Fostering and Strengthening Dialogue with Our Stakeholders

Total employees on the loading dock at the Sonamet shipyard in Angola

As a major oil company, Total operates across the globe in more than 130 countries. Depending on their type and location, our activities are subject to very different expectations. Our ability to identify and address these expectations is the key to our long-term integration.

Dialogue with our stakeholders — defined as anyone affected by our activities — is a fundamental resource that enables us to develop projects that benefit both our operations and our host communities.

Fostering constructive relationships with our stakeholders

Different Situations, Different Expectations

Depending on their type (industrial or commercial) and their location (Europe, Africa, Asia or elsewhere), our activities have variable impacts and are subject to very different, often significant, expectations on the part of our stakeholders, whether neighbors, associations, partners or public authorities.

The development of an oil or gas project, for example, does not have the same impact on local balances in poor regions as in developed countries. Similarly, the opening of a service station may be welcomed in a rural area as a contribution to social cohesion and economic vitality, but may face opposition in an urban area.

Listening, Understanding and Fostering Dialogue

Our integration into the local community is conditioned by our ability to identify these expectations. It is only by understanding and addressing local issues that we can ensure the long-term success of our activities.

In this context, dialogue is a crucial factor and a key aspect of our approach to community development.

To ensure that the issues addressed in the sustainability report meet the stakeholders’ expectations, Total asks each year a number of its stakeholders to ask questions, which make up the different sections of the CSR report. Total’s 2009 CSR report was the first of this kind and it was titled "Ten questions to Total". The same scheme was used again with the 2010 CSR report, and this time the answer to the stakeholder’s question was provided by a Total employee (both the stakeholder and the Total employee were pictured side by side in the report). In the latest issue (the 2011 CSR report), the paper version is complemented by a web documentary in which the stakeholder will be able to follow up on the answer provided to his question by Total in the report, in order to continue the dialogue on-line.

Establishing and maintaining dialogue

Through dialogue, we can:

  • Identify our stakeholders and their expectations, and thus gain an in-depth understanding of the challenges concerning our mutual relationships and the impact of our operations.
  • Highlight priority projects in our mutual interest and contribute to their implementation by appropriate partners.
  • Jointly define the projects, along with the roles and responsibilities of the various parties involved.

Developing Appropriate Tools

Dialogue, though essential, can sometimes be difficult to establish, due to the diversity of the cultural and operational contexts we encounter.

This is why we have been developing tools in recent years that will help us make our approach more professional and therefore more effective. We have prepared several in-house guides, including the "Local Community Guide", the "Stakeholder Dialogue Guide" and "the Developing Local Content Guide"1.

We have also deployed an internal tool, SRM+ (Stakeholder Relationship Management), to enhance the professionalism of our community development initiatives. With SRM+, site and subsidiary managers can develop a detailed map of societal issues, based primarily on dialogue with stakeholders.

The system then draws on an up-to-date list of best practices to guide the definition of a joint actions plan, optimizing the benefits for all parties. It also describes how the plan should be implemented and tracked.  Today, around 100 Total sites have mapped their stakeholders using SRM+.

Getting to Know and Understand Indigenous and Tribal Peoples

Aware of the specificities of indigenous and tribal peoples, we have introduced a Charter of Principles and Guidelines Regarding Indigenous and Tribal Peoples that is consistent with the International Labour Organization's Convention No. 169 (C169). Under this charter and in compliance with our Code of Conduct, we strive to get to know and understand the legitimate needs of the communities neighboring our subsidiaries.

Strengthening dialogue

Cover of the CSR Report 2012

Wherever we operate, we try to establish a dialogue that is as wide-ranging and constructive as possible with a very broad array of stakeholders, who often have divergent and even conflicting expectations. This process of listening, assessing impacts and responding to expectations at every stage in our projects and throughout the operating life of our facilities is often difficult, confusing and publicly criticized.

For these reasons, we are committed to a continuous improvement process that includes:

  • Providing training to enhance the professional skills of our 370 employees involved in community issues, of which 329 on a full-time basis.
  • Tapping the expertise of NGOs. For example, the French NGO "Institut de recherche et d’applications des méthodes de développement" (IRAM - Institute for the Research & Application of Development Methods) has developed a specific training program on selecting, tracking and assessing local development projects. The program was deployed in our subsidiary in Nigeria in 2010 and has been offered to other subsidiaries.
  • Creating and assessing new tools tailored to each specific situation.

Our goal is to help local communities take control of their own development and future and to promote a sustainable coexistence between our industrial activities and people living and working near our operations.


Public Hearings in Alberta, Canada

In the province of Alberta, Canada, five years of consensus building and dialogue with local authorities and residents concerning our Joslyn oil sands project culminated in a series of public hearings in the fall of 2010. Over two weeks, 15 Total experts gave testimony and answered questions from representatives of national and regional governments, local communities including First Nations and people living and working near facilities, as well as NGOs and other oil companies. At the end of this thorough and transparent democratic process, the project was found to be in the public interest and final regulatory approval was recommended. Despite a climate predisposed to be hostile toward oil sands mining, the public hearings also led to the signature of economic and social development agreements with the primary communities, which commit Total for the life of the project.

Lastly, in May 2011, the Energy Resources Conservation Board (ERCB) — Alberta’s energy regulator — gave the go-ahead for project construction and operation and site reclamation.

An Independent Evaluation in the Congo

Two Congolese women and one man working on an injection pump connected to an electronic test bench

APNI, an association backed by Total E&P Congo,
helped local company Diesel Exploration Systems
to acquire an electronic test bench.

Seven years after "Association Pointe-Noire Industrielle" (APNI) was created, it was formally evaluated by Total E&P Congo. The aim was to help this association dedicated to the financial support and coaching of fledging local businesses take stock of its work to date and give it new impetus. The subsidiary commissioned a French development NGO, GRET2, to conduct interviews and a field review. The findings delivered in 2010 helped APNI make some important decisions, to shift its focus back to key missions, adopt stricter governance and raise the professional level of its staff. Total E&P Congo also decided to distance itself from APNI’s day-to-day management, so that it can learn to operate independently. Buoyed by this first experience, our Congolese subsidiary plans to conduct another assessment of its community development projects, this time focusing on the Djeno oil terminal.

Consulting Indigenous Peoples in Bolivia

The problem we faced in Bolivia was how to conduct a seismic survey of the Ipati Block, located in the heartland of the Guarani indigenous people, while fully respecting their rights and culture. In accordance with our "Charter of Principles and Guidelines Regarding Indigenous and Tribal Peoples", we therefore set up a process for discussion and consensus-building and, even more important, participation for each project phase. In addition to creating an agricultural support program, our local subsidiary made sure indigenous people were full partners in the process. Seven of them joined the team responsible for community relations and three technicians were trained to monitor the project’s environmental effects as it moved forward. The result: a climate of solid, enduring trust that earned us our social license to operate in the region. Our Exploration & Production business is currently preparing an Indigenous Management Plan for countries where such issues are particularly sensitive.

Feyzin Refinery Neighbors’ Conference in France

The Feyzin Refinery is a Seveso II-classified site located 12 kilometers from Lyon and just a few hundred meters from residential neighborhoods. In 2007, it created an innovative forum for dialogue, the Feyzin Refinery Neighbors’ Conference. Instigated by Total, the municipal authorities of Feyzin and the Institute for an Industrial Safety Culture (ICSI), the conference is dedicated to reflection and discussion.

Comprising 50 members — 30 Feyzin residents, five Total representatives, five city officials and other regional stakeholders, the Neighbors’ Conference makes recommendations to enhance the day-to-day relationship between residents and the refinery. The recommendations are then approved by the municipality and the refinery, which also provides the necessary funding.

Refinery employees and city officials also worked together to prepare "L’Usine et la Ville, des voisins peu commun" (Plant and City, Unlikely Neighbors), a guide for business leaders and public decision-makers based on past experience and best governance practices. The guide recommends a number of practical solutions for fostering dialogue between companies and municipalities,

1 "Local content" fers to the set of actions — local recruitment, training, purchases of local goods and services — that are designed to develop the industrial infrastructure and skills of the people in the countries that host oil and gas projects.

2GRET is an international cooperation and support association created 30 years ago to promote sustainable development and solidarity and fight poverty and structural inequality.