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Managing community impacts

ExxonMobil strives to have a positive impact around the world on the individual communities in which we live and operate.

We seek to contribute to the social and economic progress of the local communities where we operate. We believe that maintaining a fundamental respect for human rights, responsibly managing our impacts on communities and making valued social investments are integral to the success and sustainability of our business.

The socioeconomic aspects of our business fall into seven broad categories, as depicted below: human rights; community relations; indigenous peoples; cultural heritage and diversity; and land use and resettlement. For information on transparency and anti-corruption, see the corporate governance section, and for economic development, see the local development and supply chain management section.

ExxonMobil works in communities all over the world, each with their own unique cultures, needs and sensitivities. We strive to have a positive impact on the individual communities in which we live and operate. We believe proactively managing potential issues, while also enhancing community benefits, is integral to developing long-term, positive relationships.

ExxonMobil believes a consistent approach helps our employees, contractors and partners effectively manage socioeconomic issues. We use our Upstream Socioeconomic Management Standard to identify potential socioeconomic impacts and their associated risks early in the Upstream asset life cycle, and then develop and implement appropriate avoidance, reduction, remedy and monitoring measures.

In 2010, ExxonMobil established a socioeconomic management center of expertise (COE) to ensure a systematic approach to a dynamic and evolving arena. The COE utilizes a functional advisory team with various representatives from relevant company business lines, such as procurement, treasurers, land, security, medical and occupational health, and public and government affairs. The advisory team meets semiannually to review and discuss strategy, alignment and direction regarding socioeconomic considerations. The COE also meets with our External Citizenship Advisory Panel annually to review initiatives and gain insights and direction for future efforts.

Further, a socioeconomic management course regarding implementation of the Upstream Socioeconomic Management Standard and its elements is held twice a year. This course has provided a forum for more than 100 ExxonMobil employees from 18 countries to collaborate as well as exchange ideas and lessons learned.

We have found that in order to optimize opportunities for creating and enhancing positive socioeconomic effects and to successfully implement appropriate risk management measures, identifying actual and potential impacts early is essential. By outlining different expectations based on the identification of relevant socioeconomic aspects, the Standard ensures that our Upstream activities proactively identify socioeconomic risks and implement timely well-balanced solutions.

Up Close: The Hebron project in Canada

Located offshore Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada, the Hebron project is estimated to produce more than 700 million barrels of recoverable resources over the next 30 years. The project requires a number of components, including a gravity-based structure (GBS) that stands on the seafloor and supports the topsides modules, which contain living quarters and drilling and processing operations. Several of these components are being built at Bull Arm, one of Hebron’s main construction sites in Newfoundland and Labrador. Since 2009, a number of programs have evolved from our ongoing community consultation, including construction site tours and ocean education programs.

The project launched a public tour program in 2013, through which more than 2,600 visitors have taken bus tours of the Bull Arm construction site. The tour route includes a view of the camp facilities and two lookout points: one overlooking the former dry dock area and the second overlooking the deepwater site. A dedicated tour facilitator accompanies each group and provides a safety overview, history of the site and an overview of activities to date for both the GBS and topside modules.

Through our consultation with various community groups in Newfoundland and Labrador, we learned of a common desire to increase the public’s ocean awareness and education. In response, project personnel worked with local organizations to develop ocean education programs that support science education while reflecting the local community’s oceanic culture and economy. Contributions made by the project also facilitated the establishment of the Oceans Learning Partnership, a multi-stakeholder organization dedicated to enhancing the awareness and interest in the ocean and ocean-related careers among the youth of Newfoundland and Labrador.

In 2012, the Hebron project funded the “Floating Classroom,” a 42-foot-long, state-of-the-art research vessel designed to help K–12 students develop skills in oceanographic, biological and meteorological fields. The program engages students through hands-on learning experiences at sea, including identifying marine species and habitats and measuring water quality and weather conditions.

The project also contributed to the establishment of the Petty Harbour Mini Aquarium, a seasonal small-scale aquarium that showcases marine life found in Newfoundland’s coastal waters. As a seasonal program, all of the marine life in the tanks is returned to the local waters at the end of each season. In each of its first three years of operation, more than 17,000 people have visited the aquarium.

Photo — The Hebron project under construction in Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada.

Community relations

Working collaboratively and transparently with local communities is essential to promoting positive long-term relationships and fostering ongoing support for our activities. We make every effort to consult with community stakeholders on a regular basis for the purpose of exchanging information and proactively identifying issues or concerns. By integrating the results of these discussions into our decision-making processes, we can help avoid or reduce our impacts on communities, enhance benefits, avert delays, reduce costs and prevent the escalation of issues.

ExxonMobil defines our location-specific community awareness programs and government relations protocols using our Best Practices in External Affairs (BPEA) coupled with ESHIAs and/or Environmental, Social and Health Management Plans (ESHMPs). Our BPEA process is designed to help identify the specific needs, expectations and interests of host communities and aligns those needs with our community investment programs. We utilize ESHIAs to identify the actual and potential impacts of a specific project and ways to avoid, reduce or remedy those impacts. Together, BPEA and ESHIAs help build and maintain a positive and transparent relationship in the communities in which we operate.

We seek to ensure interested stakeholders are fairly represented as community issues are discussed and decisions are made. Once a project starts, we provide local groups and individuals with communication channels to voice concerns. Our Upstream Socioeconomic Management Standard includes provisions for establishing a systematic and transparent grievance management process to address individual and community concerns about a project. When appropriate, dedicated personnel are responsible for developing and managing a process to map, track, analyze and respond to community grievances.

Up Close: Community advisory panels in Appalachia

Many areas in Appalachia have a long history of energy devel¬opment. However, unconventional oil and gas development is still relatively new. Our approach to community relations is grounded in general principles that allow us to tailor our efforts to address the needs of a given community where we live and operate.

In order to tailor our approach to local issues, we have developed community advisory panels (CAP) near our operations in areas of Pennsylvania and Ohio. To form a CAP, we partner with community leaders who live and work in the areas where we operate — local officials, leaders in education, business community members, emergency and first responders, land and mineral rights owners and local charitable organizations. Recognizing that there is no substitute for face-to-face communication, XTO Energy employees engage regularly with these community leaders to discuss the phases of our operations, including drilling, hydraulic fracturing, production and processing. Additionally, in order to give context to our discussions, we provide site tours to give an up-close look at our operations.

We believe that engaging in open dialogue with members of the community is vital to our long-term success in the region. Our regular meetings help us stay in direct contact with the community as we strive to address concerns that arise in real time, and help keep the community up to date about our activities. In addition to providing context to our operations, XTO Energy engineers and geologists explain the steps we take to safeguard the community and the environment and to combat the misinformation about our industry that is prevalent in the media.

  • Amy Dobkin

    Community relations manager, XTO Energy Appalachia Division

    “There is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution to community engagement. Every community has its own unique needs and challenges, and we work to maintain an ongoing dialogue with our neighbors, partners and local leaders. By developing strong relationships, we can better understand the needs of our communities and help ensure the work we do is creating a lasting benefit.”

Indigenous peoples

Our operations sometimes take place in areas inhabited or historically used by indigenous peoples. In locations such as this, we work with indigenous communities to respectfully protect their cultures and customs. Our approach to interacting with indigenous peoples around the world is consistent with the following four guidelines:

  • ILO Convention 169 Concerning Indigenous and Tribal Peoples in Independent Countries
  • United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
  • International Finance Corporation (IFC) Performance Standards on Environmental and Social Sustainability
  • World Bank Operational Policy and Bank Procedure on Indigenous Peoples

When working with indigenous peoples, one of our key objectives is to determine how they prefer to engage. For example, communities can decide if they want us to meet with elected leaders, community elders or other representatives, and if those engagements are conducted in a public forum, either formal or informal. We empower the communities to establish their preference for how often and how long their members meet with ExxonMobil representatives, and who will provide their viewpoints or represent their wishes.

In addition, we seek to provide mutually beneficial training, employment and business opportunities to indigenous peoples through local content programs and strategic community investments.

A core component of our operations is ensuring the safety of our employees as well as neighboring communities. In 2015, ExxonMobil partnered with the Marine Exchange of Alaska, a nonprofit maritime organization, and two local indigenous villages to upgrade safety technology in their communication centers near our operations at Point Thomson, Alaska. Vessel tracking software and communication devices were used to help village residents monitor marine vessel traffic in relation to their traditional subsistence hunting areas. As a result of this effort, marine users were able to avoid conflicts with subsistence activities and carry out their operations in a safe manner.

We continue to participate on the global oil and gas industry association for environmental and social issues, IPIECA’s, task force on free prior and informed consent, which focuses on gaining clarity on the definition and best practices for working with indigenous peoples. In 2015, IPIECA continued to monitor developments related to this topic and held periodic calls, sessions and webinars to share local knowledge and discuss emerging trends.

Cultural heritage and diversity

We are sensitive to concerns around balancing cultural heritage with the desire for economic development. Our respect for the cultural heritage and customs of local communities carries into our everyday business practices. For our Upstream projects, we incorporate into our project planning, design and execution considerations such as cultural, spiritual or sacred heritage sites and areas, biodiversity conservation, traditional knowledge and sustainable resource management.

Prior to starting work in an area, we identify potential sites of cultural significance using a cultural heritage identification process. Additionally, we leverage relevant studies to deepen the knowledge among our workforce and provide training to our construction and field contractor personnel on managing cultural heritage challenges. Our objective is to preserve cultural sites and artifacts appropriately.

Up Close: Working with indigenous peoples in Kaktovik, Alaska

The village of Kaktovik, located within the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge Coastal Plain on Barter Island, is home to approximately 250 to 300 residents of Inupiat Eskimo descent whose ancestors have lived in the area for centuries. During the 1890s and early 1900s, Barter Island was an important trading site for commercial whalers. Early inhabitants of the region were semi-nomadic and relied heavily on the availability of fish, game and marine mammals. Today, Kaktovik residents continue to maintain a strong connection to the cultural heritage of their ancestors.

Our Point Thomson project is located on state acreage along the remote Beaufort Sea coast, 60 miles west of Kaktovik. A central tenet of our vision for Point Thomson is to be a good neighbor. Through regular and consistent communication with Kaktovik community leaders and residents, we learned about their long-standing desire to reconnect with a collection of more than 3,000 artifacts that were excavated and removed from the area in 1914 and curated at the Canadian Museum of History (CMH). The collection includes antler arrowheads, ivory harpoon heads, traditional copper slate knives and other remarkably preserved artifacts that represent a way of life extending back 1,000 years.

The Point Thomson project’s multi-year cultural resources management program culminated in the return of this collection to Alaska for the first time since 1914. As part of a museum-to-museum loan, the CMH sent this iconic collection to the University of Alaska Museum of the North in Fairbanks, where ExxonMobil sponsored Kaktovik cultural experts to visit and assist researchers in the documentation and analysis process. The program soon evolved into a cultural exchange where village residents were able to reconnect with the collection, helping bolster local elementary and secondary education programs that preserve and advance their rich Inupiat cultural heritage.

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Land use and resettlement

ExxonMobil employs practices and policies to respect property rights in the locations where we operate, and we pay particular attention to those areas populated by indigenous peoples. Whenever land is necessary for projects, we adhere to applicable host-country regulatory requirements that govern land acquisition. If projects are externally financed, we also comply with land use, access and resettlement requirements stipulated by the lender(s). Additionally, consistent with the 2012 IFC Performance Standards, when working on traditional lands, we endeavor to obtain the free, prior and informed consent of indigenous peoples before initiating significant development activities.

We understand that community members often have concerns about how our activities may affect their land and way of life. When managing land-use-related impacts, we aim to minimize involuntary resettlement through a disciplined multi-dimensional site selection process. Several potential locations are typically assessed based on technical criteria such as availability, accessibility, safety, security and constructability, as well as environmental and social considerations. All of these factors are then evaluated and locations are ranked to determine the lowest-risk options. There are several cases where we have rerouted infrastructure or chosen an alternative site for a facility to address resettlement-related concerns.

When physical or economic displacement is unavoidable, we seek to ensure the restoration of the livelihoods of displaced persons by developing and implementing location-specific resettlement action plans that are informed by consultations with landowners as well as surveying and mapping of housing structures, gardens, wildlife, natural products, harvesting areas and other assets. Assessment teams also identify resettled individuals or groups who may be more affected by the displacement than others. When appropriate, we closely monitor these individuals or groups and assign them to priority resettlement assistance programs. ExxonMobil was not involved in the resettlement of any individuals in 2015.

We did, however, complete our resettlement and livelihood restoration process in Papua New Guinea (PNG), including a two-year monitoring process. The project conducted internal outcome evaluation for both standard of living and livelihood restoration of affected households. This program, which was a lender requirement and part of the ESHMP for the PNG liquified natural gas project, was well-defined, well-communicated and well-managed. Closeout was achieved via a formal audit by the lenders, and ExxonMobil was commended for its overall performance and management of the program.