Victoria Contreras
Founder and Director General
Conecta Cultura
Alberto Moreno
Political Analysis Director
Conecta Cultura
View from the Top

Fostering Corporate Social Responsibility

Wed, 02/21/2018 - 15:53

Q: How does your company define international cooperation?

VC: Applied to the energy sector and its megaprojects, Conecta Cultura works within the spirit of cooperation of the post-1946 world, which saw the emergence of international organizations and international legal frameworks that fostered cooperation, such as the International Labor Organization’s C169-Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Convention. Our genesis resulted from the will to understand social phenomena and cultural analysis to create cooperation mechanisms. 

After the Energy Reform was published, the foreign companies that took interest in the market encountered major challenges regarding the social impact of their projects. This revitalized the provisions of the C169 Convention for territories targeted by projects where indigenous communities live. These communities demanded the right of consultation prior to the launch of a project in a free, fully informed and fair manner, elements that were not taken into account while drafting the legal framework of the reform. In 2014, our specialization in social license services was required by TransCanada for its El Encino – Topolobampo gas pipeline project. Our company built a dialogue between the Canadian group and the Raramuri communities, from translating the information from Spanish into their dialect to developing a social investment plan. 

Q: How is Mexico performing in terms of social responsibility?

VC: Mexico must transition from assistentialist social responsibility to engineering a 21st-century vision of social responsibility. This means an in-depth diagnosis of local communities’ needs to provide them with a useful and adequate response, reflected in the government’s policies and regulations. Ideally, participation models should be created to involve local communities in the decision-making process. Early community engagement should be considered standard practice for any project, starting from its business planning phase. Today, 57 energy projects are blocked because this basis was not properly established. Prior to the reform, social feasibility was exclusively in the hands of CFE and PEMEX. 
Now, it falls to private companies as a niche they are not naturally focused on. Conecta Cultura saw this gap as an opportunity to be a neutral adviser on Mexico’s social issues.

Q: How can social responsibility be strengthened by the rules and regulations of the reform?

VC: Post-reform, the first environmental study took place in 2015. This is a requirement by the Environment and Natural Resources Ministry (SEMARNAT). However, social impact studies were treated more as recommendations than actual obligations until 2016 by the Ministry of Energy. To address this issue in the short term we strongly suggest working closely with the Ministry of Energy’s General Directorate on Social Impact and Surface Occupation in defining and standardizing consultation protocols for local communities. This effort could be greatly assisted by drafting an Indigenous Consultation Law at the federal level. Also, cooperation and coordination between the private sector and the government is essential. Mexico must shift decisively toward corporate governance, building long-term relationships between the country’s companies and communities.

AM: There are a series of on-field issues that need to be addressed. One is definitely the lack of information. Regulation stipulates that companies are forbidden by the Ministry of Energy from informing local communities about a project prior to making investment commitments. These communities, by their inherent characteristics, fall to the mercy of particular political groups with a deeply embedded zerosum logic, that block or distort the information and render the process vulnerable to corruption. Social consultation processes must be strengthened to avoid potential conflicts. Mexico’s social institutions, such as the Culture Ministry and the National Commission for the Development of Indigenous Populations (CDI), should actively participate in the design of these regulatory modifications.