Academic journal article Rural Society

No More Sun Shades, Please: Experiences of Corporate Social Responsibility in Remote Australian Mining Communities

Academic journal article Rural Society

No More Sun Shades, Please: Experiences of Corporate Social Responsibility in Remote Australian Mining Communities

Article excerpt

Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is often touted as the solution to social and envi- ronmental ills associated with Australia's mining boom. The intensification of Australian mining companies' commitments to CSR over the past decade is evidenced in expanding community relations programmes; the centralisation of CSR and sustainable development policies at corporate headquarter level; the professionalisation of com- munity relations roles; uptake of sustainability reporting; and support for intergovernmental and non-profit initiatives, such as the United Nations' Global Compact.

To date, much scholarly research concerning CSR in mining, and in other major industries, has focussed on the adoption of such guidelines, frameworks and reporting, as well as on mak- ing the business case' for CSR (for but a very few examples of these types of studies, see, Chapman, 2006; Crane, McWilliams, Matten, Moon, & Siegel, 2008; Deegan, Rankin, & Tobin, 2002; Margolis & Walsh, 2003; Salzmann, Ionescu- Somers, & Steger, 2005). While such research is important, an indirect consequence has been that the very communities most affected by these initiatives are often forgotten, frequently misun- derstood, and are comparatively less researched. As mining booms, ports expand and exports increase, these remote Australian communities face crises of identity and sustainability.

This paper extends prior research concerning mining's social impacts and related CSR pro- grammes by investigating the emergence of new institutional arrangements in pre-existing rural communities which are now dominated by the mining industry. In particular, the paper explores the implementation of mining companies' com- munity relations/development programmes through case studies undertaken in August 2009 in two rural Australian communities located in one of the country's most booming mining regions. The CSR programmes implemented in towns like those studied here represent major investments by mining companies. Several global miners, for example, dedicate approximately 1% of their pre-tax profits to community investment. This is no small figure when one considers that these companies report profits in the tens of bil- lions of dollars. The programmes such money supports sweep the spectrum from run-of-the- mill corporate philanthropy, such as sponsorship of local football clubs or PCYCs, to corporate- community partnerships in which company rep- resentatives may become active decision-makers in community life.

This paper, therefore, investigates the on- ground implications of major mining companies' CSR programmes for the rural Australian com- munities in which they are deployed. Through in- depth case studies, the paper explores three central questions. First, what is the relationship between the CSR policies set out at corporate headquar- ter level and their on-ground implementation? Following this, what role might local community expectations, interactions and influences play in shaping the type and nature of CSR programmes offered within communities? And to what extent do these programmes respond to and meet com- munity defined needs?

The paper proceeds by briefly reviewing the role of mining in the Australian economy and its impacts on Australian communities. The social factors which commonly influence CSR are then introduced as a theoretical means to unpacking the processes which influence mining companies' adoption and communities' experiences of CSR policies and programmes. Case studies from two rural Australian towns which are host to major mining operations are then explored to investigate how CSR policies defined at the corporate head- quarter level are interpreted and implemented within communities, and whether and how com- munity needs, expectations and relationships may influence those programmes.

Background

Although very recent debates assert the min- ing boom is ending, mining remains a corner- stone of the Australian economy (de Krester & Forrestal, 2012). …

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