Indigenous peoples

This page presents all relevant good practice case studies that showcase how business have addressed the Indigenous peoples’ rights dilemma. Case studies have been developed in close collaboration with a range of multi-national companies and relevant government, inter-governmental and civil society stakeholders. We also draw on public domain sources, including the UN Global Compact's own published Communications on Progress through which signatories are required to report on their performance against the Ten Principles.

The case studies explore the specific dilemmas and challenges faced by each organisation, good practice actions they have taken to resolve them and the results of such action. We reference challenges as well as achievements and invite you to submit commentary and suggestions through the Forum.

Transfield Services: Developing a specific policy on indigenous peoples - Global

Transfield Services’ ‘Indigenous Participation Strategy’ focuses on elements such as supporting meaningful cultural recognition, employment, education and training opportunities for indigenous people. Specifically, the company funds programmes geared towards increasing the understanding of its approach to indigenous affairs and seeks to ensure that a variety of stakeholders collaborate with the business to ensure that ‘mutually beneficial outcomes for indigenous communities, clients, partners and the business itself can be achieved. An Indigenous Advisory Board – established in 2006 – advises Transfield Services on engagement and provides advice regarding the implementation of policies and practices. The company has won an award from the New South Wales government in Australia for providing support for self-sufficient Aboriginal business enterprises.

Congolaise Industrielle des Bois: Harnessing technology for consultation purposes - Congo

Congolaise Industrielle des Bois (CIB), the largest logging company in the Republic of Congo, certifies its concessions to the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) standard. Principles 2 and 3 of the FSC certification standards necessitate that the indigenous peoples are involved with the management and decision-making processes concerning the forest and its resources. During the certification process for its Cabo concession in May 2006, it became clear that additional improvements were needed in the realm of local community engagement. Specifically, CIB had to map the traditional territories of the local communities to ascertain and concretely recognise their tenure and use rights, in addition to elucidating who to consult to establish consent, or refusal, for proposed logging activities. In response, the CIB partnered with TFT, Forest Peoples Programme, London School of Economics and technology provider Helveta to provide an icon-driven application with pictograms used to depict their activities and resources so that indigenous peoples can indicate what they view to be the risks associated with logging. The responses were then mapped via GIS to provide a specific portrayal of localised risk and the sentiments of particular affected communities.

Anglo American: Integrating indigenous rights into the SEAT - Global

Anglo American integrates indigenous peoples’ rights into its Socio-Economic Assessment Toolbox (SEAT). SEAT includes specific guidance and protocols to orient engagement as well impact assessments aimed at risk mitigation. The programme has also been used to launch a range of community initiatives in education, training and local enterprise development. Anglo American reports that it has also had a positive impact on coming to grips with topics such as housing, transport, recruitment and HIV/AIDS. In relation to indigenous issues, SEAT is meant to equip personnel to better understand, plan, implement and account for company’s the social and economic performance at the level of local operations.

ICMM: Stakeholder engagement toolkit - Global

The International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM) has created a kit comprising 17 tools covering the assessment, planning, management, and evaluation phases of community development as well as stakeholder relationships.

Talisman Energy: Implementing FPIC - Global

Talisman Energy has formulated a Global Community Relations Policy that governs the company’s relations with communities impacted by its projects. The Policy “provides direction to Talisman employees and contractors, for the creation of mechanisms which will better enable Talisman to engage with communities in a consistent and good faith manner, so that their concerns can be voiced and considered in decision-making regarding Talisman activities”. It also gives a specific definition of Talisman’s definition of Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) and mandates that a transparent grievance mechanism is implemented in each operating environment.

Akwé Kon Voluntary Guidelines: Ensuring local community participation - Global

The Akwé Kon Voluntary Guidelines developed pursuant to obligations found in the UN Convention on Biodiversity (CBD) provide guidance to governments and other stakeholders on the incorporation of cultural, environmental and social considerations of indigenous and local communities into new or existing impact-assessment procedures. The obligations found within the Guidelines are related to notification and public consultation about the proposed projects; identification of local communities (including indigenous peoples) likely to be affected by the project; establishment of mechanisms for community participation; establishment of an agreed process for recording the views of interested stakeholders; identification and provision of adequate human, financial, legal and technical resources for effective participation by local communities; establishment of an effective environmental management or monitoring plan; concluding agreed terms under which the project will proceed in a manner amenable to the various actors involved and the establishment of a review and appeals process.

Anglo American: Context specific engagement - Global

Anglo American’s 2007 Report to Society details its engagement with indigenous peoples in various parts of the globe and the ways in which context-specific relationships have been developed through the use of the SEAT (mentioned in the other Anglo American case study).

Treaty 8 First Nations: Indigenous peoples’ perspective on consultation - Canada

The Treaty 8 First Nations of Alberta have published a Position Paper in order to clarify the core elements of a proposed new, mutually developed approach to consultation that, in their view, would rectify the flaws evident in the current manner of interaction with the government of Alberta. The objectives in respect of consultation and accommodation include cultural preservation (intimately tied to reserve and traditional lands); ensuring that there is capacity to build culture, language, traditions and prosperity connected to lands; ensuring meaningful participation in decision-making processes related to the planning and management, use and disposition of the lands and resources; and equal opportunity for benefit sharing in the wealth of resources through either project-related benefits or more general measures.

World Resources Institute: Devising community consent techniques - Global

The World Resources Institute has published a report on the topic of community consent techniques that avoid conflict between stakeholders involved in large-scale, high impact projects. The report goes into detail about the detail and legal standards attached to free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) and makes a business case for its implementation which includes a depiction of the various types of risks associated with developing projects that lack a social licence to operate. The report also seeks to quantify the financial impacts that community opposition (or its avoidance) has had on various projects and their sponsors.

Australian Uranium Industry Initiative: Engaging indigenous people - Australia

In Australia the uranium industry representatives and indigenous leaders have established a group that will meet at regular intervals to discuss areas of common interest. The founding members of the dialogue group include prominent experts in native title and indigenous economic development matters as well as senior executives at companies within the uranium industry. The group has a variety of objectives including ensuring the indigenous population is well informed about developments within the industry that are relevant to their quality of life and working to do what they can to narrow socio-economic disparities between the Aboriginal and general population.

IIED: Conflict resolution approaches for business - Global

The International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) has published a report on dealing with company-led approaches to conflict resolution in the forestry sector. Among other topics, the report deals with free, prior and informed consent as well as tools and techniques that businesses can employ related to recognising rights, stakeholder engagement, grievance mechanisms, benefit sharing and monitoring and evaluation.

De Beers: Specific focus on indigenous rights - Global

De Beers has a land rights and resettlement practices subsection within its Community policy that is oriented towards indigenous rights. The policy has been developed to conform to the standards found in the UN DRIP and ILO Convention No. 169 on Tribal and Indigenous Peoples. De Beers is obliged to ensure that “all entities respect community governance and seek free and informed consent prior to initiating any operations that will have substantial impacts on their interests”.

Repsol: Indigenous peoples engagement - Global

In its corporate sustainability reporting Repsol details the various types of engagement it has pursued in various South American countries. For instance, in Venezuela projects have been developed in collaboration with the Directorate for Indigenous Health to mitigate the health needs of the indigenous population of Monagas. In addition, in Ecuador the business supports sustainable cocoa farming initiatives.

Xstrata: Capacity building for local communities - Australia

In its operations that are situated close to indigenous communities, Xstrata provides employment opportunities, bursaries, training and enterprise development programmes. In Australia, university scholarships in mining-related subjects worth AUD10,000 are open for indigenous students, in addition to funding dedicated to help develop leadership skills among young leaders of indigenous communities.

IFC: Guide to stakeholder engagement in emerging economies - Global

As part of IFC’s ongoing commitment to capture and share global knowledge and good practice with their audiences, it has prepared a reference documented entitled ‘Stakeholder Engagement: A Good Practice Handbook for Companies Doing Business in Emerging Markets’. This handbook aims to provide the reader with the good practice “essentials” for managing stakeholder relationships in a dynamic context, where unexpected events can and do occur, and facts on the ground change. The guide includes an elaboration of the key concepts and principles of stakeholder engagement and ideas about implementation throughout the project cycle. It also contains numerous case studies about the ways in which different companies in various parts of the world have approached issues related to this subject.

Gold Fields: Respecting the rights of local and indigenous peoples - Global

Gold Fields seeks to ensure it maintains a social licence to operate in its operations. It takes a multi-layered approach to in order to achieve this, including community engagement, promoting socioeconomic development, local employment and capacity building and local procurement. Detail is provided in Gold Field’s ‘Securing Our Future Responsibly’ section of its corporate website.

ARM: Taking a bottom up approach to building on local traditional knowledge - Global

The Alliance for Responsible Mining (ARM) is an independent, global-scale, pioneering initiative established in 2004 to enhance equity and wellbeing in artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM) communities through improved social, environmental and labour practices, good governance and the implementation of ecosystem restoration practices. ARM is committed to social justice and environmental responsibility as the values driving the transformation of ASM.

ExxonMobil: Respectful interaction with indigenous peoples – US, Canada, PNG, Russia

ExxonMobil’s projects and operations in Alaska (US), Canada, Papua New Guinea and Sakhalin Island (Russia) all involve working alongside indigenous communities. ExxonMobil typically carries out an initial consultation with such communities to establish how they wish to be engaged – including who they choose to represent their interests. For example, in Alaska ExxonMobil has a working group with the indigenous community in the village of Kaktovik, near its North Slope Point Thomson project – which meets a number of times each year. This is supplemented by open community meetings twice a year.

During project development, efforts are made to respond to community concerns by – for example – altering project design where possible to minimise negative impacts. In Papua New Guinea, this included the modification of project plans to avoid impacting a reef that is popular amongst those practising subsistence fishing.

Once operations are initiated, ongoing efforts are made to avoid further negative impacts – and promote positive impacts. For example in Sakhalin, the company’s Exxon Neftegas operations sit near the Uilta indigenous people who live off migratory reindeer cultivation. BP has built a bridge across Chayvo Bay, which it lets the Ulita use each year during their reindeer drives (instead of using boat transport as done previously). Meanwhile, in Papua New Guinea ExxonMobil follows a Cultural Heritage Management Plan – as well as a cultural heritage tracking system. The Management Plan gives procedures for identifying and managing items/sites of cultural value during construction – and relevant personnel are trained in cultural heritage awareness and how to deal with ‘chance finds’. This includes, for example, training for those operating earth-moving equipment – as well as dedicated ‘spotters’.

Nexen: Preparing indigenous community members for employment – Canada

Nexen aims to promote mutually beneficial relationships with indigenous community members in the vicinity of its operations. This includes achieving a workforce that reflects the demographics of the local population. To support this goal, the company offers scholarships and educational bursaries to support indigenous students. The scholarships are accessed through students’ respective educational institutions – or are selected through Nexen’s Aboriginal Education Award Programme (AEAP). AEAP has provided support to more than 100 indigenous students since its establishment in 2002. It includes mechanisms to track the progress of students to facilitate the post-graduation recruitment of the highest achievers. Many recipients of support from the AEAP also take part in Nexen’s Summer Student Employment Programme during which the company employs 12 indigenous students from a range of Canadian universities. Furthermore, Nexen works in partnership with educational and training institutions (ranging from the University of Calgary to the First Nations University of Canada) to develop programmes to prepare indigenous people for the workplace. This is in addition to a range of other programmes to promote education and leadership within indigenous communities.

Woodside: Supporting positive relations through a Reconciliation Action Plan – Australia

Australian hydrocarbons company Woodside has projects and operations in the Pilbara and Kimberley regions of northern Western Australia. In 2006, not for profit group Reconciliation Australia promoted an initiative whereby organisations make a public commitment to national efforts to address the gap in life expectancy between the indigenous population and other Australian citizens. In 2009, Woodside produced (in collaboration with indigenous groups) a Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) containing more than 30 commitments relating to “relationships, respect and opportunities” – as well as concrete goals and timelines. Examples of the different elements that make up the RAP include:

  • Indigenous representation on the Sustainability Advisory Panels to the Woodside Board – as well as Community Liaison Groups
  • The offering of cultural awareness training to employees – and the provision of a guideline on the acknowledgement of traditional custodianship
  • Development of an “integrated approach to employment, training, business participation, education support and social investment

Woodside was the first Australian hydrocarbons company to develop a RAP – and shared its experience through a public report in 2012.

Hunt Oil: Participatory environmental and social monitoring in the Andes – Peru

Hunt Oil, a US-based hydrocarbons company, commissioned the Participatory Environmental and Social Monitoring Programme (PESMP) in relation to the construction of its Peru LNG Project. This includes a 400km gas pipeline that traverses the Andes. Programme monitors were selected by each of the affected communities through community assemblies – with women and youths being encouraged to seek nomination. These monitors were provided with training around the Programme itself, as well as construction processes, potential and actual impacts, relevant social and environmental commitments, and the use of monitoring protocols and equipment. A total of 75 monitors passed the programme, who then spent 10 days a month inspecting work activities and rehabilitation efforts – recording findings that required ‘No Action’ or ‘Action’. These findings were tracked to closure and cannot be modified by the project team. As at May 2010, more than 2,000 observations had been recorded – with only 25% requiring further action.

BHP Billiton: Investing US$10 million in secondary and tertiary education for indigenous communities - Australia

In October 2013, BHP Billiton pledged an investment of US$10 million to the Australian Indigenous Education Foundation (AIEF) under its existing Community Development Programme. The investment will provide 90 new secondary and tertiary scholarships to indigenous students. A three-year collaboration between BHP Billiton and AIEF (which started in 2010) will bring BHP Billiton’s total investment to US$16.3 million. The scholarships help impoverished young people from indigenous communities to pursue their education at Australian universities, in particular to study mining and engineering-related disciplines. To date, 35 indigenous students from Western Australia have received BHP Billiton secondary education scholarships.


WINTA/PATA: Giving practical expression to indigenous rights in the tourism sector – Asia-Pacific/Global

In 2014, the World Indigenous Tourism Alliance (WINTA) and the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) agreed to develop an initiative to “give practical expression, through tourism, to indigenous rights”. Guiding principles for the project are to be taken from the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The agreement is based on their common focus on promoting tourism consistent with the Larrakia Declaration. The Declaration was made in 2012 at the Pacific Asia Indigenous Tourism Conference 2012 in Australia – and is supported by the UN World Tourism Organization. PATA CEO Martin Craigs noted that: “With the respectful engagement of Indigenous peoples as envisioned by the Larrakia Declaration, tourism can be a positive vehicle for promoting the rights of Indigenous peoples.” Ben Sherman of the WINTA Leadership Council said: “The choice and decision-making of whether and how to engage with tourism must always lie with the affected Indigenous peoples. It is important that they be afforded the opportunity to participate on the basis of free, prior and informed consent as envisioned by the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples”. The partnership builds on work carried out by the UN Global Compact in the development of the Business Reference Guide: United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Coca-Cola: World’s largest beverage company works with Oxfam to define its land rights commitments – Brazil, Colombia, Guatemala, India, the Philippines, Thailand, South Africa

In November 2013, Coca-Cola announced a set of commitments aimed at protecting the land rights of farmers and local communities in agricultural regions where the company operates. In partnership with Oxfam, the Coca-Cola Company Commitment – Land Rights and Sugar includes an action plan focused on solutions to land-related challenges that might arise in the supply chain. These commitments build on Coca-Cola’s Sustainable Agriculture Guiding Principles, released four months earlier, which outlined the importance of a “healthy” agricultural supply chain. Coca-Cola says that it is adopting a zero-tolerant approach to ‘land-grabbing’ within the supply chain – with all suppliers now required to adhere to the principle of free, prior and informed consent (FPIC). Suppliers operating in Brazil, Colombia, Guatemala, India, the Philippines, Thailand and South Africa – where risks in Coca-Cola’s supply chain are deemed to be most significant – will also be required to publish the results of social, environmental and human rights impact assessments. Given the central significance of land in protecting the rights of Indigenous Peoples, Coca-Cola’s initiative will have an important role in helping protect indigenous land rights. Although the company has previously worked to ensure protection for indigenous peoples at its operations, the latest commitments go further by requiring Coca-Cola’s suppliers to adopt the FPIC principle – and to produce impact assessments.


Talisman Energy: Constructive engagement with indigenous groups in a conflict-affected environment – Colombia

Talisman Colombia Oil and Gas (TCOG) – a subsidiary of Talisman Energy – published a case study with the UN Global Compact focusing on their engagement with indigenous communities during a joint exploration project on Block CPE-8 (Block 8) in Colombia. To meet its human rights commitments, TCOG implemented a range of actions, including:

  • An on-the-ground security risk assessment
  • Agreements with the Colombian Public Security Forces for the provision of security to the exploration project – including a Memorandum of Understanding incorporating the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights
  • Sponsorship of a process led by the Colombian Ministry of Defense to develop (with local communities) a Code of Conduct for guiding and regulating the public security forces in their interactions with indigenous communities
  • A partnership with an independent third-party observer, Fundacion Ideas Para La Paz, to monitor the engagement process
  • Development of a site-specific Code of Conduct for all actors working on behalf of TCOG, which helped address relevant cultural sensitivities
  • Development of a participative consultation process that tried to accommodate the communities’ unique communication needs and to take into account relevant cultural considerations during impact assessment and mitigation plans

The director of Colombia’s National Hydrocarbon Agency described these processes as “absolutely impeccable”. Nonetheless, in March 2011, 23 contractors working on Block 8 were abducted by an illegal armed group. Despite this, all of the contractors were returned safely and the amount of trust that TCOG had been able to generate with local communities meant they were able to overcome this challenge on a collaborative basis. This process is described in further detail in the UN Global Compact case study itself (see link below). This includes the challenges TCOG experienced during the community engagement and how TCOG overcame them. It also provides details on ‘lessons learnt’ from the experience. 

UN Global Compact

Teck: Promoting indigenous workforce inclusion and skills development within the Nlaka’pamux Nation – Canada

Canada-based mining company Teck implements a range of indigenous engagement programmes at its Highland Valley Copper Operations (‘HVC’) near Kamloops in British Columbia, Canada. This includes the implementation of Impact Benefit Programmes aimed at improving the inclusion of Nlaka’pamux people into HVC’s business. Initiatives include the implementation of indigenous cultural awareness sessions for HVC employees from 2012. These provide an overview of First Nations people, the impact of past government policies on indigenous culture and communities, and the implications for current education, skills and literacy within indigenous communities. This is with the aim of supporting the “participatory inclusion” of indigenous people within HVC.

Similarly HVC has adapted its recruitment processes to reflect the specific context and needs of the Nlaka’pamux Nation – and is working with civil society bodies such as the Aboriginal Mentoring and Training Association to promote indigenous skills and training.


BHP Billiton Potash: Signature of a ground-breaking Opportunities Agreement with three Canadian First Nations – Canada

In October 2013, BHP Billiton Potash cemented its relationship with three First Nations in the territory of Saskatchewan, Canada, by signing an Opportunities Agreement at the Jansen Project.

Built through collaboration between the BHP Billiton Potash Community Engagement team, the Kawacatoose First Nation, Day Star First Nation and Muskowekwan First Nation, the agreement represents the first of its kind in the Potash industry.

The central aim of the agreement is to ensure that the people of the three First Nations benefit from BHP Billiton’s presence at Jansen. Relevant terms address issues such as capacity building, the creation of mutually beneficial opportunities in employment, business and community development, as well as BHP Billiton’s assistance in the development of First Nation business capacity.

Alongside the Opportunities Agreement at the Jansen site, BHP Billiton Potash has also committed to the International Council of Mining and Metals Position Statement on Indigenous Peoples and Mining. This provides a framework for all engagement with indigenous communities across the company’s global operations.




Rio Tinto: Capacity building and employment promotion within indigenous communities – Australia

For the past number of years, Rio Tinto has been working with indigenous communities in Australia to contribute to regional development and local employment. Through a number of initiatives, the company delivers community capacity building in the areas of employment, education, training and enterprise facilitation.  

Programmes include the tailored recruitment of indigenous peoples. At sites such as the Argyle Diamond mine in East Kimberley, a one and a half day assessment provides applicants with feedback on their current skill levels and guidance on the training they require. As a result, 25% of the mainstream workforce at the site is from indigenous communities. 

Likewise, Rio Tinto actively supports the development of the Indigenous Stock Exchange which encourages people to invest in social and business enterprises. Working with the permission of community elders, all community trading floors are carried out with extensive community consultations, which begin with the elders and moves through to the grassroots of the community.