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Satarla dialogue table at Resourcing Tomorrow: ESG – from box ticking to impact

Updated: Dec 20, 2022

Another day and another exciting discussion! On day 2, our CEO Dr Sarah Gordon facilitated another popular dialogue table at Mines and Money – Resourcing Tomorrow on “The move from tick-box to impact – How to ensure tangible value is gained from ESG”. Sarah was joined by a diverse range of participants, including government representatives, mining and minerals professionals, sustainability advisors, investors, regulators and standard-setters, legal experts, and civil society.

The participants agreed on the importance of moving from box ticking to impact when it comes to ESG, shared a range of views regarding how to identify the difference between those two approaches, and discussed how to achieve positive impact in a tangible way.

On identifying the difference between the two approaches, mindset was key: to have real impact, organisations must identify the purpose of their ESG activities beyond audits, provide the resources to achieve that purpose, and address the challenge with an open mind. Whilst the importance of measuring and auditing progress should not be overlooked (as successful measurement can drive performance improvement and allow commitments to be made), audit focussed ESG will not provide the why that organisations need to drive real impact.

That why will come from a mindful approach to ESG, taking account of stakeholder views, working in partnership with communities, and having the humility to step back, review successes and failures, and adapting operations to take those learnings on board.

There was a recognition that this kind of approach takes time; time that is hard to find on both the industry and the investor side, particularly where juniors are involved. If we want to move from box ticking to true impact in ESG, funding needs to account for ‘time to impact’ and give operators the resources and the space to deliver on their ESG ambitions – a positive that will permeate through future stages of the value chain.

Nevertheless, the need for comprehensive and comparable data across the spectrum of ESG remains important for investors to make funding decisions. We must guard against this approach resulting in ESG becoming a tick box exercise by ensuring transparency with stakeholders regarding failures, as well as success – a key theme from yesterday’s dialogue table. Here, again, the issue of purpose arose: what is the purpose of ESG? Javiera invited the table to consider the topic in another way, so as to hold that purpose in sight: People, Nature, Ethics.

The participants then discussed the importance of recognising and respecting the interconnections between the E, S, and G in order for the concept to have real impact. Environmental factors (such as water) cannot be considered in isolation from communities, and how we ethically ought to treat those communities. Again, it was important to take a long-term view – we must see mining as the long-term operation that it is, and consider the potential impacts (positive and negative) from the very beginning, so that we can ensure we deliver on that impact responsibly, minimise risks, and grasp the opportunities that ESG presents through the mining lifecycle and beyond.

Participants were challenged to consider whether reparations for past misconduct were due before the mining industry starts talking about capitalising on the opportunities of ESG and the energy transition. The impact of mining on local communities will continue, regardless of the reason for the extraction of the minerals, and mining’s legacy arguably needs to be addressed before the industry ramps up its efforts to meet the mineral requirements of decarbonisation.

Final takeaways shared by the participants focused on the importance of:

  • identifying the direction of travel (or purpose) from the outset;

  • building trust through transparency with stakeholders on both successes and failures;

  • adopting a change mindset, refocussing from threat to opportunity;

  • considering both mining and ESG holistically – mining in the context of the rest of the supply chain, and ESG in its (often uncomfortable) relationship with economics;

  • creating a positive legacy for mining through design; and

  • keeping people, nature and ethics and the forefront of our minds.

Thanks to Estelle Levin-Nally, Paul Ekins, Javiera Martinez, Louise Porteus, Dominic Roberts, Clifford Tuck, Alice England, Natasha Gibson, Joseph Mounsell, Monica Ospina, Matthew Grimshaw, Tom Butler, and everyone else who cam to join the discussion!

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