Our operational excellence derives in part from our knowledge of community development. By cultivating constructive relationships with our stakeholders and contributing to local social and economic resilience, our teams help ensure our operations run smoothly over the life of each field. More broadly, that long-term commitment in each country is essential to winning and keeping our social license to operate. Our priority is managing our potential impact in a way that is consistent with our unwavering commitment to human rights.
Meeting with Julie Vallat - Head of the Societal Department (HSE Direction - EP)
Human Rights at the Root of our Community Engagement Policy
A Longstanding Commitment to Human Rights
Everywhere we operate, we uphold internationally recognized human rights as part of a serious, long-term commitment, set out in our Code of Conduct. Our compliance with international norms, such as the U.N. Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, is an outgrowth of that commitment. Any failure to do so is liable to result in internal sanctions as well as legal action, since numerous countries have now adopted specific regulations that, in some cases, are applicable beyond their borders.
We abide by a voluntary commitment to transparency. We were the first company in the oil industry to publish a dedicated briefing paper on human rights. Our task, alongside our operating affiliates, is to identify where our impact in this area is most significant, so it can be remedied. Our stance has won international attention and in March 2017 was hailed by the Corporate Human Rights Benchmark, which placed Total at the top of its rankings for the oil industry.
Enshrined as a key business principle for Total, respect for human rights plays an integral role early on in our management processes. We regularly call on independent, qualified and recognized third parties in this regard, such as the Danish Institute for Human Rights, the U.K. NGO International Alert and CDA Collaborative Learning Projects. The latter organization, based in the U.S. and specializing in local community relations and conflict resolution between business and communities, has designed a program to help companies in the extractive industries identify and manage the impact of their operations. Their final reports are made public.
A Particular Focus on Local Communities
Consistent with that overall commitment, we respect the rights of nearby communities. We are duty-bound to focus on those communities, given the economic and social consequences of our operations on the local environment. In particular, we identify and take steps to mitigate our potential impacts in advance. For more than 15 years, we have been striving to make our operations more acceptable.
Our community engagement teams coordinate our response to local community concerns, working in close cooperation with our personnel responsible for security and the environment. Our community engagement process — derived from international standards and best practices in community capacity building (IPIECA, IFC) and applied at all of our operating affiliates — is guided by several objectives:
- Establish a constructive relationship with stakeholders through transparent, proactive dialogue designed to create an environment that is conducive to our operations.
- Gain a better understanding of the complex situations in which we operate, so that we can identify the associated risks and seize the corresponding opportunities.
- Strengthen our social license to operate by managing our impact and accounting for stakeholder expectations.
- Create shared value for everyone.
A Community Engagement Process That Is Integral to Our Decision-Making
Preliminary evaluations before entering a new country, procedures for acquisitions and sales, baseline studies and ongoing social impact assessments are some of the specific actions we take to address issues in the community at each stage of an oil or gas project. And to ensure optimal operational efficiency, we incorporate those community actions into our Health, Safety and Environment (HSE) system.
A Three-Pronged Community Engagement Strategy
Establish a Trust-Based Relationship With Stakeholders
Dialogue with the local community is our top priority. That may take various forms: frank discussions on a regular basis; transparency regarding the impact of our operations; and attention to the concerns, needs and perceptions expressed. Those discussions also contribute to our impact management and the mitigation measures we propose.
To identify everyone with a stake in our operations, we draw on our internal Stakeholder Relationship Management process, known as SRM+. Developed in partnership with Altermondo, a specialty consulting firm, the SRM+ mapping tool offers three major advantages:
- Its operational deployment. An SRM+ assessment takes about a week and culminates in an action plan that reflects common stakeholder interests.
- The comparison of internal and external perspectives, by juxtaposing our employees’ insights on community concerns and the history of our stakeholder relationships with the results of our consultations with outside stakeholders.
- Its reproducibility. Over 30 SRM+ assessments have been performed to date, encompassing about 60% of the sites deemed most sensitive.
On that basis, we can build a constructive relationship with each community that will continue until our operations wind up. Integral to that success are our Community Liaison Officers (CLOs), tasked with establishing contact with local residents and explaining our operations. CLOs are trusted confidants with front-line responsibility for ensuring that Total is assimilated into the local environment.
Managing the Impacts of Our Activities
We strive to prevent, minimize or mitigate the negative consequences of our operations on these communities. Accordingly, we monitor those impacts exceptionally closely. Our baseline study — the starting point of that process — provides a thorough analysis of conditions in the local community before our activities begin. Social impact assessments conducted throughout our operations help us evaluate the potential socioeconomic consequences. We can then prepare community action plans designed to prevent those consequences or, if that is not possible, to reduce or in some cases mitigate them.
Whatever the case, everyone affected by our activities must have access to an equitable grievance management system to which they can turn with no fear of reprisal. That rule is fundamental to our policy and, accordingly, will be introduced at all of the sites we operate by the end of 2018. In 2013 we prepared a Guide & Manual for handling grievances raised by local communities, in accordance with the U.N. Guiding Principles. In early 2017 we introduced a toolkit for use by our operating affiliates to ensure a uniform grievance management system in the field.
Any such system, designed and implemented so as to cement its legitimacy and promote trust among local communities, must be:
- Fair, predictable and accessible. The affiliate must verify that local communities know about and understand the grievance management system.
- Transparent and based on participation and dialogue. Petitioners must be regularly briefed on progress in addressing their grievance, which must be handled within an acceptable time period as part of a constructive dialogue.
- Compatible with local laws and regulations, as well as internationally recognized human rights.
Contribute to Community Capacity Building
Our policy is rooted in initiatives that are designed to enhance our contribution to community capacity building. In particular, we participate in local skills development programs, draw on the local labor force, purchase goods and services from local suppliers and provide support for small businesses. To do that, we work with local institutions and organizations, collaborating early on with NGOs that have experience in the field.
We give priority to projects that aim to have a lasting impact. To that end, we invest in sustainable programs with the potential to become self-sufficient without reliance on grants. One such example is Myanmar’s microcredit institutions. To ensure we can contribute more effectively, we have also defined four priority areas of action, which together accounted for nearly half our community development spending in 2016 (versus 40% in 2015):
- Safety (including road safety).
- Support for small businesses and entrepreneurship.
- Access to energy.
Our Solar Lamps Are Bringing Light to Patagonia
In 2016, we launched our Access to Energy program for communities near our licenses in Argentina’s Neuquén province. Our first target, identified in community surveys conducted in the field, were the 150 inhabitants of two villages, Los Chihuidos and Aguada San Roque, who make their living by raising goats and live in puestos, small homes that lack electricity. The program has since expanded to include other social entrepreneurs.
The Challenge We Face: Continuously Improving Our Community Action
Teams of Trained Professionals
It was 2008 when Total first recognized community engagement as a discipline in its own right that warranted more professional treatment within the company. Today, the community engagement workforce numbers nearly 300 employees. Our teams are multidisciplinary, comprised of both employees from outside the industry who provide a specialist’s perspective (sociologists, ethnologists, agronomists, etc.) and employees hailing from Total’s traditional business sectors, who can draw on their many years of experience with the company.
Training, a Cornerstone of our Community Engagement Policy
Training — a priority means of building our internal know-how — isn’t restricted to our specialist teams. In 2015, for example, we developed an e-learning module called “Societal Commitment in Exploration & Production.” This one-hour, online training course is intended for the entire workforce, and offers an overview of our community engagement (“societal”) policy and the role of those teams during our operations, from acquisition of the rights, acreage or licenses to dismantling of the facilities. A separate module is offered to management, describing how CSR issues can be dealt with most effectively in the decision-making process.
A Formal Community Development Process
Funding for projects that contribute to capacity building is at the heart of our community engagement strategy. We therefore do our utmost to ensure that our processes for selecting, implementing, monitoring and evaluating capacity building projects meet the same standards of professionalism as those applied to our industrial projects.
- Formulating a Project
Various stakeholders may formulate a request: national or local governments, NGOs, religious organizations, local communities or individuals. Our community engagement teams are then responsible for compiling a dossier, including a description of the circumstances surrounding the project and the problems it intends to resolve, its goals and specific objectives, the beneficiaries and how they will be taking part, the main activities and anticipated results, tracking indicators, and the human, financial and technological resources that will be needed.
- Selecting a Project
A selection committee, typically including stakeholder representatives, analyzes each project submitted. Its members generally meet with the beneficiaries multiple times, to ensure that each party fully grasps the project’s objectives and the steps envisioned for bringing those goals to fruition.
- Implementing a Project
As early as possible, our affiliates enlist the help of organizations that command the necessary expertise in designing and implementing community capacity building projects. Steering committees, whose members include our community engagement teams, monitor project activities and spending.
The end date of Total’s support for a project or the completion of a project funded by an affiliate is known in advance, often from the outset. We then provide for technical support or the transfer of know-how to the beneficiaries to ensure that the project continues to produce results.
One Performance Objective
To quantify and measure the effectiveness of our community engagement strategy, we describe our actions and publish their results in an annual report. That reporting was initially prompted by a concern for compliance, to ensure that our international commitment to community engagement was being properly applied in the field. But in recent years we have been refining those indicators so as to monitor our CSR performance more closely: the quality of our community dialogue, our success at managing the impact of our activities, the number of grievances handled and the time needed to resolve them, and the effectiveness of the community capacity building projects to which we have contributed.
Our most recent initiative, adopted at the start of 2017, was to introduce a monthly report that bears directly on our operations. Our operated affiliates track a battery of indicators in three areas that reflect the efficacy of our community engagement teams in the field: dialogue with stakeholders, grievance management and employment of local workers. That monitoring is designed to aid our industrial projects by helping us manage the impacts of our operations. It is also meant to add weight to our community engagement policy and promote continuous improvement: by drawing attention to the work our community engagement teams perform in the field, we encourage our operated affiliates to coordinate their own community actions more effectively.
Our Grievance Mechanism in Uganda
Coining New Practices in Papua New Guinea
Driving Development through Education in Congo