Stepping Out and Stepping Up
/October 19, 2017
Are the costs of our global economy greater than its benefits? The members of the business and sustainable development commission have recently released a working paper encouraging business leaders to “strike out in a new direction and embrace a more sustainable and inclusive model” that is not only low carbon and environmentally sustainable but turns poverty, inequality and lack of financial access into new market opportunities.
If business leaders were to step out of their comfort zones to address such complex challenges then a coordinated effort between government, civil society and business is necessary.
In Myanmar, the extractive industry is increasingly perceived as evil, ruthless, and inconsiderate. These perceptions are not entirely wrong. There are many companies infested with corruption that have been involved with land-grabbing, displacing communities, polluting rivers, etc. But times are slowly changing and the government sees the need for the enforcement of laws, inclusion of communities, implementation of environmental impact assessments and more.
The time for businesses to step out and step up has arrived. If Myanmar is going to create an attractive economy that is beneficial for all, then businesses have to take the lead. No more ‘CSR Programs’ that provide instant gratification without the long-term impact and benefits. There are companies here that have changed their perspective or at least in the process of changing and trying to create an approach that is responsible, inclusive, and provides a return on capital.
A model in particular that I think is unique is MPRL’s approach to operational grievance mechanisms. Leveraging the culture and environmental context of the country the mechanism was designed to respond to complaints, promote respect and build trust between three key stakeholders: communities, government partners, and the business.
Primarily managed by community-based volunteers MPRL were one of the first companies in the country to establish a grievance mechanism that required the support of communities and government in order to work. In addition, the first to assess the implementation and awareness of the barriers to the application of the mechanism.
In my opinion, this mechanism has been effective because it leverages key community structures and promotes decision making from community based volunteers and government partners. It is an inclusive approach to building a partnership that is used across all operation activities. This multi-stakeholder approach has improved the relationship dynamic between the operator of Mann field, an onshore asset, government partners, and project affected communities surrounding the field.
The model was cited by The Myanmar Center of Responsible Business (MCRB) and used to encourage the mining and construction industry to adopt a similar approach. In an article written by Vicky Bowman, Director of MCRB, for the Institute for Human Rights and Business, she stated that the mechanism is a UNGP compatible local model that can be used to inspire others.
A friend reminded me of the importance of finding small victories when we are dealing with sustainability and change leadership. We can’t enforce an idea or concept but we can find what has succeeded and failed and learn from these experiences. This operational grievance mechanism is one example of a small victory that highlights the influences businesses can have.
For more information on MPRL’s operational grievance mechanism please visit: http://www.mprlexp.com
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