Q & A with Gare Smith, Chair of the Corporate Social Responsibility Practice

gare-smith-03-630Barrick Gold Corporation (“Barrick”) recently published an interview with Gare Smith, Chair of Foley Hoag’s CSR practice and a member of Barrick’s CSR Advisory Board.

Gare founded the CSR practice in 2000 after serving as Senior Foreign Policy Advisor and Counsel to U.S. Senator Edward M. Kennedy and Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary in the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor. Gare also previously served as Vice President of Levi Strauss & Co.

The interview, which was published in the Barrick’s Beyond Borders magazine covered a range of topics relevant to extractive sector companies including: free, prior, and informed consent (“FPIC”), security and human rights challenges; human rights due diligence; and emerging transparency and disclosure requirements.

In his remarks, Gare noted recent legislative efforts to require greater transparency on the part of extractive sector companies and observed:

  • “In the extractive sector, transparency is likely to remain a paramount issue. There are certain to be additional efforts to pass legislation designed to promote revenue transparency and even the transparency of contracts.”
  • “If you aren’t regarded as a transparent company, you aren’t going to be regarded as a credible company.”

Gare also referenced the operational and legal challenges companies must address when ensuring that they have proper rights to concessions:

  • “The concept of FPIC, which refers to the requirement that governments consult with indigenous peoples and obtain their consent for projects that impact their traditional lands, is still relatively nascent… The dearth of guidance in this area has, as a practical matter, often transferred the responsibility of governments to consult and secure FPIC to companies’ shoulders.”
  • “Inasmuch as there is still no universally accepted definition of ‘consent,’ FPIC is certain to be a significant challenge for both governments and companies for many years to come.”

Finally, Gare spoke about the significant challenges that extractive sector companies face in ensuring that security for their operations is provided in a manner that respects human rights:

  • “Security and human rights demand a strong focus.  Companies need to evaluate the support they are receiving from public and private security forces.”
  • “As a best practice, some companies have included the Voluntary Principles [on Security and Human Rights] in project agreements, thereby contractually requiring both parties to abide by them.”

A copy of the full article is available here.

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