1. Know your motives
If your policy’s not broke, why fix it? At Hudbay Minerals Inc., an integrated base and precious metals mining company with international operations, David Clarry, the vice president of corporate responsibility, didn’t ask what was wrong with the company’s existing social-responsibility policy but rather what was right. “Hudbay had a policy for a number of years that was well progressed when I joined in 2011,” Clarry says. “It just wasn’t formally articulated.”
At the time, Hudbay was aiming to expand into new markets such as Peru, and it had vigilant stakeholders to please. After comparing case studies and reexamining responsibility, Clarry took his wealth of hard-won, firsthand knowledge and set about honing the company’s policy to ensure uniform adherence to the ethics and principles that Hudbay management and the board had already been informally subscribing to for years: environmental health and safety, human rights, and community engagement at its extraction sites.
2. Know the context of your policy’s adoption
Before breaking ground on operations in Peru, Clarry and the Hudbay leadership knew what studies had reported and what their industry had come to accept about the region: it is prone to unrest and has a history of animosity toward mining. “It’s a good thing that community members feel very empowered to protest if they don’t like what’s going on, and in some sense that’s healthy, as opposed to countries where people don’t feel safe to speak out,” Clarry says. “The mining industry has attracted more than its fair share of that protest, partly because mining takes up land. It affects the people around it. It can benefit them, but it changes their lifestyles.” The key to handling such resistance is to approach it with a calm, calculated attitude, which Clarry says Hudbay instills in its site managers by training them for community engagement.
3. Use your policy as an integration tool
The best-laid plans can only be successful if employed by those who will actually carry them out correctly. In Peru, Hudbay had the benefit of implementing its policy with an operation whose track record already documented good community relations and respect for human rights. “We didn’t have to start from scratch,” Clarry says, and the newly articulated policy “validated for our team in Peru that what they were doing was exactly in line with the expectations of our board of directors.”
The plan also helped the company integrate itself into the community. Clarry says formalizing feedback mechanisms and being clear with site managers about the correct ways to receive and address complaints from the community were just as important as on-boarding local staff.
4. Set priorities and tailor your policy to them
“If there is one concept that drives the behaviour we’re looking for, it’s that we’re interested in the safety of all humans—from Hudbay staff to anyone protesting—more than the safety of our physical assets,” Clarry says.
While Hudbay is compliant with local laws regarding human rights and safety, the company’s commitment to go beyond compliance is demonstrated in its policy’s implementation of international standards, including the Mining Association of Canada’s Toward Sustainable Mining protocols and the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights, which dictate considerable training for security personnel, mentorships for site managers, and training recaps to ensure continued understanding and preparedness.
5. Evaluate and refine
Even with the Constancia project successfully under way in Peru, Clarry says Hudbay is still interested in improvement. At the start of his policy-making process, Clarry gleaned valuable knowledge from the company’s previous experiences in Latin America, and he hopes to continue specifying and refining its best practices through what he has learned from the work in Peru.
He’s comfortable with the policy as it is now, but resting on what’s comfortable is not what got Hudbay where it is today. “When we acquire our next project, the goal is to have an even clearer set of expectations than our people already do,” Clarry says. “At this point, we want to stand back, assess what we’ve done, and develop plans to be more sophisticated in translating our policy into action.”