Avanzar :: About Us

Our People

All Avanzar principals and associates have a background in international development and international business, providing them with insight into the interests and goals of both the private sector and the communities in which it operates. All individuals have worked extensively on assessing and advising extractive companies on their relationships with surrounding communities, with a particular expertise in conflict situations, and developing countries.

Christina Sabater, Principal
Christina, Avanzar’s founder, has expertise in the areas of international socio-economic development and corporate social responsibility. Christina has extensive experience working in Latin America in the extractive and energy industries. Her work with these industries includes: social auditing; Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights compliance; ongoing community stakeholder engagement strategic planning; long term, sustainable poverty reduction strategy development; social risk and opportunity assessments; stakeholder engagement training for employees; non-governmental organization partnership development; and stakeholder mapping and analysis. She has conducted over twenty social risk and management assessments throughout the world.

Christina formerly worked as a Manager at Business for Social Responsibility (BSR), a business association that focuses on ethics, environmental and social issues.  At BSR she helped agricultural, extractive and information technology companies in Latin America develop their sustainable development and corporate social responsibility strategies and programs. Christina’s work with the social sector began over ten years ago while managing a grass roots economic development non-profit in Puerto Rico. She holds an MBA from the Kenan-Flagler Business School at the University of North Carolina and an economics degree from Yale University. She is a co-author of the “Minera El Desquite Report: Esquel, Argentina” (in English).

Melissa Whellams, Principal
Based in Calgary, Melissa is a Sustainability specialist with expertise in the extractive industries, particularly in developing countries. She is a partner in Avanzar, a social auditing and consulting firm that assists multinational companies with their sustainable development and community relations strategies and programs. She has worked on numerous projects with international oil and gas and mining companies such as AngloGold Ashanti, Barrick Gold, Acacia Mining, IAM Gold, First Quantum Minerals, Rio Tinto, Gran Tierra Energy, Shell, Sherritt International, Talisman Energy, Nexen, Bankers Petroleum, Goldcorp, Breakwater Resources, Cameco, New Gold, Kinross, Newmont Mining, Pacific Rubiales, and Alacer Gold in the areas of stakeholder engagement, social risk assessment, multi-sector partnerships in community development, community based water monitoring, stakeholder mapping and analysis, human rights and security (VPSHR), human rights impact/risk assessment, grievance mechanisms, sustainability training for employees, social management systems and CSR performance measurement and reporting. Melissa has assisted a number of extractive companies to develop Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) policies, strategies and programs in Canada, Latin America, Africa, Asia, Australia and Eastern Europe.

Prior to becoming a Principal of Avanzar, Melissa worked with Canadian Business for Social Responsibility as a Senior CSR Advisor for the extractive sectors, as a Business Analyst for a Canadian oil and gas company, and as a Micro-Credit Officer for a micro-finance organization in Ecuador. Her fascination with both business and international development led her to study a graduate degree in International Development, with a focus on corporate social responsibility. As part of her thesis she spent three months in Peru and Bolivia researching whether a mining company’s CSR practices can contribute to the local sustainable development of the communities in which it operates. She has experience with various international standards and frameworks relating to corporate sustainability including the Global Reporting Initiative, the IFC Performance Standards, the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights and the Mining Association of Canada’s Towards Sustainable Mining framework. Melissa is fluent in English, French and Spanish and holds a B. Comm. in International Business from the University of Calgary and an M.A. in International Development Studies from Saint Mary’s University.

Jim Rader, Advisor
Rader has worked approximately ten years in the mining, oil and gas sectors on issues of corporate social responsibility (CSR).  His CSR expertise includes: stakeholder engagement; conflict resolution and consensus building; security and human rights analysis and training for the energy and mining sector; artisanal miners and trespassers; strategic trends in the extractive sector; social risk analysis; design of public consultation processes; and building constructive relations with Indigenous peoples. He has carried out over thirty evaluations of company compliance with the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights. He has worked for approximately 45 multinational companies in the extractive sector and has worked in approximately thirty-five countries.

He worked at Business for Social Responsibility (BSR) in San Francisco, California from 2000 to the end of 2005, finishing there as the first Director of the Extractives Program.  He was the representative of BSR to the plenary of the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights during part of that period. He also was a Senior Associate for two years with Canadian Business for Social Responsibility (CBSR) from 2007 to 2009. Prior to his work in corporate social responsibility, he worked at the Director level for ten years at two Canadian development agencies working in Latin America. He holds a Masters degree in Political Science with a focus on political economic development in Latin America and is fluent in Spanish.

Maria Jose Ramos Bravo, Associate
Maria is a passionate sustainability specialist working across industries with special emphasis in the extractive sector. Maria has lived and worked in Colombia, France, Canada and Brazil, in both the non-for-profit and corporate sectors. Maria has a wealth of experience in international development, communication, human rights, stakeholder engagement and multi-sector partnerships in community development. She has worked on several global mandates, particularly in developing countries conducting CSR assessments, on-site reputational and social risk assessments and community relations reviews. Maria has also advised companies and facilitated workshops in areas related to CSR such as: CSR strategy and integration, CSR management systems, stakeholder engagement, stakeholder mapping, communications, strategic community investment, social risk management, public-private partnerships, employee engagement, employee volunteering and CSR reporting.

Prior to pursuing her MBA studies at HEC, Maria was a CSR advisor and Director of Partnerships at Canadian Business for Social Responsibility (CBSR) where she helped companies in developing CSR strategies in line with business objectives and stakeholder interest. Maria was also a consultant at Rio Tinto Alcan where she co-founded and launched the sustainability champions team as a platform for employees to become agents of change in the Rio Tinto Montreal office. Maria speaks English, Spanish, French and Portuguese and holds a Bachelors of Arts from McGill University in International Development Studies and Psychology. She also completed an online course offered by The Natural Step on community sustainability planning, a facilitation training course offered by Facilitation First, as well as a Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) training certified course offered by LEAD Canada and SustainAlytics.


To understand and strengthen the relationship between local, national and international stakeholders and resource companies in order to prevent, mitigate and manage negative impacts related to resource extraction projects and promote sustainable development.



Phone: 1-415-235-6895 or 1-403-975-5477
Email: info@avanzar.biz


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