March 17, 2021
Over the past 30 years, salmon farming in Chile has exploded into a $4.7 billion industry. Chile is now the world’s second largest salmon producer, and salmon is the country’s second largest export. The industry is an important source of jobs in the southern region of the country, yet industry practices have also generated significant conflicts with local communities about environmental impacts and who gets the benefits of industry success.
CBI is currently working on a multi-year process with the industry to support community engagement that addresses peoples’ core concerns and supports transparent, participatory interaction. This initiative started with a partnership between World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and Rabobank, a Dutch-based bank and major lender to Chile’s salmon industry. WWF and Rabobank asked CBI to develop a toolkit and guidelines for responsible community engagement, in line with the social standards of the Aquaculture Stewardship Council. The guidelines prompted nine of the country’s largest salmon producers to form a working group to implement the toolkit, which offers a step-wise approach for achieving sustainable relationships with communities, based on dialogue and meaningful actions to address the companies’ socio-environmental impacts, be they negative or positive impacts. This approach includes taking actions to:
More about the toolkit can be found at this link.
Since 2018, the working group - called the Salmon Social Initiative (Iniciativa Social del Salmón - ISS) - has engaged in joint learning around improving community engagement, based on the toolkit framework. In 2019, the companies’ CEOs signed a 10-point commitment statement that includes forward-looking practices such as participatory monitoring. The group is also working collaboratively on pilot initiatives with two communities in southern Chile, in which they are coordinating efforts to address industry impacts and prioritize development initiatives together with local stakeholders. These efforts recognize that multiple companies often operate in the same communities, requiring a new level of coordinated actions to better address cumulative or shared impacts, as well as leverage opportunities to support local visions for development.
Over the past few years, the initiative has helped these companies transform their community engagement teams and practices, using CBI’s conceptual framework and practical tools, together with peer learning. The results are being felt on the ground; for example, one community successfully came to resolution about issues related to a major environmental incident through a dialogue process with one of the participating companies. The dialogue, unlike anything the company or community leaders had engaged in previously, resulted in new commitments on discharges, joint monitoring, and even structural changes in the company. Today, the company and community are implementing this agreement, with a focus on a rigorous joint monitoring effort to ensure the environmental incident does not recur. As another example, 8 companies in the group are currently working together with artisanal fishermen in one community and a foundation to identify ways to diversify the fishermen’s channels for selling their products locally and nationally, including by investing in infrastructure at the pier and providing training for preparing and freezing fresh-caught fish. This is in response to a months-long effort with the fishermen to identify their key development priorities.
Moreover, the initiative has helped build rapport and “social capital” among the participating companies: Participants now regularly contact each other for help and advice when faced with community engagement challenges and proactively seek opportunities to collaborate in shared communities.