This is a case study about how Gold Fields, a global mining company, has assessed its relationship with communities around the South Deep Gold Mine in the West Rand, South Africa. Three assessments, in which the company gathered extensive community perceptions via surveys and focus groups, were conducted between 2014 and 2019.

This case study:

  • provides an overview of the methodologies applied by the company, including the indicators that were assessed, how data was gathered, and the ways in which the data has been analyzed by the company to inform actions; and
  • outlines the steps the company has taken to improve its practices based on the insights from the community shared in the assessments. These range from board allocation of resources to adjustments in how the company engages with local communities.

The case study is a good example of how measuring the quality of company-community relationships can not only shed light on the nuanced realities that feed into a company’s overall social license to operate. It also enables data-driven company discussion and decision-making, including among senior leaders and the board.

“At a very early stage of the work, we realized that we needed to listen and understand how our communities really felt about us. Initially, this was an uncomfortable process as we learned about the differences between how we thought the communities felt about our presence and their experiences on the ground. Given strong board-level support and visibility on this new way of engagement, our teams on the ground felt that it was critical to measure the strength of our relationships. Even though there were no readily available tools at the time we got started – a crude windsock would be better than nothing. Much has evolved since those early days with the relationship tools now more developed and providing insights for our long journey ahead in building trust with a key stakeholder. As the saying goes, if it is important, you need to manage it – what you can measure, you can manage.”

Naseem Chohan, EVP Sustainable Development and South Deep Gold Mine board member