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21 Sep 2023 - Event News

Data-Driven Decisions for Social Performance: A Q&A with Hugo Bonilla, acQuire Connect keynote speaker

Companies operating in the mining and metals industry in 2023 face significant challenges in maintaining their social license to operate and meeting social responsibility standards. Addressing these challenges head-on is Hugo Bonilla, Director of Corporate Social Performance at Lundin Mining Corporation, and keynote speaker at the acQuire Connect Tech Summit 2023.

Hugo brings over two decades of experience in leveraging social performance data to derive valuable business insights and helping companies in identifying social risks and opportunities. In his keynote, “Evolving social performance through data-driven decision-making and enhanced governance”, Hugo will delve into how Lundin Mining Corporation is adapting its systems and processes to remain resilient in the face of evolving social performance demands.

In the lead up to acQuire Connect, we sat down with Hugo to explore the opportunities for companies to embrace social performance and the challenges they may encounter along the way.

Hugo, how have you seen the mining industry embrace social performance measures over the past five years?

During the past five years, the industry has experienced a race to incorporate social performance as part of its core business practices. The drivers for this include ever-shifting regulatory requirements, higher stakeholder and investor expectations, and disasters induced by poor industry practices such as tailings dam failures and damage to cultural heritage sites.

Companies are working to incorporate social performance practices by professionalising the practice and enhancing their internal governance. This has enabled better and more informed decision-making that takes into account social variables. Companies are now placing greater emphasis on governance by rethinking reporting lines, enhancing social performance teams’ access to decision-making forums and increasing their reporting transparency.

Moreover, the industry is starting to rethink its role from only being an “economic engine” to becoming a “development catalyst”. This means that there is no longer an assumption that the mere presence of the industry in a region drives growth, but rather, that companies have a responsibility to actively engage and be involved in the development agenda and adapt its practices to promote that local development as much as possible.

How is Lundin Mining evolving past industry best practices around social performance and towards improving social outcomes?

At Lundin Mining, we are taking a three-pronged approach to enhance our social performance.

  1. Professionalisation: We are working hard to professionalise our social performance practice through increasing the technical and leadership skills in our teams. This will empower them to navigate internal efforts that drive forward responsible mining practices and minimise impacts, while also developing and executing strategic plans that maximise the benefits of social performance practices. We are empowering our teams through capacity building, better data collection and analysis, and technical assistance.
  2. Alignment and governance: We are promoting better connection between sites and corporate teams, so there is alignment about the risks and opportunities of social performance, enabling corporate strategic decisions to be made with a better understanding of social implications. Work is also underway to appropriately arrange site-level governance regarding social performance and human rights. Our aim is to build awareness and accountability so that the responsibility for this function lies with the entire operation, not solely on social performance teams.
  3. Stakeholder engagement: Finally, we are promoting more frequent and participatory engagement with our local stakeholders to develop and implement our investment strategies and better understand our impacts.

What are some of the challenges faced by businesses working towards improving their social performance?

In my experience with the industry, there are many reasons why companies struggle to improve their social performance.

Here are a few challenges that are within their direct control:

  • Bolting on social performance: Treating social performance, and sustainability as an afterthought that follows technical and financial decisions.
  • Over emphasis on time and budget: Certain social processes, such as community development planning, resettlement and mine social closures, require an upfront investment of time and resources. These often conflict with project timelines and budgets. Over the last 15 years, I’ve learned in social performance, slow and steady often wins the race, and upfront investment equals long term value. In this context, shortcuts can lead to permitting delays or increased social conflicts.
  • Poor internal communication and influence: Social performance practitioners need to communicate the value of their work better to decision-makers. Raising awareness of impact management is crucial, both internally and externally. The challenge faced with this practice is that many decision makers perceive that “the absence of bad means all is good”. Shifting this perception internally is important. One our Social Performance Leads described their role as 50/50 internal and external engagement – 50% raising awareness of the importance of impact management, and 50% external engagement to gather inputs about impacts, facilitate business objectives and collaborate for development planning and execution.
  • Lack of data – In an industry dominated by technical expertise, social teams are often dismissed because of the subjective nature of their assessments or the lack of data to back up community concerns or positions.

This is definitely a non-exhaustive list, but one that reflects some of my learnings from the past few years.

How is data helping you, and the wider Lundin Mining, make informed decisions around sustainability?

Data plays a pivotal role in our decision-making process. “What is not measured, can’t be improved” and more urgently, if it is not measured then it can’t be reported. Improvements in the way we collect, analyse, and report on our data are having a significant impact on how we manage our business, including areas such as water and waste management, procurement, talent management, social and environmental performance. Data provides a clear picture of where efforts need to be prioritised and enables us to monitor the effectiveness of our improvement plans. This often results in cost savings or reprioritisation of budgets and time allocation. Additionally, better data collection and overall management are fundamental to responding to the growing sustainability reporting requirements placed on companies.

As the keynote speaker at acQuire Connect, what are you most excited to share at the conference?

I am excited to share Lundin Mining Corporation’s journey to promote data-driven decision making in social performance and the lessons we have learned along the way. Through better data collection, management and analysis, companies can professionalise their social performance practices, achieve better social outcomes and mitigate enterprise-level risks.

acQuire Connect Tech Summit 2023

The annual acQuire Connect Tech Summit 2023 is scheduled to take place from 18 – 19 October 2023 in Toronto, Ontario. The summit provides an opportunity for geoscience, environmental and social performance experts to come together and address current and future data management challenges. To watch Hugo’s keynote presentation alongside several other great speakers, register your seat here:

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