How Chevron thinks about global social responsibility

by Rahim Kanani | rahimkanani | Rahim Kanani Media Group, Inc
Wednesday, 29 April 2015 22:38 GMT

Chevron Teaches HIV Prevention in Nigeria

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“No one has all the answers and even Chevron needs partners to drive scale and impact,” explained Matt Lonner, Global Social Performance Manager at Chevron. In a recent interview, we discussed the origins of Chevron’s philanthropic strategy, their on-the-ground efforts to target HIV/AIDS in Nigeria, their approach to partnering with civil society, leadership lessons in tackling tough, global challenges, and much more.          

Tell me a little bit about the philosophy and approach behind Chevron's social investment strategy, on which you spent nearly $240M in 2014.

In nearly every country where we do business, we look to build lasting relationships that create prosperity, both now and for decades to come.We do this by intentionally directing our business investments – which is in addition to the $240 million you noted – in a way that boosts local economies by creating jobs, improving livelihoods and supporting local businesses. Chevron invested more than $63 billion on goods and services globally in 2014. In addition to those direct business investments, we contribute to local communities by making strategic social investments in three core areas: health, education and economic development, which complement and add value to our business footprint. 

This dual approach, business and social investment, is intended to create shared prosperity. We look to support long-term, sustainable development solutions joined with the implementation of business principles: local ownership through collaborative initiatives, effective management and the ability to adapt to market conditions. Chevron also emphasizes collaboration and partnership, and strives to draw in others with co-funding, technical expertise, local capabilities or convening power.

What inspired you to focus Chevron’s global health efforts on HIV/AIDS, and what do you believe are the best 'bang for the buck' investments to make progress on this issue? 

Our fight to raise awareness and reduce the stigma of HIV/AIDS began nearly 30 years ago, in 1986, when Chevron joined 13 other San Francisco Bay Area companies to promote HIV/AIDS education in the workplace. We have since continued to fight this battle because we operate in communities where the grip of AIDS is the strongest – from the San Francisco Bay Area in the 1980s to sub-Saharan Africa today.

Within our efforts to address HIV/AIDS, we recognize that prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV (PMTCT) is a critical intervention, as well as a realistic approach to bringing about an AIDS-free generation. We have a strong presence in Nigeria, which shoulders roughly one-quarter of the world’s cases of mother-to-child transmission of HIV. We’ve seen first-hand how access to the right treatments, knowledge and support can drastically reduce the chances of transmission. In Bayelsa state, Nigeria, Chevron partners with Pact on the PROMOT project, which has established a community-based and government-supported PMTCT outreach program across the state. Since our partnership began in 2012, nearly 45,000 pregnant women have taken HIV tests, received their results and been counseled at health facilities.

Working with partners globally and at local levels, we dedicate our capabilities, resources and people to support initiatives that build local capacity and deliver real, lasting gains in the fight against HIV/AIDS.

How do you decide which organizations to work with on the ground, and how do you evaluate whether a particular partnership is effective? 

Partnerships between the private sector and NGOs allow us to make a lasting impact by leveraging both of our expertise and resources. The private sector is able to provide industry experience, business acumen and capital, while the development and health organizations provide a direct tie to communities and an understanding of how to improve livelihoods and societal outcomes. We seek out partners who have local experience in building capacity in the communities, in addition to the right expertise and ability to administer programs at scale – whether it’s economic empowerment or community engagement – and who can measure and document impact. 

For example, in our recent work in Nigeria on the prevention of mother-to-child transmission, we’ve worked with our partner Pact on engaging local community organizations, state and local governments, and ministries of health to help build long-term capacity in the health system at the local level. Pact has been a Chevron partner for over 10 years, ensuring that we have a strong relationship and effective work process. Chevron and Pact also share responsibility for driving impact results and delivering on the purpose of the partnership. Shared ownership improves outcomes – and our aim is to create effective partnerships that deliver real results.

Recently, along with FSG, you released a report titled Extracting with Purpose, which focused on creating shared value in the oil, gas and mining sector. What were some of the main findings of the report? 

The report highlights how companies in the oil, gas, mining and minerals fields can create shared value by pursuing opportunities that tie business success to the prosperity of host communities and countries, often working in collaboration with governments, multilateral institutions, nonprofit organizations and even competitors. 

In 2012, the economic output of the extractives sector was valued at $3.5 trillion – business value that could also be put to use for societal outcomes. The concept that Michael Porter introduced as “shared value” – that we typically refer to as “shared prosperity” – is an evolution in our social investment strategy. This may represent the next innovation for the extractive industry in CSR, one that has the capability to unlock resources to further promote economic development, create new opportunities for growth, reduce the disease burden and improve civil society as a long-term investment in the communities in which we operate. The report finds that for extractive companies, leveraging this opportunity and embracing this shift in perspective can create business opportunity and reduce operational costs – whether that derives from local procurement, access to a healthy and qualified workforce, or working to reduce local conflict to create a more stable operating environment. It’s important to understand, however, that we’re still in the early stages of understanding the full potential of shared value for our business more broadly.

Finally, as Chevron’s Manager of Global Social Performance, what are some of the leadership lessons you've learned along the way when it comes to tackling tough societal challenges like global health, education and economic development? 

Systemic societal challenges require long-term strategies and a commitment at all levels to see it through, so building internal support is critical. Gaining internal support means aligning our social investment strategies to our business objectives to create focus and consistency, but we must also be fully in tune with national and local priorities. To achieve sustainable impact, we need to leverage the resources and expertise of partners and stakeholders. No one has all the answers and even Chevron needs partners to drive scale and impact. Data driven decisions are also important to ensure we are stewarding resources to optimize social benefit.

Finally, it’s impossible to overstate the importance of a company culture that values our relationship with society and that genuinely cares and considers our stakeholders, from senior management, to our employees, to the professionals who lead and execute our CSR activities. At the end of the day, this only works if it’s considered integral to the business, rather than a nice-to-do.