By Peter Sinclair
Chief Sustainability Officer
Partnership is a term you hear a lot these days. Our sustainability vision was developed to articulate what partnership means for us as a company. Our vision is to partner with host governments and communities to turn their natural resources into sustainable benefits and mutual prosperity.
This vision challenges the traditional notion of mining as purely an “extractive” industry, one associated with removing wealth from the ground and leaving little, if anything, in its wake. Or more alarmingly, leaving the environment and the community worse off.
We see it differently. From our experience, we know mining is an opportunity to transform non-productive resources into a catalyst for economic and social development. We do this in partnership with governments, communities and NGOs in the areas of education, healthcare, empowering women, and helping incubate small businesses. And we want to make sure that the benefits that come from these programs — better access to essential services, new skills, more sustainable livelihoods, improved infrastructure — are sustained long after we close a mine.
To me, this is exactly what we need to do to be a leading 21st century company.
This means re-writing the social contract between communities, governments and mining companies. In the past, we would reach out to stakeholders as necessary, now we involve them in matters that affect them. We would focus on mitigating risk and protecting the company’s interests rather than unlocking value for all of our stakeholders. We are actively moving towards building mutual trust in a way that ensures our interests are aligned with our partners. We only benefit if they do and vice versa.
For example, in Peru, we have not only trained rural suppliers and contractors to meet Barrick’s exacting standards, we are also ensuring that they are registering with local business chambers. Hence, in addition to enhancing their skills, we are also empowering them to build connections that will allow them to provide their goods and services to the wider community after we’ve left. Local suppliers benefit because they’re able to continue operating their businesses. Host communities benefit because they retain a successful business that spends and hires locally. Host governments benefit because they’re able to continue collecting taxes from these businesses which can then be reinvested in their communities. And we benefit because our support for local businesses helps forge strong partnerships with our host communities.
Getting this right not only helps our community and government partners derive greater socio-economic benefits, it helps Barrick gain important competitive advantages along the way. It builds trust, credibility, and respect, and makes Barrick a company that local residents are proud to work for. By becoming the most sought-after employer, we can attract and retain top talent in an increasingly competitive industry.
These sorts of advantages — advantages that help us obtain and maintain our license to operate — are of growing importance to our investors, too.
To help us measure and improve our performance in working towards our vision, we are conducting independent surveys to gauge the trust and support for Barrick in our host communities; we will do the same at a national level, as these relationships matter just as much to us as local ones.
I hope you will agree that our sustainability vision challenges traditional views of mining and shows what can happen when we take a partner-centric perspective in everything that we do. To me, this is exactly what we need to do to be a leading 21st century company.