Diversity the new key to shareholder value at BHP

Staff diversity and inclusion is a source of competitive advantage in the resources industry, and will become part of company management strategy according to a BHP executive speaking in Perth today.

BHP head of group investments Vanessa Torres gave a speech at the Women in Energy and Resources Leadership Summit to talk about the ways BHP is embracing a philosophy of workplace diversity.

Torres emphasised the importance of new ideas and talent in the resources business, suggesting that inclusion and diversity is a source of competitive advantage.

“The best ideas come from people who think differently and work collaboratively,” she said.

“Diversity of thought is the ultimate objective which can only be achieved in an inclusive environment where diverse people feel their ideas are valued and can speak up.”

The Brazillian-born BHP strategist said a study by McKinsey in 2012 showed companies with a diverse executive team (on the basis on nationality and gender) have a 14 per cent higher average earnings before interest and tax when compared to companies without such diversity, and that return on equity was higher than 53 per cent.

“This means companies with higher diversity deliver materially more shareholder value,” she said.

“At BHP Billiton, we are working very seriously in order to reduce the time we need to achieve an inclusive environment and an optimal diversity balance which will make our organisation not only better in terms of our workforce satisfaction, but also more and more productive through time.

Torres said CEO Andrew MacKenzie had named diversity and inclusion as a strategic priority for business planning within the company, a focus which would translate into a number of initiatives, including assessment of data to prove the business case for diversity.

Other initiatives included establishment of inclusion and diversity councils, deployment of unconscious bias training in large scale, indigenous representation targets, identifying qualified women for key leadership roles and senior executive female sponsorship program, female retention and recruitment targets for each financial year, and using inclusion and diversity as KPIs.

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