The World Economic Forum often discusses how the mining industry can support the Sustainable Development Goals. The UN Guiding Principles, however, indicate that a company cannot offset human rights harm by doing good elsewhere. Companies cannot “pick and choose” which human rights to respect. Human rights don’t work like a carbon offset program, where you can have an impact in one area of the business and offset harm by doing a good deed elsewhere. Human rights impacts must be dealt with at the source. In the same manner, companies aren’t exempt from respecting human rights where local law is less stringent or less enforced. It’s the responsibility of the business to abide by both local and international law and to apply a higher standard where there’s inconsistency.
While a negative social impact doesn’t always violate human rights, the UN Guiding Principles require that companies perform human rights due diligence and understand how and to what extent human rights may be affected by business activities. This includes considering the legal framework that is in place within the host jurisdiction, whether or not those protections are consistent with international human rights, and how those rights and protections may be encroached upon by the mining industry. It also means understanding the rights and protections that may be in place within a local framework. Breaches to these systems are very likely to have implications on human rights. This is why consideration of local dynamics, whether social, traditional, environmental, spiritual and political are of paramount importance. This is what Barksanem™ calls “Territorial Approach.”
Complying to these regulations, policies and guidelines reflect Barksanem™’s commitment to fight against all forms of human rights violations as well as other illicit practices in the mining sector. One such answer is by offering employment alternatives for women and children on mining sites. Many have asked us of we are an NGO, the answer is quite simply, no, we are a for-profit business with mining extraction operations. That said, we have fully integrated these regulations, policies, and guidelines into the core of our business model and are furthermore reflected in our commitment to doing business differently. The road to eradicating human rights violations and poverty in developing nations will be long but with the willingness of economic actors, many inroads will be seen in the years to come.