In this day and age, investor priorities have shifted. Investors are no longer just interested in the financial returns they can reap; they are also concerned about how well a business does in meeting Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) criteria.
ESG criteria — the standards for a company’s operations that socially conscious investors use to screen potential investments — seems to be the new buzzword and is increasingly gaining traction.
The Covid-19 outbreak has sparked a transformation in the approach to investing as parallels are being drawn between the unforeseen risks of a pandemic and issues such as climate change.
In a J.P. Morgan poll of investors from 50 global institutions, 71% responded that it was “rather likely,” “likely,” or “very likely” that the occurrence of a low probability / high impact risk, such as Covid-19, would increase awareness and actions globally to tackle high impact / high probability risks such as those related to climate change and biodiversity losses.
As such, Covid-19 is believed to be a major turning point for ESG.
In the mining industry, mining firms have received criticism that they are failing to meet their own ESG standards and are therefore pushing for change in their boardrooms.
The deadly collapses of mine waste storage facilities in Brazil and Anglo-Australian multinational mining corporation Rio Tinto’s destruction of sacred rock shelters in Australia have bruised the mining industry’s reputation, driving shareholders to demand for change.
Brazilian iron ore miner Vale SA experienced two tailings dam failures in less than four years. Thereafter, it showed its dedication to safety and sustainability in its recent announcement of the biggest restructure in its board since privatisation in 1997. Of the 13 members of the new board set for approval this month, seven have extensive experience in ESG and sustainability-related issues, up from five previously.
Canadian mining company Barrick Gold reinforced its ESG credentials by appointing Anne Kabagambe, executive director of World Bank, an international organisation that fights poverty through sustainable solutions, to its board in November.
For Clean Mining, part of the Clean Earth Technologies group, sustainability is at the core of its business. Through the development of a non-toxic, non-flammable and water-soluble gold recovery agent, it seeks to eliminate the use of cyanide as a means of extracting gold to transform gold production worldwide.
The philosophy of ‘clean’ mining goes beyond eradicating the use of traditional toxic mining processes involving cyanide and mercury. Embodying ESG principles, the concept of ‘clean’ goes further to embrace practices, enterprises and operators that are responsible, transparent, honest, reliable and have integrity.