From the 3rd Annual CSR Extractives Conference…

Mar 21, 2012

I’m at Ethical Corporation’s 3rd Annual CSR Extractives Conference How To Manage Social and Environmental Risk for Oil, Gas and Mining in London speaking about stakeholder engagement and conflict minerals—both the challenges and the progress.  The IFC just spoke about the documented financial benefit of good stakeholder engagement associated with natural resource projects.  I’ll talk about how “failure” or getting stuck can lead to success if you look at the challenge from the right perspective.  With conflict minerals, stakeholders were initially stuck because of the challenge of tracing and tracking in the supply chains for tin, tantalum, tungsten and gold.  But working together to unpack the challenges led to collaborative solutions—and progress. 

Good to see groups like PACT and others in the room.  Could use more like the Enough Project, Motorola Solutions, Intel, HP, GE, Freeport McMoran and Newmont to really paint the picture of the challenges and opportunities.  But that opportunity will come with the upcoming EICC-GeSI Supply Chain Workshop in Philly.

- Steve D’Esposito

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Joint Fact-Finding Builds Consensus, Makes Partners Out of Adversaries

Mar 8, 2012

RESOLVE was pleased to welcome Masahiro Matsuura, Professor at the University Of Tokyo Graduate School Of Public Policy, to our Washington, DC offices last week to share insights on an important mediation technique known as joint fact-finding (JFF). JFF can be a useful approach to manage many of the challenges that arise at the intersection of science and policy decision-making such as lack of data and contested scientific information. (For more on science-policy challenges, see RESOLVE resources such as When the Sparks Fly: Building Consensus When the Science is Contested; Managing Scientific and Technical Information When the Science is Contested; and Building Knowledge: When Knowledge from “Here” Meets Knowledge from “Away” .)

In contrast to more conventional and often contentious approaches JFF involves bringing a wide variety of stakeholders together to identify what information is needed to answer policy questions, how and by whom information should be gathered and interpreted—including “technical” and “local” knowledge— and how to connect this information to policy decisions . Scientists and technical experts have an important role in “translating” technical information so that non-technical stakeholders understand and can give input on information gathering, processing, and outcomes, and to learn about inherent uncertainties and tradeoffs of different policy options. This process builds trust, cooperation, and can make stakeholders partners and problem-solvers rather than adversaries in the policy-making process.

Dr. Juliana Birkhoff, Vice President of Collaborative Practice at RESOLVE, shared two JFF case studies with Dr. Matsuura. The first case study involved the communities of Falls Hills and Poplar Heights in Fairfax County, Virginia, in which a local stream suffered from regular flooding events that threatened homes, schools, and recreational trails in the area. Dr. Birkhoff used this case to illustrate how traditional science-based policy making can lead to undesirable outcomes, and how JFF can serve as a more effective alternative. Using a traditional problem solving approach, Fairfax County officials consulted a few area homeowners and designed a flood mitigation solution that was based primarily on technical information. When County officials presented their solution to the communities, residents were outraged that the last remaining stand of woods in their neighborhood would be cleared to create a retention pond. To settle the dispute Fairfax County turned to RESOLVE to go back to the drawing board and engage stakeholders in a JFF process. RESOLVE held public meetings where members of the community and technical advisors shared information, built trust, and developed a list of priorities and options that ultimately led to a sustainable solution supported by all stakeholders.

The second RESOLVE case study involved the development of EPA’s microbial disinfectant byproduct (MDBP) rules. Drinking water is regularly treated with disinfectants in order to kill pathogens that can cause acute health problems, but disinfection creates byproducts that can lead to cancer and other long-term health impacts. The agency needed to make a number of tough choices on how to balance two conflicting objectives. RESOLVE convened a broad range of stakeholders and technical experts to develop a set of rules that significantly reduced public health risks, balanced the interests of stakeholders, and shaped major public infrastructure investments for decades.

We also explored how JFF operates against different cultural backdrops. Dr. Matsuura shared that, historically, the Japanese public has had very high confidence in scientists and government officials. RESOLVE observed that, in the U.S., public confidence is wavering or low for government; and dueling expert scenarios such as climate change and high profile public health cases, among others, often cause the public to question science and scientists. (A December 2011 Gallup poll sheds more light on how Americans rate honesty and integrity of professionals in different fields; respondents were not asked for views of “scientists” in the poll.)

Regardless of historical and cultural differences, we agreed that the erosion of public trust in institutions and experts has created a space for JFF. Dr. Matsuura noted that in Japan serious questions about government’s and scientists’ transparency with regards to nuclear power in general and especially the handling of the Fukushima disaster have diminished public trust in Japanese Institutions. This situation will challenge policy making and JFF—making it difficult to identify experts credible to key stakeholders and the public—but can also serve as an impetus for exploration of JFF techniques in Japanese policy-making and dispute resolution.

Dr. Matsuura is undertaking a three-year research project organized by the Japan Science and Technology Agency in order to learn about and refine the processes involved in JFF. He also plans to review three case studies in the fields of distributed energy systems, food safety, and marine spatial planning. We recorded our conversation and presentation with Dr. Matsuura to share with his colleagues and others in Japan, and are also sharing a link here. We look forward to learning how JFF is implemented and integrated into policy decisions in Japan.

- Jen Peyser

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Serious Play = Serious Change

Feb 24, 2012

Remember Serious Play? The Lower Duwamish waterway cleanup has begun and we are proud to have helped in the process that led to the communities, manufacturers, businesses, and government agencies getting to this point. The City of Seattle has some more information about the cleanup here including a video showing a river otter feeling “right at home on the newly restored section of the Lower Duwamish”. RESOLVE is involved in many ecosystem restoration projects, and it’s both encouraging and gratifying to watch the video.

- Jason Gershowitz

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Collaboration Inside

Feb 10, 2012

In a recently released White Paper Intel recounts the history of its response, to date, to the challenge of conflict minerals potentially entering its supply chain. Intel and other electronics companies use metals (e.g. tin, tantalum, tungsten and gold) in their products. Some of the minerals may originate from conflict zones such as parts of the DRC where they contribute to conflict and human rights violation.

Two themes shine through the White Paper:

1) the critical role of corporate and individual leadership
2) the benefits that can accrue from effective, strategic collaboration

Three years ago, things were different. There was little recognition of these issues in the electronics supply chain, much less a coordinated response. There was limited engagement with other industry sectors. And there were limited relationships with leaders in the NGO sector and key government agencies. While there is more to be done, given the progress chronicled in the White Paper, it’s fair (and interesting) at this juncture to ask, what are some of the ingredients that have helped support the progress that’s been made? Looking back, it’s clear that key stakeholders worked hard to take advantage of collaborative opportunities when it might have been simpler to take a different path.

Sector Leadership and Action
Companies like Intel, Motorola Solutions, HP and others have been solutions catalysts within broader industry association such as the Electronic Industry Citizenship Coalition (EICC) and the Global e-Sustainability Initiate (GeSI). They have worked collaboratively with industry partners and have been willing to experiment and innovate. Whether it’s the Solutions for Hope supply chain pilot on tantalum, or launching a new public-private alliance to support responsible minerals sourcingfrom the Great Lakes region of central Africa, or other initiatives, companies have shown they are willing not just to act but to help lead.

Extending a Hand Into and Across the Supply Chain
These companies reached into their supply chains, and reached out to other sectors that utilize these metals, to understand supply chain challenges and identify solutions. They found willing partners, many of whom were already active developing site-based program and innovative supply chain solutions. They found others miners like Newmont and Freeport-McMoRan; refiners like H.C. Starck and Valcambi; manufacturers in other sectors like Richemont, Ford, and GE; and retailers like Sterling/Signet and Best Buy. The benefits of this collaboration are now starting to manifest themselves in sharing of response systems and tools, innovations like the PPA, and supply chain partnerships.

Supporting Collaborative Architecture to Industry, Government, and NGO Leaders
It’s telling that in response to the Intel White Paper, the Enough Project, a leading NGO active on these issues, described Intel as “an industry leader on conflict minerals.” While there may remain disagreements and tension points between some companies and NGOs over, for example, regulatory language, there is now a collaborative baseline that keeps key companies, NGOs, and government leaders at the table, working together. This is the result of hard work, perseverance, creativity, and risk-taking on the part of leaders in each of these sectors. It’s also evidence of the power and impact that can result when unlikely allies decide to pursue a common goal. Looking back over three years, one can begin to see how support for collaborative architecture (e.g. collaborative research, facilitated stakeholder and supply chain meetings, joint pilot projects, jointly governed resources) have created a supportive platform for leadership and action.

This is a complex, challenging issue that doesn’t lend itself to easy solutions or policy responses. Success will come from collaborative testing, trial-and-error, learning and refinement; all of which needs to be supported by collaborative infrastructure and capacity building. Here at RESOLVE, we’re honored to work with collaborative leaders in these companies, NGOs, and agencies.

- Stephen D’Esposito

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Responsible Mineral Development Initiative

Feb 7, 2012

For those interested in sustainable development and mining the new report announced at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos is worth a read.  It’s from the WEF’s Responsible Mineral Development Initiative (RMDI).  It targets bolstering capacity so that communities and governments have the tools they need to realize the economic and social benefits of mining.  What’s particularly interesting is recognition of the benefits of proactive stakeholder engagement and the need to bolster capacity for conflict resolution—as a proactive strategy as well as a response to conflict.  I served on the RMDI advisory group and saw the evolution of project from a broad, amorphous dialogue to a targeted, concrete guidance document.  RESOLVE will continue to participate in and support this multi-sector initiative of the WEF.  The key now is acting on the recommendations—we’re ready to roll up our sleeves.

- Stephen D’Esposito

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Environmentalists Get Down to Earth

Jan 18, 2012

Here at RESOLVE we’ve been talking about a recent story (17 December 2011) in The New York Times  “Environmentalists Get Down to Earth” that talked about new leadership in the conservation movement and the evolution of environmental strategies.  Here’s what we’re thinking, read the article, what do you think?

“In “Environmentalists Get Down to Earth” we’re missing an opportunity.  Conflict and tension generate ink and can be useful but our new generation of environmental leaders is capable of doing more. First, they’ll need to foster hope that something concrete can be achieved. Hope inspires action. But it withers unless it is fed by concrete, achievable solutions. Therefore, second, they’ll design and apply pragmatic expertise.  This is the essential “back of the box” of brownies, the hard work of rolling up sleeves and engaging on the practical and policy details, referred to and then largely dismissed in the story. There is simply no substitute for the pragmatic application of expertise—whether it’s negotiating a policy agreement or designing new “green” technologies Third, they’ll build unexpected coalitions. They’ll walk in someone else’s shoes to find a way forward. Leaders in all sectors should resist the temptation dig in and out-shout the other side. In an era of political fragmentation it’s the art of collaborative problem solving that will be the true test of leadership on climate and other issues. Otherwise advocacy breeds isolation, gridlock and cynicism. Dig below the surface of any environmental achievement and you will find great collaborative leaders—whether they get public credit or not – because they are focused on solutions, working the “back of the box,” and building partnerships.  Advocacy without collaborative leadership and solutions breeds gridlock and cynicism. If you have doubts look at recent progress on food safety, so called “conflict minerals,” and preventing, reducing, and addressing past harms from exposure to chemicals to see this leadership at work today.”

Stephen D’Esposito, President, RESOLVE

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RESOLVE acknowledged for outstanding facilitation of Missouri River Recovery Implementation Committee (MRRIC)

Jan 10, 2012

“Good facilitators are priceless,” says John Thorson, retired judge and former chair of the ABA Water Resources Committee, in the most recent issue of the ABA’s Section on Environment Energy and Resources (SEER) Alternative Dispute Resolution Committee newsletter. Describing the Missouri as the “river of controversy,” Thorson’s article on the consensus building efforts authorized by Congress in 2007 puts these efforts in historic context and describes insights for how to make large scale consensus building efforts work. Facilitators from RESOLVE and the U.S. Institute for Environmental Conflict Resolution assist the process.

Thorson reminds us that the Missouri River “is synonymous with western history,” noting the Lewis and Clark expedition, the Native Americans of the Great Plains, and the six mainstem dams authorized by the 1944 Pick-Sloan Plan to provide hydro-power, water supply, navigation, and protection from the rivers’ epic floods, among other authorized purposes. These dams also had the unintended consequence of significant alteration to the river’s ecosystem, resulting in three species being listed as either threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act and many more in serious decline. In the Water Resources Development Act of 2007, Congress authorized the Corps of Engineers to prepare a studyin consultation with MRRIC to determine the actions required to mitigate losses of aquatic and terrestrial habitat, to recover federally listed species, and to restore the ecosystem to prevent further declines among other native species.

MRRIC operates by consensus – a challenging but important decision making process that requires members to articulate their interests, listen to one another, and engage in creative problem solving. Thorson, who served as MRRIC’s first chair, acknowledges the important role of the facilitation team in the consensus-building process, helping to “carefully plan, moderate, and document every meeting and call.” He also highlights the creative use of technology that RESOLVE uses that allows members who live along America’s longest river to communicate effectively across the large distances involved! Webinars, web-based meetings with real time work on documents, a members-only web site, and video conferencing are among the tools that are being employed.

The restoration of the Missouri River in harmony with the eight authorized purposes of the mainstem dams and other human needs is a challenge worthy of everyone’s best efforts. We at RESOLVE are honored to work with our facilitation partners at the USIECR to help the federal and state agencies, tribal governments, and stakeholders succeed.

- Gail Bingham

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RESOLVE science sheds light, reduces heat

Jan 9, 2012

RESOLVE’s Collaborative Science program has been successful in calming one aspect of one of the more controversial water disputes in the nation – the diversion of Sacramento River water to southern California. Centered around the protection of endangered species in the San Francisco Bay ecosystem, and involving multiple lawsuits, the dispute had led to accusations of scientific malpractice against government scientists. Things were escalating with Congressional hearings, and potentially serious consequences for all involved. The US Department of the Interior asked RESOLVE to convene a panel of independent experts, and investigate the facts of the case. Our conclusion: there was no evidence of deliberate malpractice, but there was evidence of misunderstandings and lack of clarity.

The judge (who had initially leveled the accusations), and the Interior Department (who had been criticized), both welcomed the findings. You can read about the case and their reactions here (LA Times), here (Fresno Bee), and here (E&E News).

Here at RESOLVE, we are taking some lessons from the result too. We did not present our results in terms of one party being right and the other wrong: Science doesn’t work that way. We worked independently to gather the right information; identified the ‘best available’ science, and called on scientists who were credible with all parties. Such steps can be very helpful to managers and decision-makers. Rather than declaring winners and losers, independent science review can support collaborative settlements and productive next steps. Maybe lawyers should consult more with scientists?

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RESOLVE is proud to partner with the U.S. Department of State, the U.S. Agency for International Development, and international companies and civil society to launch the Public-Private Alliance for Responsible Minerals Trade (PPA)

Nov 15, 2011

The PPA is being launched today as a joint effort of the U.S. State Department, the U.S. Agency for International Development, civil society, companies, and industry organizations to support solutions that will address conflict minerals concerns while also helping to deliver benefits to those involved in responsible minerals trade in Democratic Republic of Congo and the Great Lakes Region of Central Africa.

RESOLVE President Stephen D’Esposito will serve as master of ceremonies for the launch announcement taking place today the United States Institute for Peace. Under Secretary of State for Economic Affairs Robert Hormats, Under Secretary for Democracy and Global Affairs Maria Otero, and USAID Senior Deputy Assistant Administrator for Africa Sharon Cromer will participate in a signing event to mark this effort. A panel of PPA participants will include Donald Yamamoto, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary, Department of State; Charles Chileya, Executive Director, International Conference on the Great Lakes Region; Richard Valin, Chief Procurement Officer and Corporate Vice President, Motorola; and Assheton Carter, Senior Vice President for Global Engagement and Strategy, Pact.

The complete press release can be found here.

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Press Release | Launch of PPA

Nov 15, 2011

RESOLVE is proud to partner with the U.S> Department of State, the U.S. Agency for International Development, and international companies and civil society to launch the Public-Private Alliance for Responsible Minerals Trade (PPA).

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