ESG Awareness is Critical for External Affairs in Mining

ESG Awareness for the Mining Industry - a Halo Media blog

ESG awareness is essential in the mining industry. This article is based on the assumption that your mining company has authentic, impactful and real ESG and community support programmes in place.

ESG and Community projects are critical for any responsible mining company. But without awareness created around these initiatives, it can create a serious obstacle to local communities supporting mining companies.

As specialists in mining marketing and branding, we’re called in to do mining brand audits. During an audit, we regularly see that brand presence in community projects is neglected. Whilst this may sound like a vanity-based observation, it’s critical to the operations and ultimate success of mines within integrated communities. A mine's reputation is based on its ability to keep its word. If this word is not known, it can derail a successful mine. Let’s look deeper.

CONTENTS

    Why community integration is vital to the success of a mining company.

    Most mines are located in remote areas. This means their operations occur within an existing local community that has lived there long before the mining companies arrived. For this reason, mining CSI is different from the community projects of companies in other industries.

    Often, mining operations are negotiated with the promise of specified community development and upliftment projects that will take place if the community allow them to work the land.

    The members of the community remember the promises that mining companies make, and their perception of the brand depends on whether those promises are kept.

    A case study of how a lack of ESG project awareness can shut down a mining company.

    Our brand team worked with a mining company that was extremely supportive of their local community. As part of their significant sustainability investment, they collaborated with local leaders to identify what the community needed. The outcome of this was the creation of schools, medical clinics, recreational and cultural programmes, and sporting facilities. In addition, they had invested heavily in local business upliftment through business development centres, commercial education opportunities and more. And finally, they provided a source of employment for around 3 out of 4 people in the community. They are a cornerstone of the area they operate in.

    But they were rocked with serious community issues. Persistent issues. Force majeure level issues. These included sabotage, violent crime and the shutdown of the facility.

    During this stage, we recalled one of the outcomes of the brand and perception audit. One of the reasons was that the community felt they were being taken advantage of. They felt the company was taking from them and not giving back. So they felt resentment, and we could understand why – they had no idea that this company was an ally.

    What we discovered was a complete lack of brand awareness. Despite the hundreds of millions of dollars invested into ESG, CSI and CSR projects, there was no branding present on almost any of the initiatives. At the very simplest level, there was no way of knowing that this mining company was helping the community. And the cost of this lack of presence was crippling.

    Understanding the relationship between mining companies, ESG and external affairs and communications teams

    It’s well understood that ethical and responsible mining companies are ESG-focused. But they need to consider not only their environmental impact but their social impact too. The only way to create awareness is through the relationship between the mining company, their ESG initiative and their External Affairs and Communications team.

    If this relationship doesn’t extend from the field to the communication team, then it can’t filter through to their communications and brand team and the impact is mentioned above.

    Creating awareness of ESG and community initiatives is key. You’ll probably find mining External Affairs and Communications teams are well-versed on what their company initiatives are and will share them on their relevant platforms. This could be on the company website or LinkedIn, or as a topic of discussion at Mining Indaba.

    But what happens in a boardroom, or on a smartphone on the other side of the world isn’t enough. We strongly believe that one of the most important areas for brand exposure is at the grassroots level at the very heart of the community which has allowed you to operate there in the first place. By failing to let the community know about your positive contribution, your company is at risk of strikes and bad publicity.

    In the same breath, it is vital to ensure that you showcase authentic projects. Greenwashing or “community-washing” may be a feel-good for your PR team. But being dishonest about your ESG, CSI or CSR contribution will cause reputational damage that your brand may never recover from. Honesty is the best policy when it comes to external communication.

     

    Remember, what people don’t see or hear about, they don’t know.

    ESG Awareness in mining communities with two men talking

    It goes further than local communities, it’s your people.

    Poor awareness doesn’t just affect local communities like the case study we shared. There is a broader impact on the people involved.

    Your team

    When there is little or no branding or awareness, this can make your community-support and social-performance team demotivated. They feel their involvement and effort in each project are unappreciated, unnoticed, and disrespected. Ensuring that your CSI team and community feel part of the success of your operations is critical.

    Your broader community

    Never just assume that word of mouth is enough to educate a community about your CSI projects. Often, when we conduct perception audits within a community, they have absolutely no idea what the mine is doing to assist them. Sometimes a company will spend millions on building infrastructure, clinics, schools, and business initiatives, and in return, the community thinks that they are not doing anything because they haven’t told them. As a result, they are often understandably frustrated and often volatile and even halt operations. This is not in anyone’s interest. The mining industry needs to get better at communicating with communities. An unhappy community is an unstable one.

    Your future employees

    It’s hard finding great employees. Especially if you operate in a more remote area which lacks the urban perks. So you need to identify as a socially responsible employer.

    In an article by Forbes online, millennials will make up 75% of the workforce by 2025 and they are looking for socially responsible employers.

    They stated that 64% of millennials won’t take a job if their employer doesn’t have a strong CSI/CSR policy, and 83% would be more loyal to a company that helps them contribute to social and environmental issues (vs. 70% U.S. average). The article also went on to say that when it comes to Gen Z, the data is even more compelling. They mentioned that they found that Gen Z is “The first generation to prioritise purpose over salary”.They read Mission Statements and Values documents to select where they work, and they want their employer’s values to match their own.

    Your future employees expect consistency and authenticity and will call you out, often publicly if they don’t see it. They leave companies that they feel are not making enough contributions to environmental or social issues. By not telling everyone how your mine is developing and uplifting the community, you compromise your reputation amongst the communities in which you work. Additionally, you hand your competitors the advantage over you when attracting and retaining the brightest minds.


    Alright, point made. How do we create brand exposure for community and ESG projects in the mining industry?

    You now understand why it’s important to create brand awareness, but how do you do this? At Halo, we’re big on actionable and measurable wins. Here are three ways that you can act immediately and with measurable results. Here is a three-step process for planning:

    STEP 1:
    Identify what you are doing in the community, and what impact it has. Speak with the correct stakeholders to ensure that you understand the project clearly and correctly and who it serves.

    It’s important that you arm yourself with critical knowledge for an effective communication strategy. Ideally, you should have some level of idea of the brand perception in the community. You can do this through a perception audit. This doesn’t need to be costly or intensive and can be as simple as having conversations with the community.

    STEP 2:
    Strategise your short-, medium- and long-term awareness approach. These can be tailored to your budget and resources. It is here that you identify your communication channels, create your content and assign them to your brand partner to create. See the channels listed below for ideas.

    STEP 3:
    Implement, test and measure. You should have some stats from the community about their awareness of your presence and the positive impact you are making. Implement your short-term strategy, then measure to see its impact. Adjust your approach for your medium and long-term based on the feedback.

    ESG Awareness Campaigns

    Exposure channels for ESG and community project awareness for mining companies.

    We've shared the stages of how you need to create awareness. Let's now look at the channels.

    High visibility signage

    A well-placed sign at the entrance of your project within the safe boundaries of your fence helps to let the community know of your involvement and contribution.

    This is also an effective way to improve your brand image. Every time someone comes to work or walks past the project, they create an emotional connection to your brand.

    The sign can also help to inform the community of how they can either make use of the benefits of the project or even get involved.

    It is vital that your signage is well-designed, produced and installed. A badly designed sign that has been produced cheaply and either rusts or fades quickly will do more damage than good. It is important to note that most signage companies are not branding or design experts, they are experts in the production and installation of signage and should be used with this in mind.

    Halo Media is experienced in designing professional signage that showcases your brand so the community is made aware of your contribution. We also work with signage manufacturers and installers to ensure that your signage is not only HSE and brand compliant but is also correctly installed.

    Digital channels

    Make sure you have a well-planned, executed, and active digital media strategy!

    From regularly updating the CSI/CSR section on your website to your social media channels, this is a highly effective and very affordable way to tell your story. This will help to build your brand presence, foster a sense of belonging, and in doing so, will communicate what you are doing internally and externally.

    We’d recommend revising your previous CSR and ESG stories and articles too. They should always be relevant and accurate, and if left for years, they are likely to be out of date and no longer accurate.

    An SEO perk is that by updating old content, you’ll have the benefit of improving your search presence. The more Google crawls your site, the more likely your most recent information will show up in search results after publishing, which gives you an advantage in your search engine results rankings.

    Media partnerships

    As recommended in Stage 1 of your awareness strategy, we suggest doing a perception survey. This helps you to connect with your community to ensure you are in touch with their desires, needs, aspirations and pain points.

    You can do your surveys yourself using free survey software. Or through a media partner, such as our perception and survey service or your local media.

    A quick win is to partner with the most popular channel where your community gets their news from, for example, a local newspaper or radio station. Your target audience will get the benefit of making use of your project’s benefits, and be inspired by success stories. As a result, your brand will get exposure and give the impression that you are in touch with them. Strategic media partnerships will also help change the perception people have of the mining industry.

    ESG awareness in mining showing a schoolroom and teacher

    Recapping the benefits of ESG and Community awareness at your mine

    It may sound like you are blowing your own trumpet if you share what you are doing in the community. And if you approach it with an ego or bragging mentality, you could be right. Promoting your mine’s sustainability efforts is essential. This is not as a way to boast, but as a way to connect with the community.

    The mining sector is frequently criticised. The information published about mines is not always positive. It’s important to help the public realise how much this industry does to improve communities and provide opportunities for local communities and their people.

    The community will only know how invested you are in them if you communicate that clearly. Clear, well-positioned branding and messaging are the best way to achieve this. Letting your audience and the community know about the community development projects you have funded or donated to will also give your brand a competitive advantage as a supplier and as an employer.

    Did this article resonate with you? Would you like to create more brand awareness for your ESG and community projects at your mining company? We can help you – from initial perception audits to creating your message and spreading it through your channels. As a specialist mining marketing agency, we’ll advise you on exactly what your brand needs.

    We hope that you have found this piece useful and would love to hear from you. Please visit our Mining Page to find out more about what we do. Or reach out to us at Halo to discuss your ESG campaigns today!