents – and the most systematically ignored by both Congress and TransCanada.

TransCanada severely underestimated social costs on the front end of the project, taking a reactive rather than proactive approach to community opposition – which has resulted in a $2.5 billion dollar loss before the project has even started.

At the same time, Congress’ pro-Pipeline votes have been little help – governments that ignore public concerns over resource extraction and suppress democratic systems for participation in resource decisions create a dead-end for extractive companies, whether operating in Canada, Nigeria, or the United States. Bad governance is bad for business – governments and corporations alike must start respecting communities and their right to Free, Prior, and Informed Consent (FPIC) when working with extractive industries.

For media inquiries, contact Katie Cheney at communications@firstpeoples.org

Jan13

Canada Launches CSR Strategy

The Canadian government is launching a CSR strategy to enhance the reputation and viability of Canadian companies doing business around the world. The Canadian Minister of International Trade is appointing a CSR counsellor, and has promised to give its ombudsman “some teeth by insisting companies cooperate with the office or lose the support of the government.” The minister asserts that social and environmental responsibility is integral to the “Canada brand” and warns “if you don’t play ball by doing business the Canadian way, then we won’t go to bat for you.”

This is probably a response to the increasingly poor reputation of Canadian companies overseas, particularly in the mining sector. A recent report by the Council on Hemispheric Affairs alleges that “mining operations by Canadian firms across nine Latin American countries are causing serious environmental impacts…as well as forcibly displacing people, dividing and impoverishing communities, making false promises about economic benefits, endangering people’s health, and fraudulently acquiring property. Some who protest such projects have been killed or seriously wounded…others persecuted, threatened or accused of being terrorists.”

Sources: Globe and Mail, The Guardian

This post is excerpted from First Peoples Worldwide’s Corporate Monitor, a monthly report on key trends affecting companies interacting with Indigenous Peoples. To sign up for monthly e-mail updates, click here.

Dec19

Indigenous Rights Risk Report Quantifies Social Risks of Extractive Companies

Reposted from Cultural Survival, originally published December 15, 2014

By Madeline McGill

Further complications between extraction industries and Indigenous Peoples have been unveiled in a new report published by First Peoples Worldwide. The report, The Indigenous Rights Risk Report: How Violating Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Increases Industry Risks, found that U.S. extractive companies expose shareholders to tangible risks in neglecting the rights of the Nation’s Indigenous.

[photo credit: Cultural Survival]

[photo credit: Cultural Survival]

First Peoples’ Indigenous Rights Risk Report analyzes 370 oil, gas and mining sites on or near Indigenous land operated by 52 U.S.-based companies. The results are eye opening. 92% of these sites pose a medium to high risk to shareholders and investors. Yet only 5 companies have Indigenous Peoples policies to guide the company for how to positively engage and work with Indigenous Peoples. Co-written by Rebecca Adamson and Nick Pelosi, the report quantifies many of the social risks posed by extractive industries. Until now, such grievances have been difficult to prove, which has made it difficult to evaluate social risks.

“The push back on evaluating social risks, or at least as far as the conventional wisdom goes, is that there are no quantitative metrics,” said Rebecca Adamson, founder of First Peoples Worldwide and author of the report.  “Meaning, social risks are considered to be ‘intangibles’ a word the market uses to ignore whatever it does not want to have to deal with, such as the environment, is intangible. However, like the environment, we are seeing much more public pressure for corporations to be responsible for their footprints: planet and society. The funny thing about ‘intangibles’ is how much attention they are getting in the market nowadays.”

Now that attention is being granted to some of these issues, the next step is to incentivize companies to implement policy that recognizes these risks.

“Indigenous Peoples are securing unprecedented recognition of their rights from governments,” the report states. “But these impressive legal gains are matched with chronic gaps in implementation, especially as they relate to resource extraction.”

One of these gaps is the failure of many extraction companies to formally observe the land and human rights of Indigenous people. Adamson believes that these injustices can be addressed by holding companies accountable not only morally, but also economically.

“If you have bad credit you pay a higher interest rate,” Adamson said. “This is how the market works. So the idea behind the Risk Report is to quantify the risk companies encounter when they violate free prior informed consent and tie it to their cost of capital. That way a company that consistently violates Indigenous Rights will be rated riskier than one that upholds our rights, and therefore it will have to pay higher financing costs.”

This, she believes, will incentivize companies to take action in a way that local, national, and international governmental bodies have not been able to successfully achieve. The Indigenous Rights Risk Report hopefully will speak to profit-based companies in a language they more readily comprehend: their market value.

“I don’t have much faith in either the national or international political leadership,” said Adamson, “many of the countries are not implementing UNDRIP, courts are slow to rule and often rulings get ignored. The activists are raising awareness and public pressure is mounting. Social media has helped catapult the issue onto national and international attention but the end game for corporations is still about keeping your stock price up and there is no incentive to change yet.  No one strategy will solve it we have to continue to build on the legal successes, look for gaps and new strategies, and get more resources flowing directly to our communities. However, using market mechanisms is a crucial void this Report intends to fill.”

Currently, the report states, action is taken to address these social risks if and only if tangible negative consequences arise. This fire-alarm method of regulation, the report finds, is beneficial to neither party.

“These informational loopholes limit the financial sector’s ability to comprehensively manage social risks…” the report states. “In the absence of market incentives for proactively addressing social risks, companies are not prompted to do so until things go wrong, and social risks become social costs.”

The Indigenous Rights Risk Report serves to evaluate these risks both quantitatively and with respect to the most pressing human rights issues affecting Indigenous people.

Looking at 52 oil, gas, and mining companies listed on the Russell 1000 Index (a stock market index that represents the 1,000 largest publicly-held companies in the US), First Peoples Worldwide identified those which overlapped with Indigenous Peoples. From there, they used five risk indicators (Country Risk, Reputation Risk, Community Risk, Legal Risk, and Risk Management) to rate each company on a scale of low to high risk, indicated through numbers 1 through 5.

The findings, as expected, were not positive. 330 projects were assessed for risks associated with operating country, companies’ reputation, the engaged Indigenous community, legal action, and risk management. 35% of those projects had high-risk exposure, and 54% had medium-risk exposure.

The report found that a majority of companies were not exhibiting adequate efforts to establish positive relationships with Indigenous communities. 92% of companies surveyed did not address community relations or human rights at the board level in any formal capacity.

Many found to be at high levels of risk were both small and large companies alike. Companies such as Alpha Natural Resources and Southwestern Energy were found with risk scores of 100%. Companies with risk scores of 50% included names such as Chevron Corporation and Murphy Oil.

Adamson hopes that the report will garner the attention of some of these companies, who rely on intangible assets such as intellectual property, human and social capital, reputation and goodwill, and even risk management accounting for 80% in the valuation assessment of their stock.

It is the purpose of the report, Adamson explains, to link corporate accountability to Indigenous social costs such as overburdened roads and utilities, increased crime, housing shortages, and polluted waters.

“In the case of Indigenous social concerns there will be cultural practices, sacred sites, subsistence livelihoods — all crucial elements of the social costs we face when corporations come into our territories with or without our consent. By identifying and quantifying these impacts Indigenous Peoples are better informed to make decisions and set development agendas on their own terms. And corporations are better equipped to listen to those terms.”

However, the news is not all bad. There are corporations taking steps towards social awareness. Conoco Philips, Exxon Mobil, Freeport-McMoRan, and Newport Mining all had board committees with community relations or human rights in their mandates. Furthermore, Exxon Mobil has an active and independent external body to advise and evaluate its community relations or human rights performance. While larger companies such as Exxon may be more incentivized for these actions to avoid negative media exposure, they are a step in the right direction.

Adamson believes that with the unprecedented findings of the report and a more unified front, real change could be seen in the relationship between Indigenous people and extractive industries.

“Indigenous Peoples have the potential to set a major portion of the extractive industries agenda but we have to be so much more united and organized,” Adamson said. “The data we collected for the Risk Report was sometimes erratic and had gaps so we were unable to calculate what the total production and future reserves were for Indigenous lands. However, there was a pattern that ran close to 30 % of current production was coming from Indigenous lands and up to 60% of the future reserves were on Indigenous lands. This is HUGE. If we were more united we could harness the market forces and make sure it is no longer business as usual. United we could be sure we are all heard in the corporate boardroom whether the answer is NO to development or whether it is YES. Indigenous Peoples would be the ones determining the relationship they want to have with corporations.”

Read the Indigenous Rights Risks Report here.

 

Cultural Survival helps Indigenous Peoples around the world defend their lands, languages, and cultures as they deal with issues like the one you’ve just read about.

Dec16

The Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative: An Opportunity for Indigenous Resource Rights

By Nick Pelosi

Research by the Property and Environment Research Center shows that Native American reservations contain “30% of the coal reserves west of the Mississippi, 50% of potential uranium reserves, and 20% of known oil and gas reserves.” The Council of Energy Resource Tribes estimates the value of these resources at nearly $1.5 trillion. Although a number of tribes are embracing resource extraction as a pathway to economic prosperity, Native Americans and Alaska Natives remain the most impoverished demographic in the country, indicating that federal policies may not be allocating dollars generated from tribal resources as equitably as they should be. Furthermore, debates surrounding what, where, and how much to extract can elicit rifts within communities. In some cases, these problems are exacerbated by minimal transparency requirements for mineral leases on tribal lands.

The Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), an international standard for openness around the management of natural resource revenues, presents opportunities for Native Americans, Alaska Natives, and other Indigenous Peoples to influence emerging transparency laws and norms in ways that benefit their communities, at the local, national, and international levels. Unfortunately, these opportunities are not being realized to their fullest potential due to limited Indigenous participation. Indigenous Peoples’ disproportionate suffering from the negative impacts of resource extraction is perpetuated by their chronic invisibility in movements for corporate accountability and financial reform.

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EITI requires resource companies to disclose revenues paid to governments, and governments to disclose revenues received from resource companies. The two data sets are independently reviewed, and released to the public. To date, 31 countries have achieved EITI compliance, and another 17 are considered EITI candidates. Each country creates its own EITI implementation process adapted to its specific national context.

In September 2011, the US announced intentions to become EITI compliant, and established a Multi Stakeholder Group (MSG) comprised of government, industry, and civil society representatives, to oversee the implementation process, define the reporting scope, and prepare an application for EITI candidacy. The application was submitted to the international EITI board in December 2013, and approved in March 2014.

The MSG is developing a tribal opt-in procedure that will enable tribes to institute voluntary USEITI reporting on revenues received from resource companies. However, this process has been hampered by a lack of tribal representation on the MSG. Initially, Rebecca Adamson (First Peoples Worldwide’s Founder and President) was the only Native American representing civil society, and the three spots allocated for tribal governments were vacant. A representative from the Wind River Reservation recently filled one of those spots, but the others remain unoccupied, despite an open call for nominations.

This is costing Native Americans and Alaska Natives opportunities to have their voices heard in a critical policymaking forum, and suggests that the tribal opt in procedure, once developed, will meet little interest from tribal governments. This would cause the benefits of transparency to go unrealized by Native American and Alaska Native communities, while exempting vast portions of resource revenues from the disclosure requirements being formulated under the USEITI framework.

It is true that tribes must be permitted to enter agreements with reasonable provisions for protective confidentiality. Tribal leaders have expressed legitimate concerns that data collected on natural resource revenues could be used against their communities. In Canada, recent transparency legislation met criticism from Aboriginals who believe the government will justify reduced funding for Aboriginal programs and services based on revenues coming from the private sector. Hayden King, Director of the Centre for Indigenous Governance at Ryerson University, writes that “because of the likely superficial media reporting we can expect many to run with the popular ‘corrupt chief’ narrative to shape their desired policy changes. Many so-called experts on First Nations peoples in the media and politics will generalize to indict all leaders as taxpayer leeches…[and] to call for the erosion of treaties, end of ‘special’ Indian status, privatization of reserves, etc.”

At the same time, the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) requires resource projects to obtain Free, Prior, and Informed Consent (FPIC) from Indigenous Peoples, also defined as “broad community support.” When determining whether to give or withhold consent, community members must have the information they need to gauge whether the economic advantages of resource extraction sufficiently offset the social and environmental costs. As national and tribal governments grapple with the complexities of FPIC implementation, transparency provides a crucial conduit for rallying community consensus around development activities that impact them, and making the principles of UNDRIP a reality.

Transparency must be addressed in ways that balance the tensions between proprietary discretion and public interests, and an essential first step is bringing more tribal voices into the conversation through representation on the MSG. Improved outreach to Native American and Alaska Native communities is key to making this happen. To date, the Bureau of Indian Affairs’ communications about USEITI have embodied its “government to government” relationship with tribes, and are thus siloed from many tribal institutions, community organizations, and individuals that stand to catalyze action on the issue.

Additionally, Indigenous Peoples would benefit from representation on the international EITI board, which currently has no Indigenous members, as well as in national EITI implementation processes in their respective countries. For the international EITI board, each constituency (government, industry, and civil society) organizes its own selection of representatives, with the next call for nominations opening in 2016. If employed the right way, improved transparency would enable Indigenous Peoples to restrict the ability of governments and companies to extract their resources without giving them a fair share of the profits, and reverse longstanding patterns of exploitation that have come to characterize development of their lands.

Nov26

RepRisk Reports on Indigenous Peoples

In September 2014, RepRisk published a report on “the environmental, social, and governance (ESG) risks businesses face in their encounters with Indigenous communities.” The report identified the sectors and countries that are most exposed to these risks, based on the RepRisk Index, which is a “quantitative risk measure that captures criticism and quantifies risk exposure related to ESG issues. It is based on the number and frequency of the risk incidents captured by RepRisk, the severity and novelty of the criticism or incident, as well as the source of the news.” RepRisk identified the most exposed sectors as food and beverage, forestry, mining, oil and gas, and utilities, and the most exposed countries as Ecuador, India, Indonesia, Peru, and the Philippines. Additionally, the report includes six case studies that “analyze the effects of hydropower in Brazil, tar sands in Canada, forestry in the Democratic Republic of Congo, mining in Guatemala, palm oil in Indonesia, and transgenic crop production in Paraguay.”

Sources: RepRisk

This post is excerpted from First Peoples Worldwide’s Corporate Monitor, a monthly report on key trends affecting companies interacting with Indigenous Peoples. To sign up for monthly e-mail updates, click here.

Nov17

First Equitable Origin Certification in Colombia

In September 2014, Equitable Origin (EO) announced its first certification of socially and environmentally responsible oil at Pacific Rubiales’ Quifa and Rubiales sites in Colombia. The certified sites “collectively produce approximately 250,000 barrels of oil per day, 25 percent of Colombia’s national total. Pacific Rubiales is the first operator to have sites certified to the EO100™ Standard, a fully integrated certification and certificate trading system designed to incentivize and assess the sustainability performance of oil and gas producers.”

The EO100™ Standard contains specific provisions for Indigenous Peoples’ rights, including Free, Prior, and Informed Consent, and was informed by nearly 70 public consultations and community workshops throughout the Amazon region, reaching approximately 1,000 Indigenous Peoples. EO is currently seeking feedback on the EO100™ Standard to help them ensure it “reflects current industry best practices and stakeholder expectations.” Their online consultation tool is available for anyone to submit comments until December 5, 2014. A second public consultation will be held next year.

Sources: Equitable Origin

This post is excerpted from First Peoples Worldwide’s Corporate Monitor, a monthly report on key trends affecting companies interacting with Indigenous Peoples. To sign up for monthly e-mail updates, click here.

Sep24

Impacting Corporate Policy: First Peoples Worldwide calls on Indigenous People to Submit Comments to Reporting Standards for Businesses

The most recent session of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII) in May 2012 featured a panel, sponsored by First Peoples Worldwide, on setting standards for multinational corporations operating on or near Indigenous territories.

The increasing attention to Indigenous concerns in the public sector has prompted the private sector to take steps to address these issues.  The Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), a non-profit organization that promotes economic, environmental, and social sustainability, has released a draft of its updated reporting Guidelines, which define reporting standards for businesses. The Guidelines include Indigenous rights as a subset of human rights.  They also highlight the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, ILO Conventions 107 and 169, and the right of Free, Prior, and Informed Consent as useful instruments in the assessment of Indigenous rights.

As Indigenous peoples establish a legal framework for corporations through the UNPFII and other inter-governmental bodies, GRI’s Guidelines present an alternative private sector mechanism through which they can assert their rights.  GRI is one of the most influential organizations reporting the environmental and social impacts of business activity, and is used by over 4,000 corporations and organizations in over 60 countries worldwide.

The Guidelines are available for public comment between June 25th and September 25th 2012.  First Peoples Worldwide is calling upon Indigenous peoples to submit comments and feedback on the Guidelines by the September 25th deadline to maximize their input.  Feedback can be e-mailed to npelosi@firstpeoples.org, where it will be submitted by First Peoples Worldwide to GRI.  Feedback can also be provided directly by visiting http://consultation.globalreporting.org/login and creating a login and password.

The Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) is a non-profit organization that promotes economic sustainability. It produces one of the world's most prevalent standards for sustainability reporting - also known as ecological footprint reporting, Environmental So