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How to build forward better from COVID-19? Practical insights from mining to help catalyse business action for long-term resilience

3 September 2020

Dr Nicky Black, Director of Social and Economic Development at the International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM) shares her reflections on the development of the 'Building Forward Better Framework', a collaboration between ICMM, Business Fights Poverty, The Partnering Initiative and the Harvard Kennedy School’s Corporate Responsibility Initiative.

Over the last six months, ICMM has convened members – mining companies that collectively operate over 650 assets in more than 50 countries – to share emerging challenges and early lessons in their response to the COVID-19 pandemic. In countless video-conference calls the underlying questions have been ‘how can we improve our immediate response?’,  ‘what comes next?’ and ‘how can we get ready?’  

The 'Building Forward Better Framework', which we have published today, responds to these questions and challenges. It captures the lessons, case studies, resources and insights shared by ICMM’s company and association members to provide a practical guide for mining companies, and businesses in other sectors, to review and strengthen their own immediate responses. The Framework also aims to encourage thinking about mining’s collective role in supporting long-term community resilience post COVID-19.  It draws on the distinct experience of the mining industry to help readers evaluate the challenges and opportunities for business to build forward better from the damage wrought by the pandemic.

What has been abundantly clear throughout this pandemic, is that mining companies are uniquely connected to the lives and prospects of the often remote communities in which they operate. In many cases, the response of mining companies through COVID-19 has drawn on the deep relationships they have built with these communities over generations. Long-established trust and respect in these relationships has been key in getting help to the most vulnerable. 

The Framework provides learnings from these interactions, alongside insight into the way the industry works with, and supports local authorities and how it has been guided by a strong health and safety culture. I hope that these insights and examples may help other business leaders  assess how to connect their immediate crisis response to the long-term sustainable development challenges of communities and nations.

The Framework identifies three key areas for action – lives (health and safety), livelihoods (jobs and income) and learning (education and skills). Within those three areas, more than 90 actions companies can take are identified, illustrated with over 60 examples from the mining sector.  Including high-level guidance on how to prioritise and collaborate within and across sectors, and linking to 20 further practical resources, the Framework aims to both inspire and catalyse action in the response and recovery phases and in building long-term resilience.

What has also become clear in this first challenging six months of COVID-19, is the critical importance of collaboration between business and industry leaders, communities, governments and local stakeholders.  It has accelerated learning and taken responses to scale, often by bringing unusual partners together. The Building Forward Better Framework is both an example in itself of a valuable collaboration and a tool to support collaborative action within the industry, across industries and more broadly.

When ICMM was looking for resources to support members in thinking about how their immediate responses could support longer-term goals around local economic and community resilience, we found the tools and resources developed by Business Fights Poverty in collaboration with Harvard Kennedy School’s Corporate Responsibility Initiative fit the bill. The Framework builds on their work, developed with input from Business Fights Poverty’s 30,000-strong global network of professionals from across sectors, situating mining’s approach and contribution within a tested and broadly understood structure.  We are pleased to have collaborated with these two organisations and The Partnering Initiative to create the Framework.

Through the publication of this Framework, we hope to foster and encourage closer collaboration and engagement beyond the mining sector. And to help mining companies and business more broadly address some of the most pressing challenges we face.