Natural resource industries have always been a huge part of Canada’s economy, but in the past the resource developers were focused more on extract-and-exit operations than mitigating the long-term effects of activities such as mining and logging.
However, one Vancouver corporation is proving that miners can be good stewards, choosing to integrate social and environmental goals into business performance. In March, Teck Resources Ltd. received the award for corporate environmental excellence, one of six environmental awards handed out annually by the GLOBE Foundation, a Vancouver business consultancy. A diversified mining company with operations in Canada, the U.S., Chile and Peru, Vancouver-based Teck produces steelmaking coal, zinc and copper.
Teck was singled out from more than 20 applicants for the environmental award by a panel of judges who assessed companies on criteria such as industry leadership, measurable improvements in environmental practices, and transparency in communications. Runners-up this year were Bell and bathroom tissue manufacturer Kruger Products.
Rewarding mining companies for improving is not just “greenwashing” public relations, say organizers. “Everybody uses mining resources in consumer products, so (good practices) have a prolific impact,” said Nancy Wright, vice-president of marketing for the GLOBE Foundation. “Plenty of companies apply, but which ones can make large gains in their sectors? Teck has been a leader for a really long time. It’s a big deal because it’s a very rigorous process. Other mining companies look to Teck as a role model. We felt pretty comfortable giving the award to them.”
B.C. bioplastics company Solegear won the GLOBE award for best emerging technology, and president and CEO Toby Reid applauds his fellow winner. “Whether it is Teck or a small company in Gastown, you have to be transparent by shining a light and making sure things are done right,” said Reid. “Everyone’s very excited with the leadership coming out of the resource industries.”
Since Teck developed its sustainability strategy, the company has been lauded for its enlightened practices, and the GLOBE award is just the latest in a series of accolades. “We are honoured to be recognized,” said Marcia Smith, senior vice-president, sustainability and external affairs, Teck Resources Ltd. “At the same time, we know there is more work to be done and we are continually working to improve our sustainability performance.”
The Dow Jones Sustainability World Index has included Teck in its annual assessment of global sustainability leaders since 2010. In 2013, Corporate Knights ranked Teck the top Canadian company and top mining company worldwide on the Global 100 Most Sustainable Corporations list.
For other companies seeking a shift toward more sustainable performance, leadership support is critical for success, says Smith. “Senior management were involved in the initial development of our strategy and today each focus area is championed by a senior leader who helps ensure the appropriate focus and support is put toward achieving each of our sustainability goals,” she said.
The GLOBE Foundation has noticed that shift in attitude from corporate Canada as well. “Every year more and more companies apply and the initiatives are coming from the C-suite. That has been such a huge difference in the past 12 years,” said Wright.
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