Communicating with and listening to local communities that may be affected by company activities is a Gran Tierra priority. In 2017 GTE conducted 888 meetings with a total of 18,393 attendees and so far in 2018, Gran Tierra has conducted 740 meetings with a total of 16,121 attendees. Many of Gran Tierra’s social investments focus on economic development, such as productive and business development initiatives which are critically important in post-conflict areas. Another priority for many local communities in rural areas are programs that strengthen capacities and leadership.
GTE has developed a new strategy for social investments that will be made between 2018 and 2020. This strategy reflects the results of a broad study of community and GTE management. The new strategy recognizes that two of the company’s most important commitments are to build trusting relationships and to be a good neighbor. The objective is for the company to be a trusted partner with the communities near its operations. Among its many provisions, the strategy calls for social investments to:
- Be tangible and measurable.
- Align with business, Colombian and international social impact standards.
- Improve community feedback.
GTE has several programs that let people see first-hand what the company does to minimize the impact of its operations on the environment. One program is called Fam Trips, which involves encouraging families and journalists to visit production sites. This program has proved to be effective in countering myths some people have regarding industry practices, by providing basic information about hydrocarbons, and by providing basic information on how oil operations work. The visitors can take photos, and sometimes there are special programs for children. Some visitors come from areas near current operations and some are from areas where GTE is planning to operate. In 2017, GTE hosted 11 Fam Trips with approximately 300 people participating, at the Costayaco Field for the Putumayo basin communities and at the Angeles Field for the Middle Magdalena Valley Basin.
Gran Tierra Te Escucha: An Open Door for the Community
As part of its efforts to maintain a strong, positive relationship with local communities, on September 1 Gran Tierra opened a new community outreach office in San Martín, a town near most of the company’s operations in the Middle Magdalena Valley. This brings the total number of such offices to three with plans under development to open additional offices in Orito and Puerto Asís in 2018.
The offices are part of a program called “Gran Tierra Te Escucha” (Gran Tierra Listens). Their role is to create a physical, easily accessible channel for community members to engage in two-way communications with the company. This open-door policy allows our staff to listen to anyone with questions or concerns about GTE’s activities and provide timely responses. In addition, the offices are used to provide workshops and training, meetings and inductions for contractor companies.
One of GTE's Te Escucha offices is located in Villagarzón, Putumayo. On a typical day, this office receives about 10 visitors from different municipalities. In addition to answering questions, the staff receives petitions, complaints and claims from job seekers and addresses concerns and grievances related to issues such as social programs and employment opportunities. Some of the most frequent questions include: Can GTE include more communities in its work participation programs? Can it provide more jobs? Can it help the local Planning Association’s (JAC’s) development issues?
|LOCATION||MONTHS||NUMBER OF VISITORS|
|Puerto Limón – Mocoa (Putumayo)||12||186|
|San Martín (Cesar)||4||430|
“Our goals are to maintain a relationship built on trust and to provide a responsive service for the community. My job is to listen patiently, understand people’s needs and function as a bridge between them and the company. Generally, people who show up are very kind. They trust us, and they know they will be listened to. I have a great responsibility to make sure their voices are heard and responded to.”ELIANA GISSET RUEDA CHACÓN, Social Assistant
GTE Donates Parks to Two Neighbor Communities
In early 2017 two small towns near Gran Tierra’s operations in the Middle Magdalena Valley— Morrison and La Banca—asked Gran Tierra to create a public place for each of them where residents could gather with their families and connect as a community. Before the end of the year both towns were the proud owners of parks, donated by GTE, that met their needs.
GTE has a policy of promptly addressing community requests based on need assessments. Each of the company’s operations, from exploration to development, has a budget for community contributions proportional to the impact of that business activity on the community. Every year GTE holds workshops with communities to understand their needs and priorities. To maximize local benefits, approved projects are typically implemented through a local contractor. In the case of these parks, Zoe Solutions SAS constructed them. Project sustainability is an important factor GTE considers in assessing community requests, along with commitments by local authorities and the communities themselves to assume some responsibilities for the project. In this case, before the project was funded, both towns agreed that their communities would maintain the parks and assure they were put to good use.
Handling Petitions, Complaints and Claims
In 2016 Gran Tierra modified its grievance resolution process to reflect its evolving relationships with local communities, especially its effort to build relationships based on mutual understanding and acceptance. The company emphasized to people that GTE is an open door company and that it has adopted a grievance handling procedure that seeks to provide quality, timely, coherent, efficient, systematic and responsible responses that build trust, manage expectations and minimize environmental risks.
Underlying the procedure is Gran Tierra’s philosophy that whether it has delegated an activity or performed it directly, GTE is responsible for how it is carried out. The procedure embodies principles recommended by the World Bank Group and performance criteria that are set forth in the United Nations publication “Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.”
People have four in-person and correspondence-based channels they can use to file petitions, complaints and claims. These are screened and go through the documentation center and the coordination center. Everything is coded with a report received in real time at Gran Tierra’s headquarters in Canada. Regular reports are sent to senior management. An Effectiveness Committee meets every month, looking at trends. One database captures all of these interactions, and cases are expected to be investigated between 3 and 12 calendar days from when they were opened, if possible. To ensure that the system continues to improve, internal and external satisfaction surveys and performance statistics are reviewed by management on a regular basis.
In 2017, response effectiveness improved by 5% compared to the previous year.
For any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact us. Please direct all inquiries to the following email.
First Community Benefit Agreements
Inspired by its operating philosophy of Beyond Compliance, Gran Tierra in 2017 began using a new community engagement tool in Colombia—Community Benefit Agreements / Acuerdo Comunitario de Convivencia. This tool has proven to be successful in Canada in establishing mutually respectful and beneficial relationships between oil operators and local communities. A Community Benefit Agreement / Acuerdo Comunitario de Convivencia is a binding contract negotiated and executed between a company and communities that may be impacted by a proposed project. Under this framework agreement the communities obtain important benefits, and in return the company receives the support it needs to proactively manage both benefits and grievances related to its projects.