Working with local communities

Report Dec. 20, 2019

In this article

Working with local communities


We believe early planning and engagement with communities are critical components for successful projects and operations. Our stakeholder engagement planning process requires all activities and operations to also include a process for collecting grievances from communities and workforces. When implementing the stakeholder engagement process, dedicated personnel are responsible for community engagement as well as receiving, tracking, analyzing and responding to community grievances. The grievance process incorporates guidance on best practices from the International Finance Corporation and IPIECA.

ExxonMobil’s Upstream Socioeconomic Management Standard is designed to support identification of potential socioeconomic issues, risks and opportunities early in the lifecycle of upstream projects. Our Standard also helps ensure we comply with host-country regulations, respect human rights, build local economic capacity and engage with relevant external groups. We regularly review and revise the Standard to ensure consistency with industry best practices. 


XTO Energy co-founds the Permian Strategic Partnership

ExxonMobil’s XTO Energy subsidiary aims to balance growing energy production in the Permian Basin with the needs of communities in the area. In 2018, XTO Energy co-founded the Permian Strategic Partnership, an alliance of 20 energy companies developing oil and natural gas resources in the Permian Basin. The partnership collaborates with trade associations, chambers of commerce, local governments and philanthropic groups to address community challenges in western Texas and southeastern New Mexico. The partnership opened an office in 2019 to guide this multi-year effort.

Partnership members have collectively pledged more than $100 million to improve the quality of life for families in the area. Members are collaborating with local leaders to understand specific needs of individual communities. Through this initial engagement, the partnership identified the need for safer roads, better schools, quality health care, affordable housing and a trained workforce. It is in the process of identifying and supporting programs to help manage these needs.

Melissa Leroy, XTO Energy operations engineer, in Midland, Texas.

Land use and resettlement 


We adhere to a host country’s regulatory requirements that govern land use, as well as our own internal standards. For externally financed projects, we comply with lender stipulations regarding land use, access and resettlement requirements. ExxonMobil aims to minimize involuntary resettlement through a disciplined site-selection process. We assess locations based on accessibility, safety, environmental, socioeconomic and specific land use standards. When physical or economic displacement occurs, we implement location-specific resettlement action plans to restore the livelihoods of displaced populations. ExxonMobil develops plans through consultations with affected community members, government officials, landowners and surveys of assets, including housing structures, gardens, wildlife and harvesting areas. 

2018 performance and initiatives

ExxonMobil did not resettle any populations in 2018. 

Cultural heritage and diversity


At ExxonMobil, our respect for the cultural heritage and customs of local communities carries into our business practices through project design and execution. We take into account cultural and spiritual considerations, heritage sites, biodiversity conservation, traditional knowledge and efficient use of resources in our project designs. 

We use a cultural heritage-identification process to recognize potential sites of cultural significance. If the recovery or relocation of an artifact is appropriate, ExxonMobil develops tailored procedures in consultation with technical experts, local communities and appropriate host-country government officials. We also train our construction and field contractor personnel to identify different types of cultural heritage in the areas where we work.

Local students at Kutubu Secondary School participate in the Kutubu Kundu and Digaso Festival in Papua New Guinea.

2018 performance and initiatives

We value the diverse cultural histories of the areas where we operate. We look for opportunities to help preserve cultural heritage by prudently managing our own operations and making strategic community investments. For example, ExxonMobil Papua New Guinea Limited has supported the Hiri Moale festival since 2014. This annual festival celebrates the Motu Koitabu culture, originating in the Hiri West area of Central Province near our operations. By supporting the event, ExxonMobil helps uphold the unique cultural traditions of the Motu Koitabu people. The festival provides a platform for young Motu Koita women to build self-confidence and extend their personal networks. 
Asia Wendy Rarua was crowned the 2018 Hiri Hanenamo Queen by ExxonMobil socioeconomic advisor Nora Scheller.

Indigenous peoples 


Due to their relatively small populations and often isolated locations, indigenous communities are especially vulnerable to underrepresentation in governments. ExxonMobil seeks to understand the different perspectives of indigenous people and incorporate their feedback into our project planning, design and execution. Our interactions with indigenous peoples around the world are consistent with the principles of the following frameworks:

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

We participate in IPIECA’s task force on free prior and informed consent, which focuses on developing best practices for working with indigenous peoples. IPIECA continues to monitor developments related to this topic and holds periodic meetings and webinars to share local knowledge and discuss emerging trends.

Meaningful engagement is a key aspect of free prior and informed consent. ExxonMobil is committed to conducting meaningful consultations with indigenous peoples, incorporating traditional knowledge and land use information into our plans and promoting community engagement programs that respect indigenous peoples’ traditions and cultures. 

2018 performance and initiatives 

ExxonMobil’s Canadian affiliate, Imperial, often consults members of indigenous Canadian communities to help develop reclamation plans and activities. This engagement with Imperial’s indigenous neighbors deepens its understanding of their connection to the land. It also helps inform a culturally appropriate approach to Imperial’s planning and includes selecting local native seeds and traditional plants or incorporating certain habitat features to help support a variety of wildlife.

Imperial’s approach proved instrumental in the construction of Muskeg Lake, located at its Kearl oil sands site. Muskeg Lake, which is connected to Kearl Lake and deep enough to enable fish to survive during the winter, was constructed to replace a fish habitat that was impacted by our operations. Recent monitoring has confirmed that nine species of fish documented at Kearl Lake, either historically or during Imperial’s monitoring program from 2009 to 2013, have successfully colonized Muskeg Lake. In 2018, Imperial hosted a site visit for community members to solicit additional feedback and to learn about the progress being made.

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Around the world, ExxonMobil aims to be a preferred business partner, neighbor, employer and supplier. ExxonMobil maintains a corporate-wide commitment to safeguarding the health and security of our employees and the public, responsibly managing our social impacts and upholding respect for human rights in our operations.

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