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Collaboration with stakeholders

Case study of the book Social and environmental responsibility, 2006

Vincent Commenne, 2006

* Teck Cominco Limited, Canada

* Carrefour international, France

* Wal Mart (United States)

Teck Cominco: taking account of its stakeholders

Teck Cominco Limited is a company that exploits natural resources; its main activities are mining, smelting and refining. It is headquartered in Vancouver, Canada, and operates nine productive mines in Canada, the USA and Peru, as well as significant zinc refining activities in Canada and Peru. Teck Cominco operates a mine in the Metaline Falls area in north-east Washington State, USA. It is an area of high unemployment: a mine and cement works closed down and the ending of lumber work had a severely negative impact on the region’s economy. Teck Cominco realized that its mining operations there would only last some 12 years. In order to limit the negative effect this closure would have, the company decided to embark on a dialogue with local groups and stakeholders. The dialogue with stakeholders and local groups rapidly decided how to divide up the positive outcomes, minimize impact on local traditions and lifestyles, offset the environmental risks, plan for the future of the local groups once the site closed and identify mechanisms for responding to concerns expressed by the local groups as soon as possible.

Carrefour International (France): supply chain social audits by a major multiple retailer

Carrefour is Europe’s largest multiple retailer, and the world’s number two. The company operates 9,200 stores in thirty countries worldwide. Unbeknownst to its customers, this multinational has for a number of years been involved in a process that is gaining popularity amongst other TNCs: social auditing. As the name suggests, these are intended to provide an assessment of the social conditions under which the products destined for the consumer are produced. The process provides a mechanism for ensuring that any product purchased is not, for instance, produced by child labor.

The process is overseen by a not-for-profit Vigilance Committee. This body defines priorities, recommends and monitors corrective actions, and carries out or commissions local inspections. The committee is called INFANS and is led by four NGO representatives from the FIDH (International Federation for Human Rights) and two from Carrefour.

Wal-Mart (USA)

We now describe in outline the efforts made by Wal-Mart, the world’s leading multiple retailer. It is worth pointing out that for years this company has been a target for numerous observers who all denounced the social conditions Wal-Mart enforced on its staff and sub-contractors as well as its lack of concern about environmental issues.

In recent times, the company has announced radical changes to its environmental and social stances, publishing a strategy document backed by concrete figures and targets for the shortand medium-term. Here are a few examples of the company’s stated ecological goals:

– reduce solid waste by 25% in the next 3 years; – replacing PVC packaging within the next 2 years; – the introduction of organic cotton products; – certifying the seafood according to environmental and socio-economic best practices standards through a third party; – aggressively investing 500 million US dollars annually in ecological technologies and innovation.

Wal-Mart went on to declare: “Our environmental goals are: – to be supplied 11% by renewable energy; – to create zero waste; – to sell products that sustain our resources and environment.”

According to Wal-Mart these changes resulted from dialogues held with stakeholders: “to better understand our critics and Wal-Mart’s impact on the world and society, we spent a year meeting with and listening to customers, associates, citizen groups, government leaders, non-profit and non-government organizations and other individuals. After a year of listening, the time has come to speak.”

If this proves to be true in practice, and implemented in such a way as to answer the many criticisms that remain, worldwide such changes could have a major direct influence on quality of life as well as a very large indirect influence on suppliers and competitors.

The text of the book is available in pdf on the WSSE website.

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