Relationships and engagement with communities in direct areas of influence is of paramount importance for successful exploration and production (E&P) operations. Since the beginning of operations in three major areas of Bolivia, a company has worked very closely with neighboring communities at all stages of design, planning, and implementation of projects and programs. The objective has always been the same: to improve the life quality of the society as a whole and be a partner with the communities.
The company’s E&P operations are located in three areas of Bolivia—Naranjillos, Porvenir, and Ñupuco fields (Fig. 1).
The business units in each of these areas have developed and implemented a social-responsibility program that supports company business objectives and positively affects people, communities, and the environment. A program has been developed that achieves a balance between the E&P interests of the company business and the communities’ expectations and needs. It is carried out through alliances between the company and the communities located inside the areas of influence.
The company’s social-responsibility commitments and ongoing initiatives are categorized into the following five pillars:
Governance and Transparency—The company promotes effective corporate governance by implementing responsible policies and robust management systems to foster and reinforce business practices that are consistently sound, highly principled, and transparent.
Workforce Development—The company takes pride in employing a diverse and multicultural global workforce and is committed to maintaining a supportive and challenging work environment to prepare the next generation of leaders.
Health and Safety—The company aims to integrate programs and systems to mitigate incidents and reduce risks to employees, contractors, and the communities in which it operates.
Environmental Stewardship—The company strives to minimize its operational footprint, protect ecosystems, and implement conservation practices, making stewardship of the environment a responsibility of each member of the workforce.
Economic and Social Development—The company works to strengthen the economies where it operates by investing time and resources in programs and initiatives that develop the sustainability of local communities.
Following the core values of each of the five pillars and fully understanding the communities’ needs in the areas of influence, the company has developed and implemented the following steps as part of the stakeholder engagement and social-responsibility approval process:
This process has enabled the company to engage the communities and keep the communities actively participating in the decision-making. This process has provided full transparency and enabled consensus among different community groups. This process also has enabled a full understanding of what is agreed upon and what will be implemented.
A needs assessment is conducted through constant open dialogue, coordinated with the authorities and leaders of the communities.
The following are some of the social-responsibility programs carried out by the company.
Health. Medical care is a universal need. Regardless of the location, culture, or socioeconomic status, appropriate medical treatment and preventive health-care programs are considered of paramount importance for any community. Aligning with the third pillar, health and safety, the company has developed and implemented a medical care program called Free Clinic in places where the company operates, in order to promote the development of healthier and safer communities. Considering the extreme remoteness of the locations, this program plays an important role for the communities.
Free Clinic’s main priority is to increase the life quality of the community’s population. The Free Clinic started in February 2000 and, by 2017, had treated more than 34,000 cases in different specialties. Currently, the program has a solid general-medicine base and fulfills additional specialized medical needs such as pediatrics, odontology, and ophthalmology. All subsequent records are analyzed to determine the main diseases that affect people year-round to serve the communities’ health needs accordingly.
Community Programs. The following programs have been created in alignment with the fifth pillar of the corporate social-responsibility framework, economic and social development.
Water. Communities were supported with a potable water supply through agreements between the company and the communities. The beneficiary communities receive the water from a tanker during the drought season.
Road Improvement. This project supports the community by providing construction materials and road maintenance and repair.
Food Support for Children. The program is for children who cannot afford their nutrition and who live far away from their schools, having to travel long distances to attend classes in neighboring communities. Supplying food to the schools is intended to reduce absenteeism of those students who are unable to afford their nutrition at the boarding schools.
Monitoring and Evaluation
Every year, monitoring and evaluation of the social-responsibility programs and their effects in the communities is conducted. One of the key aspects of this evaluation is community participation and active feedback through direct meetings. Each meeting’s minutes are drafted, signed, and shared with all community representatives and the company, and the programs are adjusted or modified to ensure they are progressing and meeting community needs.
Approximately 2,800 families are covered by the various community programs that the company develops and implements every year.
Both the approval process and the implementation of projects have allowed the company to operate successfully as a partner with the communities and have provided a better, integrated social-responsibility framework into the business practice.
With stakeholder identification and engagement, the company designs effective strategies and programs to prevent or minimize social-responsibility effects. The company has enabled social progress and social prosperity in the areas in which it operates. The success of being the partner of choice with the communities relies primarily on transparent engagement, dialogue, and involvement at early stages of the project design and throughout all phases of implementation and operations. The approach of acquiring prior informed consent and maintaining constant engagement with the communities, in addition to hiring primarily from the communities, has advanced the company’s social-responsibility programs.
This article, written by Special Publications Editor Adam Wilson, contains highlights of paper SPE 190652, “Community Engagement, Commitments, and Partnership for Successful E&P Operations in Bolivia,” by Eva Calvimontes and Sergio Eduardo Ayala Sánchez, Vintage Petroleum Boliviana, and Krish Ravishankar, SPE, Occidental Petroleum, prepared for the 2018 SPE International Conference on Health, Safety, Security, Environment, and Social Responsibility, Abu Dhabi, 16–18 April. The paper has not been peer reviewed.
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