Sustainable Ethics in the Context of Local Community Development
Team Members: Debbie Asirvatham, Cecile Dupin de Saint Cyr, Tiffany Uman
At times, the pursuit of servant leadership may sacrifice profitability, but corporations today are encouraged to achieve a triple bottom-line that encompasses environmental and social responsibilities in addition to economic considerations. Rio Tinto Alcan (RTA), a global leader in the mining industry, demonstrates their commitment to servant leadership by recognizing their obligation to give back to the local communities in which they operate. In particular, they devote significant resources towards the development of the community in Ghana, though those mining operations have been incurring successive losses. While sincere, the sustainability of such actions is questionable given the lack of tracking and evaluation measures. Without ensuring sustainability, RTA limits their servant leadership potential and the extent to which mutual benefits could be extracted for all stakeholders.
We have determined three boundaries for ensuring sustainability. Firstly, local community development must be related to RTA’s business. Secondly, all programs must be accompanied by clear objectives and evaluation measures to assure financial feasibility. Thirdly, RTA must optimize value by outlining the roles and goals of all stakeholders involved, while minimizing dependency. Considering local community priorities and the shift in RTA’s strategic framework (to one that is now focused on being a co-facilitator, co-initiator and supporter of sustainability), our proposed model encompasses benefits of Support, Health, Infrastructure, Financing and Training (S.H.I.F.T.).
S.H.I.F.T. is comprised of three main components. Firstly, the construction of a community centre would provide a resource for multi-purpose activities. Secondly, educational programs entailing a maternity specialization ward, an alliance with the Ghana Health and Education Institute, and employee-specific programs would improve skills and empowerment. Finally, offering micro-credit would stimulate entrepreneurship and help lift the local economy out of the poverty cycle.
When measured against the outlined boundaries, the S.H.I.F.T. program proves to be sustainable and, thus, serves as a vehicle for effective servant leadership providing transformation and growth, service and empowerment, as well as collaboration and community building.
Transformation and Growth
The implementation of S.H.I.F.T. ultimately represents a change in the corporate mindset of RTA and in the development process in Ghana. RTA’s revised outlook encourages the achievement of a triple bottom-line and multi-stakeholder cooperation, thus, preparing the company to take a proactive approach to local community development. Our recommended initiatives will allow the community to lift themselves out of the poverty cycle by creating greater learning, training the workforce and stimulating the economy. S.H.I.F.T is based on the needs of the community, enabling all parties to move from a relationship that is currently characterized by overdependence to one that encourages interdependence and is in fact sustainable.
S.H.I.F.T. further facilitates growth as it can also be extracted to all of RTA’s worldwide operations, assuring that service continues to drive their actions.
Service and Empowerment
RTA’s commitment to service emphasizes the need for sustainable ethics such that contributions to the local Ghanaian community could continue on a long-term basis. Given their leadership position in Ghana and the mining industry as a whole, RTA recognizes the magnitude of what they have to offer despite the successive losses earned at the mine site. However, the goal of RTA’s service is to enable the community to sustain itself in the future.
Our recommendation aims to minimize dependence among stakeholders in order to ensure the longevity of programs. First and foremost, the construction of a community centre is an integral part of S.H.I.F.T. as it will enable an environment that is conducive to the development of well-being. Additionally, the educational programs that will be held at this facility (i.e. HIV/Aids awareness, improvement of vocational skills, maternal care, and literacy) will empower local residents to expand their knowledge of factors that directly affect their lives. Furthermore, the micro-credit financing program is aimed at encouraging entrepreneurship and empowering those who want to achieve greatness, but lack the means to do so.
Collaboration and Community
The shift in RTA’s strategic framework highlights the need for collaboration when operating globally. RTA has already established a tri-partite agreement with the District Assembly and an NGO in Ghana, but does not have a facility that is conducive to conduct meetings. Therefore, the construction of the community centre will facilitate these meetings, encourage increased frequency and improve communication and collaboration. The tri-partite agreement seeks to achieve the Millennium Development Goals set out by the United Nations, indicating their commitment towards the betterment of the local community. Finally, the community centre will promote the coming-together of local residents, creating a trusting environment and a sense of community.
RTA will form an alliance with the Ghana Health and Education Institute (GHEI) to execute the educational programs to be held at the community centre. GHEI is already committed to initiatives such as HIV/Aids awareness, improving vocational training, and improving literacy but can benefit from increased financing and enhanced quality of programs. Of course, the successful execution of such programs hinges on an open and well-established relationship between RTA and GHEI.
HIV/Aids and maternal care are two predominant concerns in Ghana. Our educational programs empower individuals to take initiative for their health and stimulate general awareness for the consequences of not doing so, thus, promoting the value of life.
With regards to the micro-credit financing program, RTA will form an alliance with SG-SSB, a well-established bank in Ghana. Essentially, the bank would provide the facility and expertise, while RTA would provide the financial resources. Thus, creating strong relations between both parties is critical to the achievement of desired results. Moreover, in order to receive a micro-credit loan, groups of five will be required to submit a loan request, thus, strengthening commitment and community building.
The goal of the employee-specific programs is to promote affiliation with RTA by involving employees in decision-making, implementing recognition programs, offering certifications for those with specialized skills, and establishing a sense of continual achievement. Thus, these programs would contribute greatly to enhanced commitment to RTA, while also promoting team building within the work environment.
As a leader, RTA is in a position to leverage its power towards the betterment of the local communities in which it operates. As a servant, RTA has the responsibility to nurture, guide and promote the process of local community development with respect to all stakeholders. By ensuring sustainability, RTA will assure its ability to act as an effective servant leader, both now and in the future.