José González
Commercial Director

Tailored Software Offers Precise CSR Tracking,

Wed, 10/21/2015 - 16:27

According to a joint study by Queensland University, Harvard Kennedy School, University of Manchester, and the Peruvian Center for Social Studies, community conflicts with mining companies can incur costs of up to US$20 million per week. To prevent these discordances from escalating, Borealis, a CSR systems developer and solutions provider, has developed a tool to store and manage a large database of operative information related to environmental performance and compliance. The Borealis software can produce notifications of accidents, changes to the local supply chain, and complaints, among other areas. “This is what communities around the mine care about. Our system allows companies to follow up on these areas to avoid conflicts and mitigate risks,” states José González, Commercial Director of Borealis Mexico.

The Borealis software synchronizes information instantly, so that it may be accessed by respective executives around the world. “The software is made for day-to-day applications and is designed to provide daily analytical reports based on the information provided. An executive at the corporate office may then access information about an incident with a community, for example, without having to wait from a report from somebody else,” González explains. Taking into consideration that every mining project entails a different operator, a range of infrastructure, and varying scale, CSR systems must be tailored to the needs of the operation and of the community. According to González, “Borealis is able to personalize its system to the characteristics of each project, rather than needing to adapt the project to the system.” Not only can the software help mining operations to avoid conflicts, it can also help companies track their CSR expenditures. This ensures that investments made in community development programs and environmental compliance result in real benefits for the community and the surrounding area. Furthermore, Borealis offers software operation training for the mine employees, training on CSR in general, and it helps companies to identify the needs of the communities. “We help to create sustainable relationships with communities. Our work on the field facilitates land access and helps to promote local talent. By working with communities we can provide mining sites with the trained local work force that they need to ensure the success of their operations,” says González. In his experience, mining companies in Mexico have been reluctant to adopt a CSR system into their operations. “What we have learned during Borealis’ time in Mexico is that there are large corporations that release an annual sustainability report but do not necessarily have a sustainability system,” shares González. “One of our challenges is to overcome antiquated paradigms.” With this in mind, it should come as no surprise that there are a total of 32 conflicts between communities, workers, and mining companies in 18 of the 32 Mexican federal entities. These are mostly concentrated in the states of Oaxaca, Sonora, San Luis Potosi, Baja California, Chiapas, and Guerrero. Conflicts with communities often arise from inefficient communication between mining companies and the communities, unsustainable agreements, environmental and social negligence, and breaches of international human rights. “Convincing mining companies of the benefits of CSR is no easy task when budget cuts are programmed across the entire mining supply chain,” confirms González. “As investments are decreasing in mining operations, companies are reluctant to invest in CSR. We try to show them that now is not the time to cut back on CSR, but rather to invest in it, as it will soon be a prerequisite for all those interested in doing business in Mexico.”

According to González, the driving force for CSR investment needs to come from norms and regulations, as well as from the companies themselves. As stricter regulatory frameworks from other mining countries reach Mexico, and companies and communities continue pressuring miners to go beyond the basic requirements of the law to obtain a social license to operate, CSR is destined to become more important in the Mexican mining industry. “Many companies have started to realize that spending on preventive community programs is not a cost, but rather an investment. If a mine is shut for a week due to issues with communities, this could cost the company more than to accommodate 2-3% of its budget for CSR solutions,” he says. “CSR should be seen as more than just a budget though; it is a requirement for longterm, sustainable mining,” says González, who believes that the trend in the mining industry is towards sustainable development. This is why Borealis is aiming to grow in the sector in the years to come. “The new operational rules regarding sustainability are changing, and after five years of being present in Mexico, we are witnessing that this is the best moment to be in the industry. Reforms and new regulations are now enabling companies such as Borealis to enter into the mining market,” expresses González. While the company’s CSR solutions have already been implemented by major players in the mining industry in other parts of the world, the company’s success in Mexico will depend on the acceptance of CSR and environmental compliance by the country’s resident mining companies.