Cranfield School of Management and the Corporate Responsibility Initiative at Harvard Kennedy School have today (14 November) launched a joint report examining the creation of the Conflict-Free Gold Standard by the World Gold Council. The report provides an important case study for Corporate Responsibility Coalitions and trade associations looking to develop common standards and self-regulatory mechanisms.

The Conflict-Free Gold Standard provides a common approach through which gold mining companies can provide assurance that their gold has been extracted in a manner that does not cause, support or benefit unlawful armed conflict.

The report’s findings include the need for Corporate Responsibility Coalitions and trade associations to demonstrate:

  • Top-level and sustained commitment by individual business leaders and their companies.
  • Widespread stakeholder engagement and meaningful consultation.
  • Identification and inclusion of advice from credible, third-party technical experts.
  • Effective ecosystem-mapping and co-ordination with other relevant initiatives.
  • Credible, independent third-party convenors to facilitate stakeholder dialogue.

The report draws upon over 600 pages of World Gold Council documents, as well as reports, draft regulations and other documentation from the United Nations Expert Panel on the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region, the European Union and the US Securities and Exchange Commission.

Over 20 in-depth internal and external interviews including with personnel from AngloGold Ashanti, Barrick Gold, Fund for Peace, GIZ/International Conference on the Great Lakes Region, Global Witness, Goldcorp, Gold Fields, IAM Gold, Kinross Gold, London Bullion Market Association, Newmont Mining Corporation, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), PAMP, Rand Refinery, US State Department and the World Gold Council.

Edward Bickham, Visiting Fellow at Cranfield School of Management and the author of the report, said: “It is five years since the World Gold Council launched the Conflict-Free Gold Standard as a process to enable gold mining companies to provide assurance to downstream users and other stakeholders that their gold had been produced in a way which avoids fuelling conflict or financing armed groups. It was an ambitious initiative to define reasonable expectations of corporate responsibility for a mining operation in a high risk or conflict-affected area.

“The legitimacy of the Standard was entirely dependent upon striking a balance between what companies felt to be workable and what stakeholders felt to be necessary to create confidence in the integrity of the process. The case study describes the consultation process and how the companies ultimately overcame their natural suspicions of each other to agree upon a workable framework the legitimacy of which has been widely accepted.”

Speaking at the launch of the report in Washington D.C, Professor David Grayson, Director of The Doughty Centre for Corporate Responsibility, Cranfield School of Management said: “Behaving responsibly, being corporately responsible and encouraging other businesses to follow suit, is fundamental to restoring trust in individual businesses. Companies must take a leadership role on their own, but also be willing to work collectively in partnership with their peers and competitors to achieve industry-wide progress.

“Leadership on human rights and sustainability issues by business executives is more important than it has ever been, and this example from the gold mining sector illustrates what is possible.”

Notes for editors

About the Author

Edward Bickham is a Visiting Fellow at Cranfield School of Management. His background includes acting as Special Adviser to the British Home Secretary (1985-88) and Foreign Secretary (1990-93). Between 2000 and 2009 he served as Executive Vice President, External Affairs for diversified mining company Anglo American. He has been closely involved in the development and governance of several multi-stakeholder corporate responsibility initiatives in the extractive sector including the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights and the OECD Guidance on Due Diligence on the Responsible Sourcing of Minerals from Conflict-Affected and High-Risk Areas. He is Chairman of the Institute of Business Ethics and of the Programme Committee of Care International UK. He is Senior Adviser to Critical Resource Ltd and Managing Director of advisory company Extracting Value.

About the Corporate Responsibility Initiative (CRI)

The Corporate Responsibility Initiative (CRI) at the Harvard Kennedy School’s Mossavar-Rahmani Centre for Business and Government (M-RCBG) is a multidisciplinary and multi-stakeholder program that seeks to study and enhance the public contributions of private enterprise.

The initiative explores the intersection of corporate responsibility, corporate governance, and public policy, with a focus on analysing institutional innovations that help to implement the corporate responsibility to respect human rights, enhance governance and accountability and achieve key international development goals. It bridges theory and practice, builds leadership skills, and supports constructive dialogue and collaboration among business, government, civil society and academics.

Founded in 2004, the CR Initiative works with a small Corporate Leadership Group consisting of global companies that are leaders in the fields of corporate responsibility, sustainability or creating shared value. The Initiative also works with other leading corporate responsibility and sustainability organizations, government bodies, non-governmental organizations, foundations and companies to leverage innovative policy research and examples of good practice in this field.

About Cranfield University

Cranfield University is a specialist postgraduate university that is a global leader for education and transformational research in technology and management.