As operators of the Papua LNG onshore project, we’ve been active in Papua New Guinea since March 2014. Despite steady growth in the last decade, Papua New Guinea is still a developing country. That fact, along with the country’s extraordinary cultural, plant and wildlife diversity, is spurring us to redouble our efforts to conduct an exemplary, socially responsible, eco-conscious industrial project. Some CSR innovations were hatched as soon as we arrived and have helped us foster a relationship of trust with our stakeholders, as Jérémy Roeygens, Sustainable Development Officer at Total E&P PNG Limited, explains.
Before it could get going on its production project, Total E&P PNG had to conduct a social impact assessment — just like any other Total operating affiliate. What’s worth stressing that was specific to Papua New Guinea?
Jérémy Roeygens: Besides complying with our internal guidance and the country’s regulations, we adopted the standards of the International Finance Corporation (a World Bank Group member) to put together an appropriate funding package for the project. Applying this body of regulations upped the workload considerably — we had to produce 33 reports just for the baseline phase, the reference before the project moves on to construction! And that’s not counting a report dedicated to indigenous peoples and a human rights impact assessment in partnership with the Danish Institute for Human Rights.
We also, as required by law, held road shows in PNG’s capital, Port Moresby, and the communities, to explain the studies in progress and their goals. This initiative — a first in terms of the procedure used — was lauded by the government and other oil, gas and mining operators in the country. In fact, the Department of Environment and Conservation went as far as to call it a “benchmark for other projects.”
What you did illustrates how important stakeholder relationships are to Total. The company provides a number of useful tools and resources. What innovations might we see going forward?
J. R.: Innovation doesn’t necessarily have to involve a new tool. It can consist of how you use one. When we arrived in Papua New Guinea, we implemented our internal SRM+ (Stakeholder Relationship Management) method. But instead of employing it simply to map our stakeholders and assess our performance, we used it to conduct an inventory and due diligence of the situation when we took over operatorship of the project. Our goal was to find out how the different stakeholders and the previous operator felt and identify past commitments. This turned out to be very helpful and guided our first steps.
As elsewhere at Total, we held information and consultation meetings and set up a system to handle grievances. We went the extra mile, providing local communities with a free hotline they could use to call us, ask questions and file a grievance if needed. And we’re finalizing an offer of legal assistance for them as well, so they can independently agree to the choices made when the time comes.
Doing your bit to drive socioeconomic development is the other cornerstone of Total’s community engagement policy. How did you go about doing that?
J. R.: We opted to start by conducting studies whose results are just in and that will allow us to craft a long-term strategy in partnership with government authorities and NGOs.
That didn’t stop us, over the last two years, from acting whenever we thought it would be helpful and when we could connect it to our business case. Assistance with governance and access to energy, education and health care are all areas we didn’t hesitate to engage in by acting as a facilitator, without creating a dependency on us. We kept in mind that spending money isn’t always the best way. Making smart use of our presence and our human and logistics resources is; in sum, acting as a catalyst to effectively help the people whose job it is to work on the front lines. Among other things, we were able to build a school by providing logistics support to a local foundation; the local community pitched in by supplying the site and physically helping with the work. In partnership with the province, local authorities and the Department for Community Development, we also support the work of women health assistants in two communities. For the first time the women in those villages were able to give birth in a health center and not the forest.
So the affiliate is being unusually innovative in its community engagement. How is that perceived by the people you deal with?
J. R.: Our first stakeholder is internal. As soon as the impact assessments began, we worked closely with Total’s front-end engineering design (FEED) engineers. This let us steer business and technical decisions. For example, working together in the early planning stages we minimized the impact on communities and avoided encroaching on sacred lands. Our actions are applauded as genuinely supportive of operations and business development, instead of being seen as another requirement to shoulder.
We also built a very strong relationship of trust with our external contacts. Especially since we gave priority to hiring nationals, which taught us a lot about the local situation and helped us put our presence on a sustainable footing. Today our stakeholders unanimously praise our transparency, respect for the country’s laws, habits and customs and, more generally, our company’s culture and identity.
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