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Communication and Sustainable Development

Christopher L. Bell, Proceedings of 54th Annual Rocky Mountain Mineral Law Institute (2008)

The frequently stormy relationship among the environment, economy, and society, often captured by the phrase “sustainable development,” has long been an important theme in the natural resources and extractive sectors. It continues to be a front-page issue, as the growing demand for energy and commodities (and resulting high prices) are driving a world-wide push for new supplies at the same time as the concerns about the environmental and social consequences of extracting raw materials continue to grow. Indeed, sometimes the very same interest groups that are raising the alarm about the perceived negative environmental or [28B-2] social impacts of these sectors are also outraged by the rapidly increasing prices.
Understanding, implementing, and communicating about sustainable development are all still works in progress. The failure to effectively communicate about sustainable development can lead to missed opportunities, while inaccurate communications may result in charges of “greenwashing,” damaged reputations, lost opportunities, and perhaps even legal violations. In the complex political, social, economic, legal, and environmental contexts in which natural resource companies operate, one-size-fits-all cookbook approaches to communicating about sustainable development may not be successful. This chapter will focus on selected issues related to communicating about sustai