Equitable relations with communities

Published on Thursday, 21 July 2022

“We have given many talks on the project, where we have shared our experiences and shown communities in other regions that 'yes, it is possible to work on a project with a company in a complementary way and to create good neighborly relations.”

– Bernardita Amolef, president of the Mapu Pilmaiquén community.

As part of the project, Amolef was invited to the United Nations Forum on Business and Human Rights held in Geneva, Switzerland, in November 2018.

The La Isla – Salto La Olla Park has become a benchmark for Enel in Chile and throughout the world for how it has returned land to indigenous peoples and how both company and community are collectively working towards sustainable growth.

Business and human rights

The Pilmaiquén project represents a paradigm shift. The Enel Group and its global subsidiaries, including Chile, adopted in 2013 the UN "Protect, Respect and Remedy" approach, in line with the "UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights," which since 2011 have set the global standards for assessing management systems and Human Rights risks related to business activity.

"We have incorporated the UN Guiding Principles on Human Rights in our relations with communities and have even dedicated a special chapter in the latest edition of our policy published at the end of 2021. The policy reflects the importance for the company of establishing a transparent, collaborative, and equative relationship with local communities, in particular indigenous peoples. It is important to establish relationships that respect their worldview and territories, in keeping with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples," said Antonella Pellegrini, Sustainability Manager at Enel Chile.

“As people and professionals, we have constantly learned from the communities of native peoples that we work with, especially by incorporating an ecosystemic vision into our efforts to protect the environment.”

– Antonella Pellegrini, Sustainability manager at Enel Chile.

This has made it possible to carry out other projects that create value through collaboration, using the local communities' information.

For example, in 2021, Global Compact Red Colombia recognized Enel's impact remediation model in the Coronel municipality in its Best Practices Report on Human Rights and Business. It highlighted how the company had implemented complaint mechanisms, a social risk management plan, and other solutions following the needs of the communities and in line with the company's aim to develop a fair energy transition for its definitive closure of the Bocamina power plant. This process will lead to building more than 60 social infrastructure projects in the area that meet the highest standards of the International Finance Corporation for resettlement processes. This is an unprecedented act of retroactive and voluntary remediation in the country.

Education for empowerment

In 2021, Enel and Diego Portales University took a new step towards the vision of symmetrical dialogue. For the first time, a company gave a scholarship to three social leaders from Pilmaiquén, Coronel, and Quintero, to study for a Diploma in Human Rights and Business offered by the university. Among those who graduated in May 2022 was Bernardita Amolef.

"Today, we represent a vulnerable population living in a remote location. So, being a leader that supports and defends the rights of the land and of all people has not been easy. That is why we have received these tools and this knowledge to perform better and continue on the same path with other companies," she said during the certificate’s awards ceremony.

The diploma course, directed by Business and Human Rights academic expert Dr. Judith Schonsteiner, promotes the study and exercise of fundamental rights. The training plan includes a conceptual approach to human rights, and the role companies play. It looks at the map of actors involved in these matters, prevention tools, due diligence, challenges faced, and agreements reached between the community and companies.

"We are the first company to award scholarships to social leaders to train them in human rights issues. This helps us to reduce the asymmetry of knowledge, to eliminate gaps at a conceptual level, and to establish fairer and more balanced dialogues. The more symmetry and knowledge, the more empowerment there is in decision-making," said Antonella Pellegrini.

As a special exception for completing this diploma, the Diego Portales University has waived the prerequisite of having an undergraduate degree, as long as experience in community leadership can be proven.

Johanna Torres, who also received a scholarship, says she wants to follow in her mother's footsteps, Marisol Ortega, the president of the Sindicato de Algueras de Caleta Lo Rojas in the Coronel municipality. When invited to participate in the program, Ortega always said she would like her daughter to take her place.

“My mother encouraged me to take this diploma course because I always work with her, and I hope to be able to continue her legacy. She has always worked to defend artisanal fishing and has led conversations between that industry and companies to improve the socio-environmental situation in Coronel. It was a difficult experience, but it enabled me to meet people in the same circumstances from other countries, learn about the challenges faced by both sides, and share our knowledge.”

– Johanna Torres, scholarship.

Víctor Manuel Azócar, president of the Quintero Mide Corporation, and another of the leaders who took part in the program said it was a difficult process initially.

"I have a university degree, but human rights experts and lawyers surrounded me. But after a while, we realized that life experience is also very valuable and can contribute to results, which helped us listen to each other," he said.

Based on the success of this initiative, Enel and the Diego Portales University confirmed they would offer ten new scholarships in most of the territories where the company operates so that more social leaders can take the Diploma in Business and Human Rights.