The Mutoshi Project: a preview of unexplored opportunities for Corporate Philanthropy

Should business and philanthropy be always opposed to each other or could they pursue complementary purposes? A case study about a philanthropic project and a corporate pilot in DRC shows that there is room for mutual benefits when business and philanthropy join forces.

Posted by Vincent Faber on December 16, 2019

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Trafigura recently published the report “The Mutoshi Pilot Project” showing the positive impact of the company’s pioneering move to formally include artisanal and small-scale miners (ASMs) in its operating model.

The report not only underscores the project’s successes, such as the tangible improvements of ASMs’ working conditions and livelihoods. It also casts light on the complex situation of artisanal mining and as a consequence highlights the duty Trafigura, as a corporation having social responsibility now firmly embedded in its business practices, has in addressing that social reality. This goal can only be reached if all stakeholders are pulled together to discuss standards, practices, needs and solutions – and build a strong partnership for the good of all.

As someone having been in the field of social development and aid for decades, I truly commend the innovative approach the company has taken in Mutoshi and hope that these solutions can be further scaled up in other settings and for other communities.

The Trafigura Foundation also plays its part in these new developments. We started working with Pact (the NGO collaborating with Trafigura on the Mutoshi project) in 2017 on some of the multiple challenges faced by ASM communities. More precisely, building on our partner’s expertise in DRC, we launched two programmes in the country targeting regions with a strong presence of artisanal mining: Malemba-Nkulu and Kolwezi.

In the latter area, given the presence of Trafigura on the Mutoshi concession, we decided to work alongside our friends from Corporate Affairs in order to synchronize our respective programmes. While the Company looks at “inside-the-fence” issues (working conditions and developing an integrated business model with ASM cooperatives), the Foundation, for its part, looks mostly at “outside-the-fence” issues (alternative livelihoods, children and youth education, women’s empowerment opportunities) affecting the wider communities.

It was good to see that the solutions that we elaborated with Pact in our partnership have been retrospectively validated by the authors of the Mutoshi Report. The need to strengthen the resilience of ASMs beyond the sole mining activity – to enable them to cope with the inevitable and at times sharp fluctuations in prices – appeared indeed to be one of their main conclusions, and this is precisely what the Foundation is trying to achieve with Pact.

These convergences illustrate how corporate philanthropy and business can act jointly and coherently for the best of all stakeholders. Such complementarities are new and unexplored opportunities for us. On one hand, by connecting closer to Trafigura’s industry, we are able to identify needs which are either neglected or simply unnoticed by traditional philanthropic actors. We can also tap into an enormous potential of industrial expertise and networks to multiply our final social impact – which is a fundamental duty for any philanthropic institution. On the other hand, corporate foundations can contribute to designing solutions or pilot projects that can, once the model is proven, be taken over by corporations within their CSR goals and HSEC activities.

Similar examples are being developed in some of our other areas of work, for instance around seafarers’ working conditions in the shipping industry, or the reduction of carbon and greenhouse gas emissions in the freight sector - to name a few.

These are new avenues which are just opening up in the world of corporate philanthropy. As Trafigura is setting the pace of a more responsible business at a global level, we – the Trafigura Foundation – are also striving to play a comparable role in our community of peer foundations. Philanthropy is not only about emotions. It is also about efficiency and impact awareness. Doing good and treating symptoms is one thing. Changing the landscape and tackling root causes is something else. For that, having the resourcefulness of a Group such as Trafigura is invaluable. I also have the immodesty to think that what we bring to the Group is not seen as a mere nice-to-have, but as a genuine added-value to the actual business.

Vincent Faber