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Indigenous Peoples, Resource Extraction and Sustainable Development: An Ethical Approach

February 1, 2005

David A. Lertzman and Harrie Vredenburg
Journal of Business Ethics 56: 239–254, 2005.

Abstract: Resource extraction companies worldwide are involved with Indigenous peoples. Historically these interactions have been antagonistic, yet there is a growing public expectation for improved ethical performance of resource industries to engage with Indigenous peoples. (Crawley and Sinclair, Journal of Business Ethics 45, 361–373 (2003)) proposed an ethical model for human resource practices with Indigenous peoples in Australian mining companies. This paper expands on this work by re-framing the discussion within the context of sustainable development, extending it to Canada, and generalizing to other resource industries. We argue that it is unethical to sacrifice the viability of Indigenous cultures for industrial resource extraction; it is ethical to engage with indigenous peoples in a manner consistent with their wishes and needs as they perceive them. We apply these ideas to a case study in the coastal temperate rainforest of Clayoquot Sound, British Columbia, Canada. In this case a scientific panel comprised of Nuu-Chah-Nulth elders, forest scientists and management professionals, achieved full consensus on developing sustainable forest practice standards by drawing equally on Indigenous traditional ecological knowledge and Western science in the context of one of the most heated and protracted environmental conflicts in Canadian history. The resulting sustainable forest practice standards were later adopted by leading forestry firms operating on the coast. Our analysis of this scientific panel’s success provides the basis for advancing an ethical approach to sustainable development with Indigenous peoples. This ethical approach is applicable to companies working in natural resource industries where the territories of Indigenous peoples are involved.

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Read More: Business, Environment, Ethics, Sustainability

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