Through ongoing engagement with Indigenous communities, we seek to understand perspectives about our impacts and consider how best to minimize them. We work with communities to develop consultation and engagement plans that address community needs and leave a positive legacy for communities near our operations including community investment, economic development, and capacity building programs.
In Canada, we have a structured approach to meaningful consultation that enables us to address each community’s concerns and risks in a targeted manner while respecting the value of conserving the environment and understanding the impact our operations may have on cultural heritage.
“Our goal is to work cooperatively with communities through early engagement. This includes considering traditional ecological knowledge and traditional land use information, and understanding community interests, goals and perspectives on environmental, social and economic topics,” said Canada HSE and Sustainable Development Vice President Darryl Hass.
Assessing Values and Interests
We use a Values and Interest Assessments (VIA) process to guide practitioners as they work with Aboriginal communities to create positive, sustainable outcomes. Our stakeholder engagement team begins the process by building relationships through authentic, collaborative dialogue with members of the community. Next, we work with the community to create a shared vision and discuss ways we can work together. The third stage centers around planning and focuses on collaboratively prioritizing ideas and creating structures and processes for working together. Lastly, the ideas are turned into a shared action plan to be implemented and assessed.
Shared actions from the VIA process vary depending on the interests of the community members and potential risk to our business. These often include initiatives or events that bring social benefit to the community. For the past several years, ConocoPhillips Canada supported the Sustainable Communities Initiative (SCI), an award-winning program to create and support opportunities for aboriginal youth to gain skills and knowledge. The initiative addresses community aspirations for healthy and happy youth who understand their culture. One program element, the Experiential Learning Initiative (ELI), was designed to give participants insight into experiential learning practices and a deeper knowledge of traditional culture such as beading, traditional food preparation, and Dene and Cree language lessons, while also fulfilling schoolbased science curriculum. One of the 2017 cultural events was designed to help youth “walk in two worlds” with an Elder teaching participants how to locate and use significant medicinal plants during a medicine walk. We have supported the initiative with in-kind company resources who help create the capacity to strategize, promote the programs, and engage new funding opportunities.
The VIA process can result in formal agreements with interested Indigenous communities in close proximity to large developments. For those communities, agreements formalize a respectful relationship and the mutual promises between our company and those communities. Each agreement is focused on shared value and addressing the specific promises, obligations and benefits for both parties, and like many agreements, are confidential. Agreements include a process to resolve concerns about rights infringement from our activities and language committing both parties to work toward mutually beneficial relationships.
The Cooperation and Mutual Benefits Agreement (CMBA) with Fort McMurray First Nation (FMFN) signed in 2016 represents multiple years of engagement to build trust and respect, mutual areas of interest and benefit, and a formal commitment to a stronger relationship. In 2017, at the first Leadership Committee meeting with FMFN we identified areas where we could improve and extend our relationship. We received feedback that our contracting strategies were impacting both the current and prospective opportunities for the Nation, and that we still had work to do. We explored how our business practices had evolved in the past year as market conditions had changed. The result of these discussions was the strengthening of the joint Business Working Group to create an ongoing deeper dialogue on local contracting opportunities and capabilities. We also changed our internal practices to work more strategically with the FMFN on the shared goal of local business benefits. Another outcome of the meeting was the establishment of an Environmental Working Group to provide a forum to discuss environmental monitoring and identify opportunities to support environmental stewardship of the Surmont Project and FMFN community pillars.