1. Executive Summary
This paper uses the Vision for 20501 framework outlined by the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) as a guide on key changes to the global economy, people and populations, environment, energy mix, buildings, transportation networks and material requirements. Given this context, the paper tries to eschew the restrictions, issues and challenges of today to describe the role and contribution of mining and metals companies in a sustainable world, and to outline what companies need to do now to prepare for success.
In a sustainable world, the mining and metals sector will be critical to reliably and responsibly provide materials and products to global economies and communities. Societal expectations of mining and metals companies are rapidly changing and becoming more demanding. The Forum’s Global Agenda Council on Responsible Mineral Resources Management has identified seven drivers for change that are affecting the sector today, based on 10 years of research from various organisations.2
As a result of these drivers, the sector will operate in a fundamentally different way in a sustainable world. The key themes influencing mining and metals companies will be:
- Consistent global policy and regulation provide a level playing field with a clear view of what sustainability is, as well as the expectations of and requirements for companies.
- Ownership models are more varied (e.g. including leasing), with recognized roles for a wider range of stakeholders including mining and metals companies, governments, service companies, civil society and communities.
- Stakeholder relationships and partnerships are even more critical, with a commitment to delivering shared value to industry, governments and civil society.
- New customers hold mining and metals companies accountable to higher social and environmental standards for their operations, products and services.
- Advances in nanotechnology, robotics and digital technologies lead to full automation across the project life cycle, and 3D printing is routinely used for maintenance and repair.
- The accessing of new sources, such as deep sea and asteroids, is commercialized and part of the portfolio of existing mining companies.
- Operations are meeting enhanced environmental requirements for minimal emissions, waste and water use.
- Project infrastructure, tools and processes are more resilient to more extreme weather conditions.
The manner in which mining and metals companies respond to the drivers of change will affect their market position, reputation and value in a sustainable world. Companies in the sector should consider five actions now to proactively prepare for contributing positively to a sustainable future:
- Re-emphasize the journey: Businesses need to have a decisive conversation with stakeholders (companies, civil society, governments) about their visions and milestones for a sustainable world.
- Invest in research and development (R&D): Mining and metals enterprises must start developing the technologies to operate in a clean, affordable and safe environment in frontiers previously considered inaccessible.
- Define shared value: To prepare for operating in a sustainable world, companies in the sector need to look at what drives value for their customers and the communities in which they operate.
- Rethink multistakeholder models: Mining and metals companies can accelerate the transition to a sustainable world by embracing multistakeholder models.
- Cultivate the workforce: The skills and capabilities required to operate mining and metals companies in a sustainable world will be different; this needs to be considered, planned for and developed in advance.
Potential Roles for the World Economic Forum
The Forum has four key roles to support the mining and metals sector in its transition to a sustainable world:
- Engage industry stakeholders on the topic: Initiate a multistakeholder dialogue to get commitment for the vision of mining and metals in a sustainable world.
- Continue the development of a transformation map: Research the drivers and issues that are affecting the sector and identify the gaps between the sector as it operates today and the vision for the sector in a sustainable world.
- Define a roadmap: Articulate a plan of action for mining and metals companies to guide the transition to a sustainable world, including the development of engagement plans with government and civil society, and establish checkpoints to assess progress.
- Outline the circular economy: Build on existing Forum research, and explore the implications of the circular economy for the sector.