Assessing the effect of corporate social responsibility on community development in the Niger Delta: a corporate perspective

Assessing the effect of corporate social responsibility on community development in the Niger... Abstract The widespread adoption of corporate social responsibility (CSR) policies by oil transnational corporations in developing countries have led to calls for a concerted effort to better capture CSR effects. Unfortunately, capturing the impacts of CSR is not as straightforward as it might seem. In fact, oil companies operating in the Niger Delta continue to face the challenge of how to determine the success or failure of their CSR initiatives either in terms of its effect on community development or its impact on corporate–community relations. To address this problem, Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) in 2013 launched the Shell Community Transformation and Development Index (SCOTDI). SCOTDI represents an innovative framework that integrates and adapts a number of international principles into a composite index in a manner that is responsive to local context. The framework is used to assess and rank the performance of the different Global Memorandum of Understanding (GMoU) clusters within the host communities of SPDC. This article suggests that SCOTDI allows for a systematic assessment of the effects of CSR on community development and provides incentive for positive inter-cluster competition for community development. However, the framework also suffers from some shortcomings that can reasonably be addressed. The article considers the theoretical and practical implications for efforts to assess CSR contribution to community development in developing countries. Introduction As part of their corporate social responsibility (CSR), there is now widespread expectation that companies should be held accountable for their impacts on the communities and the environment where they operate (Rowe et al., 2014). Consequently, oil companies in the Niger Delta have had to develop CSR strategies for dealing with local communities and contributing to community development. However, the extent to which the CSR initiatives of oil companies have contributed to community development in the region remain contested. For example, Akpan (2006) has argued that the CSR initiatives of oil transnational corporations (TNCs) have failed to contribute to community development and in some instances have caused inter- and intra-community conflicts. In contrast, Ite (2007) suggested that the CSR initiatives of oil TNCs have actually contributed to community development in the region given the extent of governmental failure. According to him, oil TNCs have continually improved upon their CSR strategies so as to better respond to the needs of their host communities. Yet, Lompo and Trani (2013) recently added some nuance to the debate as they suggested that the CSR initiatives of oil TNCs have contributed to access to basic capabilities like water, electricity and shelter, but have also undermined human development. Similarly, Renouard and Lado (2012) noted that the CSR activities of oil TNCs have somewhat contributed to the improvement of the material well-being of some of the people living close to oil production sites, but inequalities or ‘relational capabilities’ have actually deteriorated in these communities. The foregoing debate highlights the complexity of measuring the effects of CSR in developing countries. Indeed, the different perspectives to CSR contribution to community development in the region can partly be attributed to the fact that CSR as a discipline lacks well-developed elaborative methodologies that capture its effect (Prieto‐Carrón et al., 2006). Hamann (2006) attributes this to the fact that while social issues related to CSR are often difficult to measure, there is also the tendency for different stakeholders to adopt different perceptual lenses in their assessment of CSR impact. Besides, since CSR initiatives do not take place in a vacuum; the broader political economy compounds the difficulty of measuring CSR impact (Hamann, 2006; Idemudia, 2008). Hence, Gitsham (2007) has suggested that any focus on CSR impact that does not consider the broader impacts of core business activities can give a misleading picture. As a result, oil TNCs operating in the Niger Delta face the challenge of how to determine the success or failure of their CSR initiatives either in terms of its effect on community development or on corporate–community relations. This lack of a systematic methodology that can capture the effects of CSR has had two main consequences. First, it has meant that oil TNCs face a tough challenge to demonstrate and convince sceptical shareholders and critics that CSR is making a difference. Second, it has constrained the ability of oil TNCs to use CSR initiatives effectively either to manage non-technical risks or to better address the needs of their host communities. To address these challenges, Shell recently devised Shell Community Transformation and Development Index (SCOTDI) to assess the effect of their GMoUs (i.e. a CSR initiative) within their host communities, and identify winners of its Community Transformation Development (CTD) Awards. However, SCOTDI risks being part of an emerging ‘audit culture’ in the extractive industries that tends to focus on management systems instead of first-order questions of quality and performance (Macintyre, Mee and Solomon, 2008). Besides, the transactional mode of this audit culture can constrain organizational introspection and the development of a dialogical accountability with stakeholders (Kemp, Owen, and Van de Graaff, 2012). Against this background, this article aims to: Analyse the emergence of the GMoUs as a new CSR strategy for community development in the Niger Delta. Examine the strengths and limitations of SCOTDI, and its implication for efforts to assess the effects of CSR on community development in developing countries. The dynamics of CSR contribution to community development in the Niger Delta Corporate–community relations in the Niger Delta can usefully be divided into three phases, based on shifting degrees of cooperation, accommodation and conflict (Banks et al., 2013). The first phase of corporate–community relations is between the 1960s and the early 1980s; as corporate–community relation was at this time relatively peaceful (Idemudia, 2010). During this cooperative phase, oil TNCs adopted a pay-as-you-go approach to community relations (Idemudia, 2010). The idea was to keep communities at arms-length as much as possible while securing local right-of-way (ROW). As such, the primary focus of oil companies was to give things to communities that they thought communities needed and in the process secure the support of local elites and chiefs. However, this peaceful relationship began to metamorphose into peaceful protest in the early 1980s due to three principal reasons. The first has to do with the Federal Government of Nigeria (FGN) promulgation of a number of decrees (such as the land use Act of 1978 and the 1969 petroleum Act) that systematically dispossessed the people of the region of any claim of right or ownership over land or petroleum. The second is that the pay-as-you-go approach to community relations denied community members the opportunity to make inputs into any form of corporate donations, and allowed for the mismanagement of funds meant for community development by local chiefs. The third reason was the belief within governmental and oil TNCs circles that since the people of the region belong to a minority ethnic group their protest cannot really threaten either the Nigerian state or oil production. For example, Philip Asiodu, the permanent secretary of the Ministry of Mines and Power in the 1970s, asserted during a public lecture to Nigerian civil servants in the 1980s, ‘that given the small size and population of the oil producing areas, it is not cynical to observe that if the resentments of the oil producing states continue, they cannot threaten the stability nor affect Nigeria's economic development’ (cited in Okoh, 1996). These factors contributed to the neglect of the socio-economic development of the region within which the second phase of community relations emerged. The accommodation phase is between the late 1980s and early 1990s. The intensification of oil and gas exploration activities within the context of Structural Adjustment Program (SAP), together with increase in population meant contact between local communities and oil TNCs increased with significant ramification for local livelihood sources. In addition, oil became strategically important in the calculations of domestic politics, thus creating a symbiotic relationship between government and oil TNCs. It is within this context that increased incidence of environmental degradation, limited employment, loss of traditional sources of livelihood and instances of human rights violations associated with oil extraction led to both peaceful protest and sporadic violent by communities against both oil companies and the Nigerian state. The use of peaceful protest and call for dialogue by communities suggest an accommodative approach towards oil companies. In response to both community protests and international pressures, oil companies responded by accepting the principles of CSR and adopted a community development (CD) model for engaging with host communities. However, the CD model focused almost exclusively on the provision of social infrastructures with limited emphasis on the environmental consequences of oil extraction that also contributed to community protest. In addition, the CD model treated community members as objects of development as opposed to being agents of their own development. Hence, the model provided limited space for community participation in CSR decision-making, and project implementation (Ite, 2007; Idemudia, 2010). This eventually led to two kinds of interrelated problems. The first was that development projects provided by oil TNCs did not address core community needs, as they were inconsistent with community priorities. The second was that the social infrastructures provided by oil TNCs were not sustainable as communities lacked both a sense of ownership for such projects and the capacity to maintain them. Hence, these CSR projects invariably created more community expectations and demands on oil TNCs and failed to empower local communities. This was especially so, given the near absence of the Federal Government of Nigeria (FGN) in these communities. Consequently, oil TNCs’ community relations spending skyrocketed. For example, Shell community relations spending went from $330,000 in 1989 to $43 million in 1998 (Ite, 2007). These problems cumulatively pushed corporate–community relations towards more conflict and oil TNCs responded again with a new CSR strategy in the next phase. The high intensity conflict phase of corporate–community relations probably began in the late 1990s. The violent form this phase took was partially driven by the repression response to peaceful protest in the last phase by the FGN. In addition, the increased incidence of environmental degradation, and the proliferation of youth militants, due partly to oil TNCs strategy of direct money payment to youths as sit-at-home allowance to forestall attacks but instead commoditized and incentivised violence, also accentuated corporate–community conflicts. Within this context, corporate–community relations further deteriorated as either oil TNCs were directly attacked for corporate misdemeanour or attacked as proxy to the Nigerian state. In response, and partly as an attempt to reduce the skyrocketing cost of community relations mentioned earlier, oil TNCs began to adopt a new strategy to community relations based largely on the ideals of partnership. The partnership strategy to community relationship took either the form of corporate–NGO–community partnerships (e.g. the Global Memorandum of Understanding (GMoU) Model) or corporate–state partnership (e.g. Niger Delta Development Commission) or business–NGO partnership (e.g. Exxon Mobil-NNF). This turn to partnership strategies (especially GMoU) represent an attempt by oil TNCs to share decision-making authority over community development with other actors (i.e. NGO and government) and put communities at the forefront of their own development. The objective of this partnership strategy was to facilitate local ownership of community development process, address problems associated with previous CSR approaches, and foster harmonious community relations. Nonetheless, three important issues underpin the evolution of CSR strategy in the Niger Delta. The first is that oil TNCs both responded to external stakeholder pressures, and actively shaped the ensuing debates around those pressures. This is because while oil TNCs often adopted new strategies that attempted to address the weakness of previous CSR strategies, they also shaped the nature of the debate around what constitutes their social responsibility by delimiting the scope of their social responsibility and defining what constitutes their social responsibility in the region. For example, the tendency to limit social investments to immediate host communities, and not neighbouring communities that are also affected by the negative externalities of oil extraction or to emphasize the provision of social infrastructure over environmental protection in their CSR strategies. Second, inter-organizational learning has been crucially to the successive improvements of CSR strategies in the region, as oil TNCs tend to learn from each other. For example, the perception that the GMoU strategy first initiated by Chevron was relatively successful led Shell to adopt and modify the model to meets its own community engagement needs. Finally, there are subtle variations in the CSR strategies adopted by different oil TNCs in the region. Indeed, based on continent of origin, the decision to manage community relations internally or externally in collaboration with other actors, and whether oil is extracted mainly offshore as opposed to both onshore and offshore, oil TNCs adopted slightly different strategies. For instance, because Exxon Mobil extracts oil mainly offshore, its approach to CSR has largely been passive in the sense that CSR is largely managed internally with limited partnerships with NGOs to deliver some social investments in only their immediate host communities. In contrast, Total and Shell that do have onshore and offshore oil wells, have shifted from a unilateral to a collaborative approach in the management of their CSR initiatives and now emphasize engagement with impact communities (i.e. both immediate host and neighbouring communities that are affected by oil extraction). Hence, there are some differences in the CSR strategies adopted by different oil companies, but collaborative approaches are increasingly becoming dominant in the region. This is perhaps because collaborative CSR strategies such as GMoU or corporate–community foundations have been shown to be a more effective strategy for contributing to community development than unilateral in-house management CSR approaches (Idemudia, 2014). Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) and the Global Memorandum of Understandings (GMoUs): nature and issues GMoU is an agreement between SPDC and a cluster of several communities identified based on local government, ethnicity and historical affinities. Under the terms of the agreement, SPDC provides funding for five years and the communities decide, plan and implement community development projects. In addition, SPDC facilitates the capacity building of the GMoUs by providing access to development experts usually their NGO partners to oversee project implementation. The Community Development Board (CDB) is the core governance institution of the GMoU, and it is supposedly embedded in the participating communities via the community trust. The community trust (CT) consists of ten persons with at least three women who are resident in and trusted within the participating communities. From these ten CT members, each community provides three persons with at least one woman to establish the CDB. Hence, the community trusts are responsible for ensuring that development benefits from the GMoUs reach their individual communities. The CDB is responsible for managing and coordinating the development activities of the GMoU across all the communities in a given cluster. The CDB consists of all the chairpersons, secretaries and members of the CT, a representative of SPDC, local government, state government, The Niger Delta Development Commission, National Petroleum Investment Management Services and donor community. However, Alfred (2013) has noted that with the exception of SPDC representatives, the other representatives appear to be uninterested. Nonetheless, each CDB has standing committees for finance and resources management, partnering, communication and capacity building, peace and conflict resolution, and technical matters. Furthermore, the CDB are entitled to a small percentage of the annual negotiated sum from the GMoU agreement to manage their administrative functions. Finally, the GMoU is underpinned by an Operations Policy and Procedure Guidelines (OPPG) as CDB becomes the only legitimate interlocutor recognized by SPDC in its engagement with its host communities. As at 2011, SPDC has signed and implemented agreements with twenty-seven clusters that cover 290 communities about 30 percent of its host communities and nine of the twenty-seven CDBs have grown to become registered foundations that receive third party funding (SPDC, 2013). Two major issues arise with regard to the GMoUs in the Niger Delta. First, the GMoU is an attempt to create a new institution within a context of institutional void that arose due to either the breakdown of existing traditional institutions or the failure of extant institutions to deliver in a context of limited statehood. Consequently, GMoUs serve multiple functions that go beyond the delivering of corporate social investments to include a mechanism for conflict resolution, a communication channel with local communities, a platform for evaluating the social and environmental performance of oil TNCs and a vehicle to bridge the trust divide between SPDC and its host communities. However, since the process of establishing the GMoU is often not immune from local political dynamics, the process of selecting or electing CT and CDB members can often be a source of conflict among the various groups in the communities with significant implication for the ability of a GMoU to deliver on its developmental promise. For instance, Alfred (2013) notes that membership of CDB is now one of the major cause of intra-communal conflict in the communities that have GMoU or the ones that are about to get one. This problem is also manifested in the way in which certain subgroups such as women can also be marginalized as their views and interests are not adequately considered. Second, while the GMoU is a bottom-up participatory approach to community development, there continue to remain key structural constraints of the ability of communities to actively participate in their own development and in the governance of corporate–community relations. This is because the boundaries of community participation is set within a particular understanding of the process of development in which oil extraction is central and alternative meanings and pathways to development are foreclosed. In other words, community participation is restricted to how oil funds provided by oil TNCs for community development are to be spent as opposed to the more substantive question of whether oil extraction should continue to be a basis for community development in the face of the negative externalities it has generated. For instance, Faleti (2004) noted that there is often significant anger within communities over environmental degradation associated with dredging, contamination, spills and salt water inflow that negatively impact local livelihoods, but these issues are not incorporated into the scope of the activities covered by the GMoU. Hence, the GMoU might be a form of corporate social innovation within a context of institutional void, but it is underpinned by a restrictive interpretation of participatory development. The tension that arises as a result explains both the strength and the weakness of the GMoU as a CSR strategy. For instance, Aaron (2012) has argued that while the turn to GMoU by Shell and Chevron in Nigeria is a radical departure from their previous CSR strategies, the GMoU is still being plagued by old challenges and as such it has failed to deliver sustainable development benefits for the people in the Niger Delta. In contrast, Alfred (2013) stated that the question of whether ‘the GMoU is a success so far to a large extent is not in doubt’. These studies have no doubt been insightful. However, the lack of systematically accumulated empirical evidence, the differences in the criteria often used by different analysts to assess GMoU contribution to community development, the difficulty of isolating the effects of CSR initiatives from other activities on community development make it difficult to generate and consolidate sufficient stakeholder support for the GMoU approach to community development. Hence, the need for a strategy to assess the effects of CSR on community development in a manner that is context sensitive and sufficiently robust so as to facilitate possible CSR reforms in the region. SCOTDI: The intersection of global discourse and local practice SCOTDI is a composite index for weighing, scoring and ranking the performance of GMoU clusters based on five key criteria (i.e. transparency and accountability, inclusiveness and participation, governance and democracy, business climate and progress towards sustainability), which are consistent with international best practice in development discourse. These five criteria constitute the ‘criterion reference system’ and are similar to the criteria used by a similar study that undertook a social performance review of gold mine in Papua New Guinea (Macintyre, Mee and Solomon, 2008). The specific objectives of SCOTDI are: To provide a framework for ranking GMoU clusters. To engender healthy competition among GMoU clusters via an annual CTD award competition. To align Shell capacity building interventions, business value expectations, and reputation enhancement opportunities. Criteria for assessments: SCOTDI Transparency and accountability: It implies the extent to which GMoU processes especially the institution is open to scrutiny and provides information on its activities to its stakeholders. Inclusiveness and participation: This relates to the creation of equal opportunities for the entire community to participate in the development process, and efforts to addresses marginalization and exclusion of vulnerable groups in benefit distribution. Governance and democracy: This refers to the manner in which power is exercised in the management of economic and social resources, and adherence to laid down procedures (e.g. tenure and succession, financial management). Business climate: This relates to the enabling environment for Shell to operate, and its alignment with Shell's strategic priorities (i.e. ending crude oil theft, sabotage spills stoppage, active advocacy for Shell, alternative dispute resolution and grievance management). Progress towards sustainability: This refers to the deployment of innovation in project execution, capacity to implement quality projects, alignment of projects to felt needs, diversity and growth in funding. The assessment tool for fieldwork consisted of forty questions (i.e. eight questions for each of the five assessment criteria) (see Table 1). Each band of the five criteria is further broken down into subcategories of variables to reflect local circumstances and priorities. For example, under the criteria of sustainability, the variable of sense of community ownership is important given that a major problem with CSR efforts in the region is the lack of a sense of community ownership for the social infrastructure that are provided by oil TNCs. Furthermore, each of the five main criteria is equally weighted with a maximum score of forty points, and each subcategory variables are scored on a scale of zero to five. The total maximum score for the 40 questions was 200. The equal weighting of the five criteria is based on the assumption that the different assessment criteria are of equal importance for a GMoU to be effective. In addition, it was important not to privilege one criterion over another so as not to exacerbate historical structural inequalities among the various communities within the GMoUs. SCOTDI is a comprehensive framework that covers both the community development concerns of local communities and the social risks concern of SPDC. However, the framework is composed of more indicators that captures community development concerns than non-technical risk issues (see Table 1). The implication therefore is that the framework appears to be driven by a societal case for CSR. In addition, SCOTDI seems to be consistent with the views of Macintyre, Mee and Solomon (2008) that reviews and audits should incorporate issues not only as they are framed by organizations but also in terms of how meaningful and relevant they are to people's views and lived experiences. Nevertheless, it is important to recognize that some of the assessment variables can be subjective such as the effectiveness of environmental advocacy by the GMoUs. This problem was partially managed by the use of both assessors and validators in the scoring and ranking of GMoUs. Table 1. SCOTDI assessment criteria Assessment criteria  Assessment criteria variables  Performance ranking scale (0–5) [a]  Max. obtainable score: [a x b]  Number of questions per criteria [b]  Transparency and Accountability  Commerce process  0–5        Financial management  0–5  40  8    Governance and decision-making  0–5      Inclusiveness and Participation  Extent of representation of different groups in the community  0–5        Equity in the distribution of benefits  0–5        Extent of participation in GMoU process  0–3  40  8    Social inclusion  0–2      Governance and Democracy  Democratic authority  0–5        Adherence to executive tenure limits  0–5        Rule of law  0–3  40  8    Corruption  0–2      Business climate  Enabling environment for business  0–5        Environmental advocacy by GMoU  0–5        No disruption of business operation  0–3  40  8    Grievance management  0–2      Sustainability  Alignment between GMoU projects and community priorities  0–5        Capacity building  0–5  40  8    Self-sustainability  0–3        Sense of community ownership  0–2      Total  200  40  Assessment criteria  Assessment criteria variables  Performance ranking scale (0–5) [a]  Max. obtainable score: [a x b]  Number of questions per criteria [b]  Transparency and Accountability  Commerce process  0–5        Financial management  0–5  40  8    Governance and decision-making  0–5      Inclusiveness and Participation  Extent of representation of different groups in the community  0–5        Equity in the distribution of benefits  0–5        Extent of participation in GMoU process  0–3  40  8    Social inclusion  0–2      Governance and Democracy  Democratic authority  0–5        Adherence to executive tenure limits  0–5        Rule of law  0–3  40  8    Corruption  0–2      Business climate  Enabling environment for business  0–5        Environmental advocacy by GMoU  0–5        No disruption of business operation  0–3  40  8    Grievance management  0–2      Sustainability  Alignment between GMoU projects and community priorities  0–5        Capacity building  0–5  40  8    Self-sustainability  0–3        Sense of community ownership  0–2      Total  200  40  SCOTDI draws on a contribution analysis approach to impact assessment. Indeed, contribution analysis is a useful framework for assessing the effect of interventions where attribution cannot be determined through experimentation (Mayne, 2001). This is particularly the case in the Niger Delta, where Idemudia (2008) has already suggested that establishing a one to one causal relationship between a CSR initiative (i.e. GMoU) and a specific community development outcome is extremely problematic. Hence, he stated that if we are to better understand the impact of CSR on community development, there is a need to shift from an emphasis on just determining outcomes associated with CSR initiatives to also exploring issues of process via which CSR initiatives like GMoU are able to deliver or fail to deliver on their development promise. SCOTDI builds on this renewed emphasis on taking process seriously by drawing on global principles (e.g. inclusiveness, participation, transparency, governance) that are locally essential to the processes via which GMoUs can effectively contribute to community development and foster positive relationship with SPDC. SCOTDI thus does not necessarily just capture outcomes associated with GMoUs but also seeks to generate insights into how GMoUs functions and the extent to which these principles that are essential for success are embedded in their operations. The process of implementing SCOTDI and outcomes The process of implementation began with a workshop organized to elicit the perspectives of the representatives of CDB on SCOTDI via focus group discussions. The discussions focused on whether the criteria were appropriate or not, and if the criteria were meaningful to stakeholders. A total of eighty-one participants attended the workshop for representatives of CDB held on 28 August 2013 in Port Harcourt. The feedback received and perspectives expressed demonstrated a general acceptance of the SCOTDI framework as a suitable evaluation framework for assessing the performance of GMoU clusters. Based on the perspectives received, the questionnaires were redesigned to reflect the concerns raised by the CDB members at the workshop. For example, CDB members did not want the quantity/numbers of projects to be a basis for assessment and instead favoured the alignment between GMoU projects and community priority as a better basis for assessment (see Table 1). The updated questionnaire was then presented to field assessors at a separate workshop. The field assessors critiqued and made further changes to the questionnaire. Similarly, the revised questionnaire from the assertor's workshop was then presented at a validator's only workshop. The validators also discussed and made some more changes to the questionnaire. A final workshop was then held for both assessors and validators to agree on how SCOTDI will be implemented. In addition, this workshop allowed assessors and validators to discuss and review the final questionnaire to ensure their concerns were addressed and that the questions can be operationalized. A total of nineteen field assessors were selected for the purposes of field verification and additional data collection from the GMoU Clusters. These assessors were drawn from Nigerian universities, local NGOs and private consultancies. In addition, a total of six validators were selected for the validation exercise. The primary role of the validators was to challenge the data/information gathered by the assessors from the GMoU Clusters. The call for submission of entries for the 2013 Community Transformation and Development Awards was sent to twenty-four GMoU clusters that were considered active. Nineteen clusters submitted entries and supporting evidence by the agreed deadline. The assessors worked in groups of three to four persons to verify the information submitted by the GMoU clusters. The process included visits to the GMoU's CBD administrative offices, sighting of documents, inspection of projects as well as interviews with CBD representatives and community members. This use of multiple data collection tools was likely helpful in capturing different contextual factors that might affect GMoU performance. The winners of the 2013 CTD award were determined by the total score based on the five criteria as shown in Table 1. For example, Nembe City foundation received the highest total score of 179 out of a maximum of 200. Indeed, Nembe City foundation's highest score was in the criteria of governance where the foundation got a score of forty out of a maximum of forty points. The validators made the final decision on the winners, after reviewing data and information collected by the assessors and the role of SPDC was to facilitate the process. More than 200 internal and external stakeholders attended the award ceremony which featured the presentation and launching of SCOTDI. The prizes for the winners were determined and agreed by SPDC Leadership Team. SCOTDI: strengths and weakness The use of SCOTDI as a tool for assessing CSR contribution to community development comes with some opportunities and challenges. The first strength of SCOTDI is that it is a collaborative tool that requires key stakeholders input in the assessment process. Thus, it is likely to gainer stakeholders support and ensure the outcome of the assessment process is seen as credible by both internal and external stakeholders. This is particularly important given that evidence concerning CSR impacts are often politically sensitive and highly contested (Gitsham, 2007). In addition, SCOTDI generates useful information that is meaningful for both the company and the communities. For instance, companies are able to determine objectively what aspect of their CSR works or do not work and where to direct more resources to strengthen the initiatives. For example, SPDC was able to identify the different capacity needs of its GMoUs even though there were all located within the Niger Delta. Similarly, CDBs were able to identify critical aspects of their operations that needed improvement. Hence, SCOTDI is both an assessment and learning tool for both the company and the communities. Second, in a volatile business environment like the Niger Delta where competition among communities traditionally often lead to violence, SCOTDI is able to harness local energy for competitiveness into a positive force for community development. Indeed, by ranking GMoU clusters based on agreed criteria, GMoUs are now likely to ensure that they deliver on their development promise. Importantly, rivalries that often lead to destructive outcomes can now be enabled for a constructive purpose. However, there is always the danger that the use of competition in this way, if not well managed can also lead to intra- and inter-community conflicts or exacerbate historical inequalities. Third, decades of empirical research have compiled the positive and negative impacts of TNCs on development in developing countries. However, intra-country comparison across a region or localities is very rare (Bury, 2001). As such, Prieto‐Carrón et al. (2006) have called for the development of new ways of systematically capturing the effect of CSR. SCOTDI is a direct response to this call as it is an intra-country innovative assessment framework for capturing the effects of CSR initiatives across a region (i.e. the Niger Delta). In addition, given its flexibility and the nature of its assessment variables, SCOTDI can perhaps be modified to respond to the call that we need an assessment framework that would allow us to asses and compare the CSR initiatives of Statoil, Shell, BP and other oil companies against one another in the same countries where they operate (see Prieto‐Carrón et al., 2006). Finally, SCOTDI is a context driven framework that requires stakeholders input. As such, the framework requires the assembly of a multidisciplinary team of assessors and validators. Gitsham (2007) points out that the use of a multidisciplinary team does not only increase the quality of the assessment but also reduces the risk that certain key issues can be missed through disciplinary blind spot. The implementation of SCOTDI in the Niger Delta also raised a number of challenges. First, the process of designing and implementing SCOTDI is time consuming and not insulated from local political dynamics given its emphasis on stakeholder participation. This issue is also exacerbated by the use of both external assessors and validators to independently ascertain and verify respectively the contributions of the GMoU. For instance, due to time constraints validators were unable to undertake random field visits to crosscheck every data and information submitted by assessors for the purposes of validation (see Macintyre, Mee and Solomon, 2008). In addition, there were also instances where assessors were implicated in local politics and thus exhibited evidence of bias in their assessment.1 As such, significant amount of resources were devoted to not only the assessment process but also to manage competing and conflicting stakeholder claims. This problem can partially be managed by engaging local communities early and recruiting a mix of local and international assessors and validators. Second, while SCOTDI can generate useful information concerning the effects of CSR initiative, it offers only an indirect insight into the quality of the relationship between host communities and SPDC. This means that SCOTDI does not provide a sufficient platform for improving SPDC–community relations outside of a CSR framework. Therefore, there is a need for alternative means of ascertaining the nature and quality of the relationship between SPDC and its host communities. For example, Idemudia (2014) has suggested regularly measuring community perception as a means of ascertain the quality of the relationship. Third, the act of assessment is the first important step in understanding how TNCs affect their host communities. Yet, for an assessment to be useful, it has to be regular and the results from the assessment needs to be integrated in the planning and execution of CSR projects. However, given the outsourcing of the work of assessors and validators as well as limited internal data analysis capacity within companies, there is a significant chance that key recommendations that results from SCOTDI do not make their way into key CSR planning. As a result, valuable information that could improve CSR practices and stakeholder relations might be lost. Finally, given that a major critique of social audit is the rapid and often predefined nature of the approach, and the fact that the unequal power relationship between SPDC and its host communities can also make dialogue for accountability impossible (Kemp, Owen, and Van de Graaff, 2012), it can be argued that communities were incorporated in a structured way. Thus, SCOTDI is still largely corporate driven, and it could rightly be argued that the framework falls within an audit frame even though some aspects of SCOTDI does not conform to current ‘audit culture’. Emerging issues and conclusion There are three main emerging issues. First, several studies have shown that there are several deficiencies in the community aspect of CSR (Naeem and Welford, 2009) with a key deficiency being the lack of an applicable, tested and validated framework for capturing the outcomes and impacts of CSR initiatives on communities (Rowe et al., 2014). Indeed, Tsang, Welford and Brown (2009) demonstrated that while companies are remarkably good in reporting input and performance of community investments such as philanthropy and employee volunteering, very few are able to report in a meaningful way on the outputs and impacts of their community investments. Hence, Muthuri (2008) has noted that a largely neglected area of CSR research is the measurement of CSR impacts. SCOTDI represents an attempt to respond to these calls in a developing country context. The framework offers the opportunity to systematically assess the effects of CSR on local communities, and allow oil companies to gather valuable data that can be used to better report on their CSR initiatives. Nonetheless, SCOTDI remains a work in progress as there is still room for its improvement. After all, Rowe et al. (2014) have stated that measuring the effect of CSR is an inexact science. At any rate, SCOTDI is significant given that it is the first effort by an oil company to systematically assess its contribution to community development in the Niger Delta and use positive competition as a means of encouraging the development of appropriate community development processes and practises. Second, SCOTDI potentially allows for non-deterministic analyses of CSR contribution to community development and thus highlights areas where CSR initiatives might be improved upon or reformed. This learning opportunity is inclusive of both companies and communities. The framework can thus widen and enable what Booth (1994) has referred to as ‘spaces of change’ or interface between global and local actors in which the CSR activities of TNCs are changing or being changed. Third, given the disagreement about the extent to which GMoUs have been able to contribute to community development it is clear that there are limits to what CSR can achieve viz-a-viz community development. This is not surprising as there is consensus that the federal and the state government development agencies within the Niger Delta like the NDDC, and Delta State Oil Producing Area Development Commission (DESOPADEC) have all performed woefully (Idemudia, 2012). Indeed, most of the challenges that undermined governmental efforts at community development in the region have also been argued to have marred the efforts of oil TNCs. The implication is that caution needs to be exercised with regard to the expectation that the involvement of oil TNC is a panacea for community development in the region. Finally, this article contributes a corporate perspective to the thin literature on the assessment of CSR effects on stakeholders. Here, we presented an effort by an oil company to devise a local assessment strategy to assess the effects of its CSR initiative on community development. It was suggested that while the framework has real potential it is still largely a work in progress. Hence, there is a need for future studies to examine SCOTDI from the perspective of local communities. This kind of community-led assessment could include determining the extent to which communities participated in the design of the framework and feel satisfied with the process of implementation (see Kemp, Owen, and Van de Graaff, 2012). For instance, what aspect of the process or criteria was contentious and why? How did communities understand and perceived the process of assessment? What issues were excluded from the assessment and what might this mean for the credibility of the framework? Answers to these questions would go a long way in enriching our understanding of the politics of assessing CSR contribution to community development in developing countries. Uwafiokun Idemudia is an Associate Professor, Development Studies and African Studies, at York University, Toronto, Canada. He has a PhD in Human Geography and his Research interest is in the area of resource extraction, development, conflict and corporate social responsibility. Nedo Osayande is the MD/CEO Belemaoil Producing Ltd. Belemaoil Street, Off Peter Odili Road, Port Harcourt Nigeria. He can be contacted at nedo.osayande@yahoo.com Footnotes 1 It therefore became necessary to conduct a second field verification exercise in the affected clusters, prior to the final determination of the winners of the awards. References Aaron, K. K. ( 2012) New Corporate social responsibility models for oil companies in Nigeria's Delta region: what challenges for sustainability? Progress in Development Studies , 12, 259– 273. Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS   Akpan, W. ( 2006) Between responsibility and rhetoric: some consequences of CSR practices in Nigeria's oil province, Development Southern Africa , 23 ( 2), 223– 240. Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS   Alfred, C. 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( 2014) Stakeholder engagement and sustainable corporate community investment, Business Strategy and the Environment , 23 ( 7), 461– 474. Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS   Shell. ( 2013) Shell in Nigeria: Global Memorandum of Understanding, briefing notes , Shell Companies in Nigeria, Port Harcourt. Tsang, S., Welford, R. and Brown, M. ( 2009) Reporting on community investment, Corporate Social Responsibility and Environmental Management , 16 ( 3), 123– 136. Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS   © Oxford University Press and Community Development Journal. 2016 All rights reserved. For permissions, please email: journals.permissions@oup.com http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Community Development Journal Oxford University Press

Assessing the effect of corporate social responsibility on community development in the Niger Delta: a corporate perspective

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Abstract

Abstract The widespread adoption of corporate social responsibility (CSR) policies by oil transnational corporations in developing countries have led to calls for a concerted effort to better capture CSR effects. Unfortunately, capturing the impacts of CSR is not as straightforward as it might seem. In fact, oil companies operating in the Niger Delta continue to face the challenge of how to determine the success or failure of their CSR initiatives either in terms of its effect on community development or its impact on corporate–community relations. To address this problem, Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) in 2013 launched the Shell Community Transformation and Development Index (SCOTDI). SCOTDI represents an innovative framework that integrates and adapts a number of international principles into a composite index in a manner that is responsive to local context. The framework is used to assess and rank the performance of the different Global Memorandum of Understanding (GMoU) clusters within the host communities of SPDC. This article suggests that SCOTDI allows for a systematic assessment of the effects of CSR on community development and provides incentive for positive inter-cluster competition for community development. However, the framework also suffers from some shortcomings that can reasonably be addressed. The article considers the theoretical and practical implications for efforts to assess CSR contribution to community development in developing countries. Introduction As part of their corporate social responsibility (CSR), there is now widespread expectation that companies should be held accountable for their impacts on the communities and the environment where they operate (Rowe et al., 2014). Consequently, oil companies in the Niger Delta have had to develop CSR strategies for dealing with local communities and contributing to community development. However, the extent to which the CSR initiatives of oil companies have contributed to community development in the region remain contested. For example, Akpan (2006) has argued that the CSR initiatives of oil transnational corporations (TNCs) have failed to contribute to community development and in some instances have caused inter- and intra-community conflicts. In contrast, Ite (2007) suggested that the CSR initiatives of oil TNCs have actually contributed to community development in the region given the extent of governmental failure. According to him, oil TNCs have continually improved upon their CSR strategies so as to better respond to the needs of their host communities. Yet, Lompo and Trani (2013) recently added some nuance to the debate as they suggested that the CSR initiatives of oil TNCs have contributed to access to basic capabilities like water, electricity and shelter, but have also undermined human development. Similarly, Renouard and Lado (2012) noted that the CSR activities of oil TNCs have somewhat contributed to the improvement of the material well-being of some of the people living close to oil production sites, but inequalities or ‘relational capabilities’ have actually deteriorated in these communities. The foregoing debate highlights the complexity of measuring the effects of CSR in developing countries. Indeed, the different perspectives to CSR contribution to community development in the region can partly be attributed to the fact that CSR as a discipline lacks well-developed elaborative methodologies that capture its effect (Prieto‐Carrón et al., 2006). Hamann (2006) attributes this to the fact that while social issues related to CSR are often difficult to measure, there is also the tendency for different stakeholders to adopt different perceptual lenses in their assessment of CSR impact. Besides, since CSR initiatives do not take place in a vacuum; the broader political economy compounds the difficulty of measuring CSR impact (Hamann, 2006; Idemudia, 2008). Hence, Gitsham (2007) has suggested that any focus on CSR impact that does not consider the broader impacts of core business activities can give a misleading picture. As a result, oil TNCs operating in the Niger Delta face the challenge of how to determine the success or failure of their CSR initiatives either in terms of its effect on community development or on corporate–community relations. This lack of a systematic methodology that can capture the effects of CSR has had two main consequences. First, it has meant that oil TNCs face a tough challenge to demonstrate and convince sceptical shareholders and critics that CSR is making a difference. Second, it has constrained the ability of oil TNCs to use CSR initiatives effectively either to manage non-technical risks or to better address the needs of their host communities. To address these challenges, Shell recently devised Shell Community Transformation and Development Index (SCOTDI) to assess the effect of their GMoUs (i.e. a CSR initiative) within their host communities, and identify winners of its Community Transformation Development (CTD) Awards. However, SCOTDI risks being part of an emerging ‘audit culture’ in the extractive industries that tends to focus on management systems instead of first-order questions of quality and performance (Macintyre, Mee and Solomon, 2008). Besides, the transactional mode of this audit culture can constrain organizational introspection and the development of a dialogical accountability with stakeholders (Kemp, Owen, and Van de Graaff, 2012). Against this background, this article aims to: Analyse the emergence of the GMoUs as a new CSR strategy for community development in the Niger Delta. Examine the strengths and limitations of SCOTDI, and its implication for efforts to assess the effects of CSR on community development in developing countries. The dynamics of CSR contribution to community development in the Niger Delta Corporate–community relations in the Niger Delta can usefully be divided into three phases, based on shifting degrees of cooperation, accommodation and conflict (Banks et al., 2013). The first phase of corporate–community relations is between the 1960s and the early 1980s; as corporate–community relation was at this time relatively peaceful (Idemudia, 2010). During this cooperative phase, oil TNCs adopted a pay-as-you-go approach to community relations (Idemudia, 2010). The idea was to keep communities at arms-length as much as possible while securing local right-of-way (ROW). As such, the primary focus of oil companies was to give things to communities that they thought communities needed and in the process secure the support of local elites and chiefs. However, this peaceful relationship began to metamorphose into peaceful protest in the early 1980s due to three principal reasons. The first has to do with the Federal Government of Nigeria (FGN) promulgation of a number of decrees (such as the land use Act of 1978 and the 1969 petroleum Act) that systematically dispossessed the people of the region of any claim of right or ownership over land or petroleum. The second is that the pay-as-you-go approach to community relations denied community members the opportunity to make inputs into any form of corporate donations, and allowed for the mismanagement of funds meant for community development by local chiefs. The third reason was the belief within governmental and oil TNCs circles that since the people of the region belong to a minority ethnic group their protest cannot really threaten either the Nigerian state or oil production. For example, Philip Asiodu, the permanent secretary of the Ministry of Mines and Power in the 1970s, asserted during a public lecture to Nigerian civil servants in the 1980s, ‘that given the small size and population of the oil producing areas, it is not cynical to observe that if the resentments of the oil producing states continue, they cannot threaten the stability nor affect Nigeria's economic development’ (cited in Okoh, 1996). These factors contributed to the neglect of the socio-economic development of the region within which the second phase of community relations emerged. The accommodation phase is between the late 1980s and early 1990s. The intensification of oil and gas exploration activities within the context of Structural Adjustment Program (SAP), together with increase in population meant contact between local communities and oil TNCs increased with significant ramification for local livelihood sources. In addition, oil became strategically important in the calculations of domestic politics, thus creating a symbiotic relationship between government and oil TNCs. It is within this context that increased incidence of environmental degradation, limited employment, loss of traditional sources of livelihood and instances of human rights violations associated with oil extraction led to both peaceful protest and sporadic violent by communities against both oil companies and the Nigerian state. The use of peaceful protest and call for dialogue by communities suggest an accommodative approach towards oil companies. In response to both community protests and international pressures, oil companies responded by accepting the principles of CSR and adopted a community development (CD) model for engaging with host communities. However, the CD model focused almost exclusively on the provision of social infrastructures with limited emphasis on the environmental consequences of oil extraction that also contributed to community protest. In addition, the CD model treated community members as objects of development as opposed to being agents of their own development. Hence, the model provided limited space for community participation in CSR decision-making, and project implementation (Ite, 2007; Idemudia, 2010). This eventually led to two kinds of interrelated problems. The first was that development projects provided by oil TNCs did not address core community needs, as they were inconsistent with community priorities. The second was that the social infrastructures provided by oil TNCs were not sustainable as communities lacked both a sense of ownership for such projects and the capacity to maintain them. Hence, these CSR projects invariably created more community expectations and demands on oil TNCs and failed to empower local communities. This was especially so, given the near absence of the Federal Government of Nigeria (FGN) in these communities. Consequently, oil TNCs’ community relations spending skyrocketed. For example, Shell community relations spending went from $330,000 in 1989 to $43 million in 1998 (Ite, 2007). These problems cumulatively pushed corporate–community relations towards more conflict and oil TNCs responded again with a new CSR strategy in the next phase. The high intensity conflict phase of corporate–community relations probably began in the late 1990s. The violent form this phase took was partially driven by the repression response to peaceful protest in the last phase by the FGN. In addition, the increased incidence of environmental degradation, and the proliferation of youth militants, due partly to oil TNCs strategy of direct money payment to youths as sit-at-home allowance to forestall attacks but instead commoditized and incentivised violence, also accentuated corporate–community conflicts. Within this context, corporate–community relations further deteriorated as either oil TNCs were directly attacked for corporate misdemeanour or attacked as proxy to the Nigerian state. In response, and partly as an attempt to reduce the skyrocketing cost of community relations mentioned earlier, oil TNCs began to adopt a new strategy to community relations based largely on the ideals of partnership. The partnership strategy to community relationship took either the form of corporate–NGO–community partnerships (e.g. the Global Memorandum of Understanding (GMoU) Model) or corporate–state partnership (e.g. Niger Delta Development Commission) or business–NGO partnership (e.g. Exxon Mobil-NNF). This turn to partnership strategies (especially GMoU) represent an attempt by oil TNCs to share decision-making authority over community development with other actors (i.e. NGO and government) and put communities at the forefront of their own development. The objective of this partnership strategy was to facilitate local ownership of community development process, address problems associated with previous CSR approaches, and foster harmonious community relations. Nonetheless, three important issues underpin the evolution of CSR strategy in the Niger Delta. The first is that oil TNCs both responded to external stakeholder pressures, and actively shaped the ensuing debates around those pressures. This is because while oil TNCs often adopted new strategies that attempted to address the weakness of previous CSR strategies, they also shaped the nature of the debate around what constitutes their social responsibility by delimiting the scope of their social responsibility and defining what constitutes their social responsibility in the region. For example, the tendency to limit social investments to immediate host communities, and not neighbouring communities that are also affected by the negative externalities of oil extraction or to emphasize the provision of social infrastructure over environmental protection in their CSR strategies. Second, inter-organizational learning has been crucially to the successive improvements of CSR strategies in the region, as oil TNCs tend to learn from each other. For example, the perception that the GMoU strategy first initiated by Chevron was relatively successful led Shell to adopt and modify the model to meets its own community engagement needs. Finally, there are subtle variations in the CSR strategies adopted by different oil TNCs in the region. Indeed, based on continent of origin, the decision to manage community relations internally or externally in collaboration with other actors, and whether oil is extracted mainly offshore as opposed to both onshore and offshore, oil TNCs adopted slightly different strategies. For instance, because Exxon Mobil extracts oil mainly offshore, its approach to CSR has largely been passive in the sense that CSR is largely managed internally with limited partnerships with NGOs to deliver some social investments in only their immediate host communities. In contrast, Total and Shell that do have onshore and offshore oil wells, have shifted from a unilateral to a collaborative approach in the management of their CSR initiatives and now emphasize engagement with impact communities (i.e. both immediate host and neighbouring communities that are affected by oil extraction). Hence, there are some differences in the CSR strategies adopted by different oil companies, but collaborative approaches are increasingly becoming dominant in the region. This is perhaps because collaborative CSR strategies such as GMoU or corporate–community foundations have been shown to be a more effective strategy for contributing to community development than unilateral in-house management CSR approaches (Idemudia, 2014). Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) and the Global Memorandum of Understandings (GMoUs): nature and issues GMoU is an agreement between SPDC and a cluster of several communities identified based on local government, ethnicity and historical affinities. Under the terms of the agreement, SPDC provides funding for five years and the communities decide, plan and implement community development projects. In addition, SPDC facilitates the capacity building of the GMoUs by providing access to development experts usually their NGO partners to oversee project implementation. The Community Development Board (CDB) is the core governance institution of the GMoU, and it is supposedly embedded in the participating communities via the community trust. The community trust (CT) consists of ten persons with at least three women who are resident in and trusted within the participating communities. From these ten CT members, each community provides three persons with at least one woman to establish the CDB. Hence, the community trusts are responsible for ensuring that development benefits from the GMoUs reach their individual communities. The CDB is responsible for managing and coordinating the development activities of the GMoU across all the communities in a given cluster. The CDB consists of all the chairpersons, secretaries and members of the CT, a representative of SPDC, local government, state government, The Niger Delta Development Commission, National Petroleum Investment Management Services and donor community. However, Alfred (2013) has noted that with the exception of SPDC representatives, the other representatives appear to be uninterested. Nonetheless, each CDB has standing committees for finance and resources management, partnering, communication and capacity building, peace and conflict resolution, and technical matters. Furthermore, the CDB are entitled to a small percentage of the annual negotiated sum from the GMoU agreement to manage their administrative functions. Finally, the GMoU is underpinned by an Operations Policy and Procedure Guidelines (OPPG) as CDB becomes the only legitimate interlocutor recognized by SPDC in its engagement with its host communities. As at 2011, SPDC has signed and implemented agreements with twenty-seven clusters that cover 290 communities about 30 percent of its host communities and nine of the twenty-seven CDBs have grown to become registered foundations that receive third party funding (SPDC, 2013). Two major issues arise with regard to the GMoUs in the Niger Delta. First, the GMoU is an attempt to create a new institution within a context of institutional void that arose due to either the breakdown of existing traditional institutions or the failure of extant institutions to deliver in a context of limited statehood. Consequently, GMoUs serve multiple functions that go beyond the delivering of corporate social investments to include a mechanism for conflict resolution, a communication channel with local communities, a platform for evaluating the social and environmental performance of oil TNCs and a vehicle to bridge the trust divide between SPDC and its host communities. However, since the process of establishing the GMoU is often not immune from local political dynamics, the process of selecting or electing CT and CDB members can often be a source of conflict among the various groups in the communities with significant implication for the ability of a GMoU to deliver on its developmental promise. For instance, Alfred (2013) notes that membership of CDB is now one of the major cause of intra-communal conflict in the communities that have GMoU or the ones that are about to get one. This problem is also manifested in the way in which certain subgroups such as women can also be marginalized as their views and interests are not adequately considered. Second, while the GMoU is a bottom-up participatory approach to community development, there continue to remain key structural constraints of the ability of communities to actively participate in their own development and in the governance of corporate–community relations. This is because the boundaries of community participation is set within a particular understanding of the process of development in which oil extraction is central and alternative meanings and pathways to development are foreclosed. In other words, community participation is restricted to how oil funds provided by oil TNCs for community development are to be spent as opposed to the more substantive question of whether oil extraction should continue to be a basis for community development in the face of the negative externalities it has generated. For instance, Faleti (2004) noted that there is often significant anger within communities over environmental degradation associated with dredging, contamination, spills and salt water inflow that negatively impact local livelihoods, but these issues are not incorporated into the scope of the activities covered by the GMoU. Hence, the GMoU might be a form of corporate social innovation within a context of institutional void, but it is underpinned by a restrictive interpretation of participatory development. The tension that arises as a result explains both the strength and the weakness of the GMoU as a CSR strategy. For instance, Aaron (2012) has argued that while the turn to GMoU by Shell and Chevron in Nigeria is a radical departure from their previous CSR strategies, the GMoU is still being plagued by old challenges and as such it has failed to deliver sustainable development benefits for the people in the Niger Delta. In contrast, Alfred (2013) stated that the question of whether ‘the GMoU is a success so far to a large extent is not in doubt’. These studies have no doubt been insightful. However, the lack of systematically accumulated empirical evidence, the differences in the criteria often used by different analysts to assess GMoU contribution to community development, the difficulty of isolating the effects of CSR initiatives from other activities on community development make it difficult to generate and consolidate sufficient stakeholder support for the GMoU approach to community development. Hence, the need for a strategy to assess the effects of CSR on community development in a manner that is context sensitive and sufficiently robust so as to facilitate possible CSR reforms in the region. SCOTDI: The intersection of global discourse and local practice SCOTDI is a composite index for weighing, scoring and ranking the performance of GMoU clusters based on five key criteria (i.e. transparency and accountability, inclusiveness and participation, governance and democracy, business climate and progress towards sustainability), which are consistent with international best practice in development discourse. These five criteria constitute the ‘criterion reference system’ and are similar to the criteria used by a similar study that undertook a social performance review of gold mine in Papua New Guinea (Macintyre, Mee and Solomon, 2008). The specific objectives of SCOTDI are: To provide a framework for ranking GMoU clusters. To engender healthy competition among GMoU clusters via an annual CTD award competition. To align Shell capacity building interventions, business value expectations, and reputation enhancement opportunities. Criteria for assessments: SCOTDI Transparency and accountability: It implies the extent to which GMoU processes especially the institution is open to scrutiny and provides information on its activities to its stakeholders. Inclusiveness and participation: This relates to the creation of equal opportunities for the entire community to participate in the development process, and efforts to addresses marginalization and exclusion of vulnerable groups in benefit distribution. Governance and democracy: This refers to the manner in which power is exercised in the management of economic and social resources, and adherence to laid down procedures (e.g. tenure and succession, financial management). Business climate: This relates to the enabling environment for Shell to operate, and its alignment with Shell's strategic priorities (i.e. ending crude oil theft, sabotage spills stoppage, active advocacy for Shell, alternative dispute resolution and grievance management). Progress towards sustainability: This refers to the deployment of innovation in project execution, capacity to implement quality projects, alignment of projects to felt needs, diversity and growth in funding. The assessment tool for fieldwork consisted of forty questions (i.e. eight questions for each of the five assessment criteria) (see Table 1). Each band of the five criteria is further broken down into subcategories of variables to reflect local circumstances and priorities. For example, under the criteria of sustainability, the variable of sense of community ownership is important given that a major problem with CSR efforts in the region is the lack of a sense of community ownership for the social infrastructure that are provided by oil TNCs. Furthermore, each of the five main criteria is equally weighted with a maximum score of forty points, and each subcategory variables are scored on a scale of zero to five. The total maximum score for the 40 questions was 200. The equal weighting of the five criteria is based on the assumption that the different assessment criteria are of equal importance for a GMoU to be effective. In addition, it was important not to privilege one criterion over another so as not to exacerbate historical structural inequalities among the various communities within the GMoUs. SCOTDI is a comprehensive framework that covers both the community development concerns of local communities and the social risks concern of SPDC. However, the framework is composed of more indicators that captures community development concerns than non-technical risk issues (see Table 1). The implication therefore is that the framework appears to be driven by a societal case for CSR. In addition, SCOTDI seems to be consistent with the views of Macintyre, Mee and Solomon (2008) that reviews and audits should incorporate issues not only as they are framed by organizations but also in terms of how meaningful and relevant they are to people's views and lived experiences. Nevertheless, it is important to recognize that some of the assessment variables can be subjective such as the effectiveness of environmental advocacy by the GMoUs. This problem was partially managed by the use of both assessors and validators in the scoring and ranking of GMoUs. Table 1. SCOTDI assessment criteria Assessment criteria  Assessment criteria variables  Performance ranking scale (0–5) [a]  Max. obtainable score: [a x b]  Number of questions per criteria [b]  Transparency and Accountability  Commerce process  0–5        Financial management  0–5  40  8    Governance and decision-making  0–5      Inclusiveness and Participation  Extent of representation of different groups in the community  0–5        Equity in the distribution of benefits  0–5        Extent of participation in GMoU process  0–3  40  8    Social inclusion  0–2      Governance and Democracy  Democratic authority  0–5        Adherence to executive tenure limits  0–5        Rule of law  0–3  40  8    Corruption  0–2      Business climate  Enabling environment for business  0–5        Environmental advocacy by GMoU  0–5        No disruption of business operation  0–3  40  8    Grievance management  0–2      Sustainability  Alignment between GMoU projects and community priorities  0–5        Capacity building  0–5  40  8    Self-sustainability  0–3        Sense of community ownership  0–2      Total  200  40  Assessment criteria  Assessment criteria variables  Performance ranking scale (0–5) [a]  Max. obtainable score: [a x b]  Number of questions per criteria [b]  Transparency and Accountability  Commerce process  0–5        Financial management  0–5  40  8    Governance and decision-making  0–5      Inclusiveness and Participation  Extent of representation of different groups in the community  0–5        Equity in the distribution of benefits  0–5        Extent of participation in GMoU process  0–3  40  8    Social inclusion  0–2      Governance and Democracy  Democratic authority  0–5        Adherence to executive tenure limits  0–5        Rule of law  0–3  40  8    Corruption  0–2      Business climate  Enabling environment for business  0–5        Environmental advocacy by GMoU  0–5        No disruption of business operation  0–3  40  8    Grievance management  0–2      Sustainability  Alignment between GMoU projects and community priorities  0–5        Capacity building  0–5  40  8    Self-sustainability  0–3        Sense of community ownership  0–2      Total  200  40  SCOTDI draws on a contribution analysis approach to impact assessment. Indeed, contribution analysis is a useful framework for assessing the effect of interventions where attribution cannot be determined through experimentation (Mayne, 2001). This is particularly the case in the Niger Delta, where Idemudia (2008) has already suggested that establishing a one to one causal relationship between a CSR initiative (i.e. GMoU) and a specific community development outcome is extremely problematic. Hence, he stated that if we are to better understand the impact of CSR on community development, there is a need to shift from an emphasis on just determining outcomes associated with CSR initiatives to also exploring issues of process via which CSR initiatives like GMoU are able to deliver or fail to deliver on their development promise. SCOTDI builds on this renewed emphasis on taking process seriously by drawing on global principles (e.g. inclusiveness, participation, transparency, governance) that are locally essential to the processes via which GMoUs can effectively contribute to community development and foster positive relationship with SPDC. SCOTDI thus does not necessarily just capture outcomes associated with GMoUs but also seeks to generate insights into how GMoUs functions and the extent to which these principles that are essential for success are embedded in their operations. The process of implementing SCOTDI and outcomes The process of implementation began with a workshop organized to elicit the perspectives of the representatives of CDB on SCOTDI via focus group discussions. The discussions focused on whether the criteria were appropriate or not, and if the criteria were meaningful to stakeholders. A total of eighty-one participants attended the workshop for representatives of CDB held on 28 August 2013 in Port Harcourt. The feedback received and perspectives expressed demonstrated a general acceptance of the SCOTDI framework as a suitable evaluation framework for assessing the performance of GMoU clusters. Based on the perspectives received, the questionnaires were redesigned to reflect the concerns raised by the CDB members at the workshop. For example, CDB members did not want the quantity/numbers of projects to be a basis for assessment and instead favoured the alignment between GMoU projects and community priority as a better basis for assessment (see Table 1). The updated questionnaire was then presented to field assessors at a separate workshop. The field assessors critiqued and made further changes to the questionnaire. Similarly, the revised questionnaire from the assertor's workshop was then presented at a validator's only workshop. The validators also discussed and made some more changes to the questionnaire. A final workshop was then held for both assessors and validators to agree on how SCOTDI will be implemented. In addition, this workshop allowed assessors and validators to discuss and review the final questionnaire to ensure their concerns were addressed and that the questions can be operationalized. A total of nineteen field assessors were selected for the purposes of field verification and additional data collection from the GMoU Clusters. These assessors were drawn from Nigerian universities, local NGOs and private consultancies. In addition, a total of six validators were selected for the validation exercise. The primary role of the validators was to challenge the data/information gathered by the assessors from the GMoU Clusters. The call for submission of entries for the 2013 Community Transformation and Development Awards was sent to twenty-four GMoU clusters that were considered active. Nineteen clusters submitted entries and supporting evidence by the agreed deadline. The assessors worked in groups of three to four persons to verify the information submitted by the GMoU clusters. The process included visits to the GMoU's CBD administrative offices, sighting of documents, inspection of projects as well as interviews with CBD representatives and community members. This use of multiple data collection tools was likely helpful in capturing different contextual factors that might affect GMoU performance. The winners of the 2013 CTD award were determined by the total score based on the five criteria as shown in Table 1. For example, Nembe City foundation received the highest total score of 179 out of a maximum of 200. Indeed, Nembe City foundation's highest score was in the criteria of governance where the foundation got a score of forty out of a maximum of forty points. The validators made the final decision on the winners, after reviewing data and information collected by the assessors and the role of SPDC was to facilitate the process. More than 200 internal and external stakeholders attended the award ceremony which featured the presentation and launching of SCOTDI. The prizes for the winners were determined and agreed by SPDC Leadership Team. SCOTDI: strengths and weakness The use of SCOTDI as a tool for assessing CSR contribution to community development comes with some opportunities and challenges. The first strength of SCOTDI is that it is a collaborative tool that requires key stakeholders input in the assessment process. Thus, it is likely to gainer stakeholders support and ensure the outcome of the assessment process is seen as credible by both internal and external stakeholders. This is particularly important given that evidence concerning CSR impacts are often politically sensitive and highly contested (Gitsham, 2007). In addition, SCOTDI generates useful information that is meaningful for both the company and the communities. For instance, companies are able to determine objectively what aspect of their CSR works or do not work and where to direct more resources to strengthen the initiatives. For example, SPDC was able to identify the different capacity needs of its GMoUs even though there were all located within the Niger Delta. Similarly, CDBs were able to identify critical aspects of their operations that needed improvement. Hence, SCOTDI is both an assessment and learning tool for both the company and the communities. Second, in a volatile business environment like the Niger Delta where competition among communities traditionally often lead to violence, SCOTDI is able to harness local energy for competitiveness into a positive force for community development. Indeed, by ranking GMoU clusters based on agreed criteria, GMoUs are now likely to ensure that they deliver on their development promise. Importantly, rivalries that often lead to destructive outcomes can now be enabled for a constructive purpose. However, there is always the danger that the use of competition in this way, if not well managed can also lead to intra- and inter-community conflicts or exacerbate historical inequalities. Third, decades of empirical research have compiled the positive and negative impacts of TNCs on development in developing countries. However, intra-country comparison across a region or localities is very rare (Bury, 2001). As such, Prieto‐Carrón et al. (2006) have called for the development of new ways of systematically capturing the effect of CSR. SCOTDI is a direct response to this call as it is an intra-country innovative assessment framework for capturing the effects of CSR initiatives across a region (i.e. the Niger Delta). In addition, given its flexibility and the nature of its assessment variables, SCOTDI can perhaps be modified to respond to the call that we need an assessment framework that would allow us to asses and compare the CSR initiatives of Statoil, Shell, BP and other oil companies against one another in the same countries where they operate (see Prieto‐Carrón et al., 2006). Finally, SCOTDI is a context driven framework that requires stakeholders input. As such, the framework requires the assembly of a multidisciplinary team of assessors and validators. Gitsham (2007) points out that the use of a multidisciplinary team does not only increase the quality of the assessment but also reduces the risk that certain key issues can be missed through disciplinary blind spot. The implementation of SCOTDI in the Niger Delta also raised a number of challenges. First, the process of designing and implementing SCOTDI is time consuming and not insulated from local political dynamics given its emphasis on stakeholder participation. This issue is also exacerbated by the use of both external assessors and validators to independently ascertain and verify respectively the contributions of the GMoU. For instance, due to time constraints validators were unable to undertake random field visits to crosscheck every data and information submitted by assessors for the purposes of validation (see Macintyre, Mee and Solomon, 2008). In addition, there were also instances where assessors were implicated in local politics and thus exhibited evidence of bias in their assessment.1 As such, significant amount of resources were devoted to not only the assessment process but also to manage competing and conflicting stakeholder claims. This problem can partially be managed by engaging local communities early and recruiting a mix of local and international assessors and validators. Second, while SCOTDI can generate useful information concerning the effects of CSR initiative, it offers only an indirect insight into the quality of the relationship between host communities and SPDC. This means that SCOTDI does not provide a sufficient platform for improving SPDC–community relations outside of a CSR framework. Therefore, there is a need for alternative means of ascertaining the nature and quality of the relationship between SPDC and its host communities. For example, Idemudia (2014) has suggested regularly measuring community perception as a means of ascertain the quality of the relationship. Third, the act of assessment is the first important step in understanding how TNCs affect their host communities. Yet, for an assessment to be useful, it has to be regular and the results from the assessment needs to be integrated in the planning and execution of CSR projects. However, given the outsourcing of the work of assessors and validators as well as limited internal data analysis capacity within companies, there is a significant chance that key recommendations that results from SCOTDI do not make their way into key CSR planning. As a result, valuable information that could improve CSR practices and stakeholder relations might be lost. Finally, given that a major critique of social audit is the rapid and often predefined nature of the approach, and the fact that the unequal power relationship between SPDC and its host communities can also make dialogue for accountability impossible (Kemp, Owen, and Van de Graaff, 2012), it can be argued that communities were incorporated in a structured way. Thus, SCOTDI is still largely corporate driven, and it could rightly be argued that the framework falls within an audit frame even though some aspects of SCOTDI does not conform to current ‘audit culture’. Emerging issues and conclusion There are three main emerging issues. First, several studies have shown that there are several deficiencies in the community aspect of CSR (Naeem and Welford, 2009) with a key deficiency being the lack of an applicable, tested and validated framework for capturing the outcomes and impacts of CSR initiatives on communities (Rowe et al., 2014). Indeed, Tsang, Welford and Brown (2009) demonstrated that while companies are remarkably good in reporting input and performance of community investments such as philanthropy and employee volunteering, very few are able to report in a meaningful way on the outputs and impacts of their community investments. Hence, Muthuri (2008) has noted that a largely neglected area of CSR research is the measurement of CSR impacts. SCOTDI represents an attempt to respond to these calls in a developing country context. The framework offers the opportunity to systematically assess the effects of CSR on local communities, and allow oil companies to gather valuable data that can be used to better report on their CSR initiatives. Nonetheless, SCOTDI remains a work in progress as there is still room for its improvement. After all, Rowe et al. (2014) have stated that measuring the effect of CSR is an inexact science. At any rate, SCOTDI is significant given that it is the first effort by an oil company to systematically assess its contribution to community development in the Niger Delta and use positive competition as a means of encouraging the development of appropriate community development processes and practises. Second, SCOTDI potentially allows for non-deterministic analyses of CSR contribution to community development and thus highlights areas where CSR initiatives might be improved upon or reformed. This learning opportunity is inclusive of both companies and communities. The framework can thus widen and enable what Booth (1994) has referred to as ‘spaces of change’ or interface between global and local actors in which the CSR activities of TNCs are changing or being changed. Third, given the disagreement about the extent to which GMoUs have been able to contribute to community development it is clear that there are limits to what CSR can achieve viz-a-viz community development. This is not surprising as there is consensus that the federal and the state government development agencies within the Niger Delta like the NDDC, and Delta State Oil Producing Area Development Commission (DESOPADEC) have all performed woefully (Idemudia, 2012). Indeed, most of the challenges that undermined governmental efforts at community development in the region have also been argued to have marred the efforts of oil TNCs. The implication is that caution needs to be exercised with regard to the expectation that the involvement of oil TNC is a panacea for community development in the region. Finally, this article contributes a corporate perspective to the thin literature on the assessment of CSR effects on stakeholders. Here, we presented an effort by an oil company to devise a local assessment strategy to assess the effects of its CSR initiative on community development. It was suggested that while the framework has real potential it is still largely a work in progress. Hence, there is a need for future studies to examine SCOTDI from the perspective of local communities. This kind of community-led assessment could include determining the extent to which communities participated in the design of the framework and feel satisfied with the process of implementation (see Kemp, Owen, and Van de Graaff, 2012). For instance, what aspect of the process or criteria was contentious and why? How did communities understand and perceived the process of assessment? What issues were excluded from the assessment and what might this mean for the credibility of the framework? Answers to these questions would go a long way in enriching our understanding of the politics of assessing CSR contribution to community development in developing countries. Uwafiokun Idemudia is an Associate Professor, Development Studies and African Studies, at York University, Toronto, Canada. He has a PhD in Human Geography and his Research interest is in the area of resource extraction, development, conflict and corporate social responsibility. 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Community Development JournalOxford University Press

Published: Jan 1, 2018

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