On November 14th, Michael Oxman and Chris Anderson presented to a group of about forty people interested in sustainability, including my Sustainable Systems class. They began this presentation by explaining that the number one cause of delays in extractives projects are stakeholder and community related issues.
This was perfect timing, as community relations was being heavily discussed in our class at the time. In fact, we had just been visited by Dr. Jennifer Hirsch, who discussed examples of equity in Chicago. These accounts were very interesting to hear in comparison to each other, because Dr. Hirsch discussed accounts from the side of the community, while Professor Oxman and Dr. Anderson provided accounts from the industry side. Although some aspects differed, it seemed apparent that the main goal of these visits was the same: we must change the way that we view community engagement.
Over the course of this talk my mind was opened to the idea that in order for both a business and a community to sustainably thrive in an area, their interaction has to be one of equal benefit, desire, and perhaps most importantly, input. Corporations cannot just act philanthropically in ways that they feel will help a community, but instead must see what the community needs. They cannot simply pay for a highway to be built, but instead should train those working there to build infrastructure and develop ways for the highway to continue to be used safely after the company leaves. This was one of the concepts that stood out to me the most. In order for a company to say that they had successfully developed an area, this area must be able to exist and succeed after the company leaves.
This presentation made me much more optimistic as a business student. Previously, I had felt that there were two sides, the community and the industry, and that they were constantly battling. I was so excited to hear from Dr. Anderson that every position in a company has the opportunity to work in growing sustainable practices in their company.
The backgrounds of these two men made for a very interesting talk that addressed multiple vantage points of the extractives industry. They both addressed that they had been on what others think of as the “bad side” of an industry, but that they were doing what they could to improve it. As students, this was very uplifting to hear. Not only is Georgia Tech and the Scheller College of Business working on new and innovative ways to improve our world, we are also working to improve the very industries that are often perceived as the most harmful. While doing this, it is refreshing and exciting to know that in the business ventures that will change and develop the world, we remember that it all begins with the locals.
Rachel Fratt is an undergraduate student majoring in Business Administration at the Scheller College of Business.