In the early days of corporate environmentalism, the focus was mainly on big, heavy industries. Fossil fuels and mining had the most obvious environmental issues, as well as extensive regulatory regimes to navigate.
These days, however, sustainability discussions are more often focused on the actions of consumer product, retail, and tech brands. But it’s important to check in periodically with the big guns of environmental impact and see how they’re thinking about these issues.
Thus, it was with real interest that I recently found myself in Chile visiting the World Copper Congress, where I spoke at a dinner for 1,800 executives held by the Center for Copper and Mining Studies (CESCO). There, it became clear to me that the modern sustainability agenda — beyond regulatory compliance — is becoming critical to this sector, with both risks and opportunities stemming from environmental and social pressures.
For context, consider the scale of copper, with upwards of 25 million tons produced annually. Chile is the biggest source, producing about 25% of the global total. And the biggest buyer is China, which sent a sizable delegation. China uses roughly 40 to 60% of the world’s major commodities, including, as the Chairman of CECSO told me, about 45% of global copper.
An industry this big, with heavy materials circling the globe, creates significant environmental impacts. For years, the traditional corporate responsibility agenda has required these companies to work with greater transparency and with local communities throughout the lifecycle of big projects. This is part of the toolkit of maintaining their “license to operate.”
For the rest of this article: https://hbr.org/2018/04/why-mining-yes-mining-cares-about-sustainability