Corporate Social Responsibility in Guatemala: a positive step or a whitewash?

The Ministry of Energy and Mines announced yesterday that they will begin using Brazil’s Corporate Social Responsibility model to try to cut down on resistance to hydroelectric projects in the country. The idea is to set out a formal process where companies, the government and the local population will be able to map out a path for sustainable development in their communities. Opposition to hydroelectric installations has been seen nationwide and will probably continue.

Corporate social responsibility—and other social pressures on industries—is gaining popularity here mostly, I would argue, because it doesn’t use up too many resources. Here at MARN where there is a serious lack of resources to provide proper oversight of industries (in terms of water, soil, air and ambient contamination) they are in the process of publishing environmental best practices guides. They are also in the process of creating a Green Stamp, something along the lines of LEED certification but specifically for a company’s management of water, ground and air pollution. Another reason these things are popular in the ministries is that changing a law is seen as both extremely difficult and highly unlikely. So these voluntary programs hope to take advantage of the conflicts by pushing companies into doing more and co-opting (or convincing) the communities into an agreement to work with the companies. Given the current state of things, I think they are better than the alternative (which is doing nothing). They can potentially empower the communities by giving them a concrete guide to show the actions the companies should be taking. (full disclosure: I am working on some of these projects, so yes, I sure as hell hope they are better than doing nothing.)

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