Turning sustainable pledges into action

Setting goals in sustainable mining is one thing, but ensuring those goals have a tangible pathway to succeed is quite another. 

Since the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released its sixth climate change assessment report in August 2021, mining companies have continued to announce bold new strategies to decarbonise operations and supply chains. 

Rio Tinto more than tripled its goals and now aims to reduce its scope 1 and 2 emissions by 50 per cent by 2030.

Fortescue Metals Group aims to abolish scope 3 carbon emissions by 2040 through various projects with its subsidiary Fortescue Future Industries.

BHP has teamed up with South Korea’s POSCO to explore greenhouse gas emission reduction technologies in integrated steelmaking, as the miner pursues net-zero scope 3 emissions by 2050.

And all of these announcements came in October 2021. 

But even the fine print in BHP’s scope 3 emissions reductions plan acknowledges that “‘Goal’ means an ambition to seek an outcome for which there is no current pathway”.

To turn these goals into targets – the latter defined by BHP as having an existing pathway – there are several entities available that specialise in just that. 

Data management company acQuire is one such company that supports the industry through environmental compliance and improvement.

Environmental leader at acQuire, Stuart van de Water, said companies shouldn’t be overwhelmed by the task of decarbonising. 

“They need to be genuine and empower passionate environmental and sustainability professionals with a budget and a voice within their company to make a real difference,” he told Australian Mining.  

“There are so many opportunities to implement even small initiatives that make a big difference because of the scale of the operation.”

EnviroSys enables best practice environmental management, combining a range of data.

While there are large, costly solutions like electric haul trucks and green steelmaking, van de Water emphasises the combined impact of everyday activities. 

To wrap one’s head around the volume and impact of these activities, acQuire has developed an environmental data management solution called EnviroSys. 

The program allows companies of varying sizes to efficiently capture, validate, monitor, analyse and report any type of environmental data This data includes air quality, water resources, noise, waste, emissions, soil, land disturbance and rehabilitation activities.

The software fills a hole in well-meaning companies where passionate environmental professionals need the right tools, according to van de Water. 

“An environmental data management system like EnviroSys can absolutely help in this area,” he said. 

“This occurs by providing a direct line from obligations, conditions and targets to the data, with full transparency and auditability, minimal manual handling, and instantaneous compliance assessment.”

In this way, acQuire moves businesses beyond mere compliance and into the realm of best practice. 

Best practice means recognition, and recognition can mean increased investment and a strong reputation with customers and suppliers. 

S&P Global released its Sustainability Yearbook for 2022 in February, recognising the most sustainable companies from the previous year. 

As a specialist in business analytics, S&P collated more than 13 million data points from 7554 companies across 61 industries. 

Within the metals and mining sector, Rio Tinto, Newmont, Gold Fields, Anglo American and IGO were all recognised for best sustainable practices. Fortescue Metals Group also received a Gold Class Award for its equal-high score in the steel sector. 

For companies to prove to shareholders that their words will result in action, van de Water recommends being open and accessible. 

“Transparent plans, activities and performance is the key way to do this,” he said. “Regular publishing of results, even live views of measurements and metrics, not just an annual curated ESG report, should be the minimum standard.”

Context is also key, according to the environmental leader. van de Water emphasised the importance of presenting such data in a digestible manner, which is conveniently achieved by EnviroSys.

“It’s pointless throwing ESG data into a database and thinking you’re organised. You might as well just be using spreadsheets,” he said. 

“You need to know why you’re collecting the data, when it should be collected, what is it telling us, how it will be used, and who needs to use it.

“EnviroSys achieves all these and can be used by different internal and external stakeholders in the information value chain.”  

This article also appears in the April edition of Australian Mining.

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