We have always worked hard to engage positively with our community stakeholders. We’ve learned that effective dialogue involves listening as well as communicating, and in future we will focus more on understanding expectations.
Our approach to date
We have come a long way in our comprehensive approach to stakeholder engagement. For many years we have asked each of our sites to identify the issues important to the communities local to their operations, and draw up an engagement plan tailored to local needs. In 2014, 50 sites had such plans. They are also asked to develop a formal process stakeholders can use to raise issues or grievances, and 32 of our sites have such a process in place. However, events of the past few years have highlighted to us that, whilst we have good procedures in place, we need to do better at proactively listening to the wide range of community members that have a stake in our business.
Dialogue with stakeholders needs to be regular, open and honest. Dialogue is not the same as communication: it involves listening and responding, not just conveying our own perspective, though it’s important to do that as well. Some of the difficulties and disruptions we’ve faced recently in countries like Liberia and South Africa might have been avoided if we had listened more closely, and managed expectations better. That’s why we are moving from an emphasis on stakeholder engagement, to one focused on understanding and addressing stakeholder expectations, as a central part of the engagement process. Where people have reasonable comments or opinions to offer we will respond appropriately, but not all stakeholder feedback is reasonable, and in those cases we will discuss people’s assumptions with them and explore what they can realistically expect from us.