How managing social performance can improve company-community relationships, business outcomes – report

(Image courtesy of the International Council on Mining and Metals).

The International Council on Mining and Metals announced the launching of a set of practical tools to strengthen approaches to managing social performance within mining companies, to support more harmonious company-community relationships and enable positive socio-economic outcomes.

In the document, the ICMM defines social performance as the outcome of a company’s engagement, activities and commitments that directly and indirectly impact stakeholders, particularly the local communities that live close to mining operations.

The purpose of social performance is to maintain alignment between a company’s behaviour and activities, and the expectations both of local stakeholders and broader society.

“Social performance is a support function, like others, that enables business outcomes. What is distinctive about social performance is how it straddles a wide range of organizational, social and operating domains. Consequently, there are a number of ways in which social performance enables business success,” the guide states.

Action plan

Besides diving deep into the definition of social performance and the value it delivers, the document presents a maturity matrix to establish where a company is on their social performance journey and guidance on developing an action plan.

Such an action plan involves a competency framework to help build the experience, skills and knowledge needed to manage social performance successfully; integrating community engagement across site-level activities; integrating social performance across the business as a whole, and providing support for leaders and decision-makers working to embed social performance into their operating model.

According to the Council, for companies to be successful in dealing and getting involved with their surroundings, the social performance function needs to be organized, resourced, managed, held accountable and supported in the same ways as other established business support functions, such as safety and human resources.

“However, since securing and maintaining the social license to operate is core to the business, all functions of the company should also contribute to a single cohesive, coordinated and integrated approach to social performance,” the dossier reads.

How managing social performance can improve company-community relationships, business outcomes - report
(Source: ICMM).

Securing social performance success

To secure social performance success it is also important to achieve an all-of-asset approach which, in the organization’s view, requires integrated management systems that feed information into company decision-making.

“Companies should have procedures and standards for managing social risk that integrate into broader companywide systems and processes,” the report states. “Management systems that integrate social performance serve a number of purposes, including embedding minimum performance standards for how an organization interacts and engages with stakeholders, capturing knowledge about the social environment in which an organization operates, identifying and managing social risks, and driving continuous improvement.”

The ICMM points out that social performance practitioners need critical experience, skills, knowledge and behaviours to perform their function within the organization. This means that decision-makers at all levels of the organization should understand the social performance implications of their decisions, while the organizational functions that interact with stakeholders or have social performance responsibilities, including contractors, also need to have the necessary understanding and skills to deliver on the corporate or asset’s social performance objectives.

“The attitude, approach to and awareness of social performance of those in non-social performance roles and especially the asset general manager, can be decisive,” the guide states. “An increasing number of practitioners in the extractives industry have medium or long-term career experience in social performance, and this trend is set to continue growing. Social performance practitioners come from a diverse range of backgrounds, including geography, anthropology, sociology, economics and development. As the field becomes increasingly professionalized, more resources for training and professional development in social performance are being made available.”

A final recommendation to achieving social performance excellence is to use metrics to improve communication, monitoring and reporting as, at present, most companies only have some form of leading and lagging indicators, or asset- and corporate-level dashboards, or perhaps key performance indicators that link personal objectives to function and business objectives.

“To add weight and clarity to how social performance is discussed, especially with non-specialists and line management, social performance needs ‘gold standard’ metrics, particularly a more consistent and all-encompassing set of metrics that adequately measures the outcomes and impact that businesses are seeking to achieve,” the report notes.