Q&A: How Anglo American is Creating Sustainable Value

Anglo American’s Christian Spano discusses the mining company’s development strategy and its successful partnership with TechnoServe on entrepreneurship programs.

Christian Spano is the global lead for socioeconomic development at Anglo American, one of the world’s leading mining companies. Christian has over ten years of experience in extractive industries on five different continents and holds a master’s degree in development studies from the London School of Economics.

TechnoServe works with Anglo American in five countries implementing three enterprise development programs, including the Emerge program in Chile and Peru.

Christian Spano

TechnoServe: What is Anglo American’s strategy for economic development in Latin America?

Christian Spano: Generally, the socioeconomic strategies of all of our operations and projects are based on our global policy to maximize the resources of our business (supply chain, job creation, infrastructure) in order to generate greater socioeconomic benefits. This is made possible through partnerships which enable our programs to achieve sustainability over time. Our strategy are based on creating systems that connect programs to support local markets and institutions, so that they can provide public services and infrastructure.

Specifically, each country where Anglo American operates has particular strengths in their strategies. For example, in Brazil, our iron business has the most sophisticated private sector support system; in Chile, we have strategic agreements with government entities on education issues; and in Peru, we just started reaching agreements through one of the most successful negotiation tables in the country.

What are some of the achievements, challenges and lessons learned in your socioeconomic development programs?

We have reached a high level of effectiveness in the implementation of specific programs – for example, business development programs in Chile, Peru and Brazil. We are working in cooperation with TechnoServe in Chile, where our initiative is reaching a large number of local people, providing more than 50,000 job opportunities. Most importantly, the same local people support the programs and work to improve them and make them grow. In Brazil, we are developing suppliers through the Promova program and working with the local government of Goias.

However, there is still work to be done in order to connect our programs so that they operate systemically, with greater contributions from other strategic partners. Achieving this will take us to the next level, where our programs will integrate seamlessly with local institutions and the local market; therefore, our interventions will become sustainable beyond the life of our operations.

How do the entrepreneurship programs implemented by TechnoServe fit into your global strategy?

Our overall strategy for socioeconomic development is based on the principle of working with expert institutions in each program. TechnoServe is in the expert organization on supporting the performance of local markets.

TechnoServe is the partner that allows us to implement our projects most efficiently. More importantly, it allows us to improve the design and operation of our project through an open and honest relationship.

Can you tell us more about the working relationship between Anglo American and TechnoServe?

TechnoServe has a level of skill and commitment that I have not found in any other organization I’ve worked with in the field of socioeconomic development. Additionally, TechnoServe has had enough humility to take the best practices from our programs in South Africa and apply them to the projects where we work together. TechnoServe recruits top professionals – leaders who have a great social sensitivity. In practical terms, we have designed and implemented five programs in five different countries with TechnoServe in less than two years. Most importantly, each program has been developed in places where Anglo American is valued at $20 billion in investment operations.

Can you give an example of what this partnership looks like on the ground?

After a meeting with the vice president and seven ministers of Botswana, we agreed that Anglo American and the companies Debswana and De Beers, would implement an enterprise development program that would take the best of all our and other existing initiatives there. We only had six weeks to deliver the first design of the program and open an office in Gaborone, Botswana’s capital. After two calls and a few emails, TechnoServe sent a consultant, Maike von Heymann, who arrived in Botswana the following week. Maike took a plane and forged relationships with our partners in weeks on behalf of Anglo American. She stayed in Botswana for ten months, even though her original commitment was for only for six weeks. Anglo American’s director of strategy and the director of government relationships and social development were highly impressed with TechnoServe’s response and quality of work.

Editor’s note: TechnoServe is now the implementing partner for Tokafala, Anglo American’s enterprise development program in Botswana, in partnership with Debswana and De Beers.

How will Anglo American’s strategy for economic development evolve in the future?

The strategy should become a competitive advantage for Anglo American – a mechanism through which national governments, local authorities and potential business partners see Anglo American as a competitive extractive company that maximizes socioeconomic development. For now, our focus and strategy have positioned our programs as leaders in areas related to job generation and health, including in the area of HIV/AIDS. We are now working to make our approach clear; our partnerships and experience in developing countries allow us to contribute in a special way to socioeconomic development. This strategy will allow us to reach our goal of doubling our margins by the year 2020 without compromising our target return on capital of 15 percent, and continue to be recognized as the best partner to enhance the socioeconomic development of regions and countries.