Aidan Davy of the International Council on Mining and Metals explains why the organisation has become the first industry body to commit to the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights
The investment needed to decarbonise the economy to meet the Paris Agreement climate targets and realise the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) will see a sustained demand for metals and minerals over the coming decades.
Increasingly, society understands that these materials are essential for modern living and to support the transition to a sustainable future, something we all aspire to.
However, questions are increasingly being asked about their provenance and means of production: where do the materials come from and are they being produced responsibly? Is there a risk that child labour has been used or that their production threatens important areas for the conservation of biodiversity?
Consumer-facing companies want access to secure supplies of responsibly produced metals and minerals
Consumer-facing companies in the electronics, automotive and other sectors are increasingly concerned about having access to secure supplies of metals and minerals that have been produced responsibly – as are companies delivering the technologies that support the transition to a low-carbon future.
This is why the International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM) has developed new membership requirements to advance the sustainability performance of the mining sector. ICMM is an international organisation dedicated to a safe, fair and sustainable mining and metals industry. Bringing together 27 mining and metals companies and 36 regional and commodity associations, ICMM has worked collaboratively for over 15 years to strengthen the environmental and social performance of the industry.
ICMM’s new performance expectations raise the bar on the current membership requirements to define what mining with principles looks like in practice, by setting a strong benchmark for the industry’s environmental and social performance that will be widely adopted. It is making implementation of the UN Guiding Principles on Human Rights a condition of membership.
This matters because the inconvenient truth is that not all metals and minerals are mined responsibly. And in situations where companies behave irresponsibly, and government capacity is inadequate to enforce better practices and performance, people and the environment suffer.
This will be the most far-reaching voluntary initiative to advance ESG performance in the mining industry
The performance expectations are the latest evolution of ICMM’s membership requirements. They will apply to all ICMM company members, who manage almost 650 assets in over 50 countries, covering nearly half of the world’s iron ore and copper production, and a quarter of all mined commodities. This will make it the most far-reaching voluntary initiative to advance environmental and social performance in the mining industry.
For governments, investors and companies with an interest in ensuring materials are mined responsibly, it will set a benchmark they can encourage others to follow in key areas such as biodiversity, human rights, pollution, social performance, waste, water use and mine closure.
In developing this benchmark, our starting point was to undertake a high-level review of expectations for responsible mining. We considered many external standards and initiatives – a mix of commodity-specific, value-chain specific and cross-sectoral standards – identified gaps, focused in on issues that are cross-commodity, and produced an early draft as a catalyst for debate.
The new performance expectations were developed with extensive input from NGOs, international organisations and academics, including through a global public consultation, which resulted in more than 260 responses from over 30 countries.
Tom Butler, ICMM’s chief executive, highlighted at the UN Annual Forum on Business and Human Rights this week that ICMM is the first industry body to make implementation of the UN Guiding Principles on Human Rights a condition of membership. He also emphasised that our new performance expectation enjoy CEO-level support within all ICMM company members, and that other companies will also be able to publicly commit to implement them.
Society increasingly has expectations that business should have a social purpose and make a positive contribution
ICMM is currently developing guidance on how members will validate the performance expectations at the asset level, including through independent third-party assessments. We expect this guidance to be complete in the middle of 2019. It will be piloted during the second half of 2019 followed by full implementation across the membership.
While society may appreciate the critical importance of metals and minerals for modern living and to support the future achievement of the SDGs, increasingly it also has expectations that business should have a social purpose and make a positive contribution to society. This reinforces the need for such materials to be produced responsibly today, with careful consideration for people, the environment and the potential for the revenues derived from mining to support the transition to the sustainable future envisaged by the SDGs.
Aidan Davy is the chief operating officer for the International Council on Mining and Metals.icmm UN Annual Forum on Business and Human Rights SDGs responsible mining UN Guiding Principles on Human Rights