Never has it been more important for businesses to work collaboratively with their host communities and truly engage the people who live in them. A successful project needs to do more than deliver its intended purpose to the owner company. It needs to provide real, tangible socioeconomic benefits for the surrounding community. It has to wholeheartedly embrace the mantra of leaving it better than we found it, ensuring that a brighter future for the lives it affects is an imperative.
As development projects reach further out, pushing into more remote and difficult-to-access areas, positive relationships need to be developed with affected communities. They must be strong, forged early, and based on mutual understanding. In the past, all too often, communities have harbored a perception that developers were interlopers, with plans and designs that were essentially self-serving. A lack of understanding of each other’s needs and how each can support the other’s objectives is still common, and it can hinder any form of progress in developing remote regions.
Develop strong relationships early: Starting from a place of mutual respect helps to create the right kind of environment for a successful project and community both. Visiting communities long before you even plan to break ground and listening to people’s concerns and aspirations can benefit a project’s acceptance and implementation immensely.
Approach with both hands open: A greater, more thorough understanding of the communities and cultures involved will always make a project run smoother. Through our joint venture with First-Pac West, ancillary facilities can be scaled up for construction, refurbished for operations, and turned over to host communities to use in any number of ways when the project wraps up. Participation in the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business’s PAR program has strengthened our performance in Aboriginal relations and solidified our commitment to Indigenous communities in Canada and worldwide.
Celebrate the differences: Every community is unique. So it’s important to remember that what worked in one won’t necessarily fly in another. Experience has shown us that not every community is out to stop a project. But people have goals, values and a vision for their community, and they want to be heard. By using their input and adjusting the project plan to include their ideas, the community will feel included, validated, and more invested in the project.
Build for the future. When your team has done its work and is ready to vacate the project site, the roads, buildings, transportation and facilities will stay behind. How easily those tangibles can be converted into social infrastructure and viable, useful amenities will be one of the best determinants of whether a community gets to where it wants to go.
Understand to be understood: Social license is never just about corporate responsibility. We strive to work with you and the communities in which you operate, helping you earn the credibility, the reputation, and the trust that will see you invited back to do more. It takes more than a successful project to bring a community’s barriers down. It takes understanding and the kind of good-faith operation that builds strong, mutually beneficial and amicable relationships for generations.