Mining and Women: Business and Community

Mining and Women: Business and Community

DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-3811-0.ch006

Abstract

Whilst CSR is significant for nearly all MNCs, CSR activities have been limited to certain activities and focus areas. In developing countries such as Thailand and Laos, CSR activities focus on economic and social development in many forms. However, we learn from this study that the CSR movement would advance if different types of MNCs actively participated in various socioeconomic activities in host countries. In most developing countries in Asia, such as Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, or Cambodia, CSR by MNCs is concerned with the integration of environmental, social, and economic considerations into business strategies and practices. However, this is not as simple as it sounds. Some argue that CSR is beneficial to MNCs that do integrate it into their everyday practices; others say that it is only a way for MNCs to promote new products and features. This chapter argues that although a feminist epistemology of mining would query the representation of women as ‘victims of mining', there are various ways for mining MNCs to empower and promote women in the mining community. The authors discuss lessons from Laos and Thailand in order to stimulate a rethinking of mining itself, as an area representing an environment, which is both feminine and masculine.
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Introduction

The most successful companies are those that integrate sustainability into their core businesses. (Jim Owens, CEO, Caterpillar)

This book argues that we can move away from the traditional masculine norm of the mining industry, well-explained by Lahiri-Dutt (2011, p.195):

The masculinity of popular images of the miner is ingrained in the corporate machismo of the globalised industry, controlled by shareholders based in the global North. Explorers’ adventures and heroism fuel this machismo; vivid accounts of the first sightings of a famous ore body turn discoverers into cultural heroes who wander across usually hostile landscapes until they find the mineral deposit. Such corporate fuelled hyper-machismo is common in representations of mining entrepreneurs or overpaid executives which are found widely in popular media.

Business involvement in community issues is not uncommon. Communities face various issues in which business organisations can play various roles to show their commitment to the community. In this project, we have learnt that mining MNC motivations for addressing developmental issues, such as gender equality and poverty alleviation, could arise because of either a strong ethical commitment to their stakeholders in the community, or their strong practical interest in the issues of host countries.

Mining MNCs in this study demonstrated both old and new schools of CSR strategies and implementation. Both mining MNCs in this study are large scale and complex in terms of operations and people involved in the organisations. The nature of large-scale mining MNCs is to employ primarily male workforces, having more men than women in management and various other jobs and functions. They may make a series of gendered impacts on local communities. Where mining companies act as development agencies, their programmes may also cause further social change.

In many cases in both countries, we affirmed that CSR in mining has now moved beyond the occasional philanthropy of the past, where donations or the building of infrastructure required only minimal interaction with local communities. Many large-scale mining companies now have departments dedicated to community development and sophisticated policies for community engagement and development programmes. Working closely with different stakeholders in the community has become the priority for mining MNCs.

The business cases for CSR seem to focus on a wide range of potential economic benefits. These include financial performance and profitability, reduced operating cost, long-term financial gains for companies, employees’ welfare, increased staff commitment and involvement, enhanced capacity to innovate, good relations with government and communities, better risk and crisis management, enhanced reputation and brand value and, of course, the development of closer links with customers and greater awareness of their needs.

The subject academic debate entails those critics who question the greater attention paid to the CSR community initiatives in the application of shareholder funds, without regard for the likely effect on the business’s financial profits or the organisation’s future opportunities for research, innovation and expansion. For instance, Kapstein (2001) reiterates the ideas of neoclassic economist Milton Friedman (1962) that business’s only social responsibility is to use its resources to engage in activities designed to increase its profit, as long as it engages in open and free competition without deception or fraud. Friedman’s (1962) concept of the business and societal relationship was centred strictly on business producing the needed goods and services at prices people in the society could afford. In his work, Friedman (1962) identifies a departure from this business role amounting to spending someone else’s money and placing the firm at a competitive disadvantage. Friedman also questions whether managers are competent to engage in social issues and saw no reason this group of individuals should carry out the role of government in the society (Kapstein, 2001).

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