Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) goals have taken center stage for many businesses in the mining sector as companies accelerate delivery of their commitments and awareness grows in broader society about ESG’s importance.
WSP has been delivering the fundamentals that support ESG for many years. As part of our Future Ready™ framework, and wider strategic objectives as a firm, we are committed to helping our clients embed sustainability into their businesses. One element of this commitment has been to hire key leaders who will ambitiously support these goals.
We sat down with Dan McLaughlin, Global Client Executive within WSP’s Mining group, to discuss where decarbonization is heading in the mining industry, and how we partner with our clients to deliver on their ESG commitments.
Making the transition
The mining sector has made significant commitments to reducing their carbon emissions, which have been evolving for some time. Dan says, “For many of us who have been working in the mining industry, ESG principles have been a fundamental part of company values for a very long time now – with many dedicated environmental and social professionals supporting delivery of these commitments.
“It’s great to see the current focus on ESG, as investors and the public want to know more about what our clients are doing to deliver on their commitments. Decarbonization being one element, along with other important aspects like upholding human rights, working with communities, Indigenous and First Nations peoples, being responsible water stewards and promoting nature-positive approaches to enhance biodiversity.”
We recently reviewed the public commitments of mining companies globally, and some interesting trends emerged. Notably, that decarbonization is one of the foremost commitments mining companies are making the world over.
WSP reviewed the top 12 mining companies to show how many of these have made commitments to different ESG priorities
Companies have been working hard to deliver on corporate commitments, legislation, and industry standards Dan says, not only to quantify but to innovate and reduce their emission profiles. Adding that, “Nowadays, the market is accelerating at a much faster rate. For example, in 2019 BHP achieved a major milestone for its copper operations in Chile with contracts secured to supply 100% of purchased electricity for the Escondida and Spence operations through renewable power sources. This was underpinned by the country’s investment and acceleration of wind, solar and other renewable energy sources, which meant green power had become more readily available.
All things that are also accelerating at pace in other parts of the world.
In Australia, new technologies – to help the nation’s resources and agricultural industries reduce emissions – are in active research. The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) just announced a new research program called Towards Net Zero, a large-scale scientific initiative focused on helping hard-to-abate industries halve their emissions by 2035.
Dan notes, “Leading companies are now publicly disclosing their intended path, the challenges and the expected costs in achieving Net Zero commitments. These activities may include purchasing or investing in new renewable power supplies, undertaking capital works programs to upgrade the capacity of electrical distribution networks, electrifying diesel-powered equipment and addressing fugitive emission sources. A major step to successfully implementing decarbonization will be the ongoing buy-in and appetite from investors as companies work towards achieving their ESG commitments.
“In saying that, financial institutions, regulators, and investors are all aware of the risks posed by poor ESG performance, such as the reduced ability to finance and obtain operating permits. ESG factors are now viewed as a key part of investment due-diligence, and it’s beginning to affect other financial areas, such as a company’s eligibility for insurance, loans, and securities. This means that strong ESG performance is likely to result in decreased operational risks, enhanced social value, and productivity increases through automation and digitalization.”
Putting ESG and decarbonization into action
Our Mining group’s key differentiator is that our experts span the full spectrum of ESG services. Dan explains, “We have a unique ability to support our clients in planning corporate-level strategy, studying alternative options, developing sustainable designs, and then implementing those designs. Our project and construction management capability allows us to deliver large-scale solutions which bring ESG aspirations to reality.”
We have scientists and engineers working across many technical, ecological and social disciplines, project and construction managers, climate change experts, Indigenous engagement specialists and social impact consultants, to name a few. In addition, we have been developing a range of tools to help teams identify and quantity the ESG dimensions in our projects. These types of tools can be used by clients in decision-making and in reporting their ESG progress.
Dan adds, “My role is to help our mining clients meet their objectives by connecting them with WSP’s vast network of local, regional and global expertise. We see ourselves as partners with our mining clients, and we hold ourselves accountable to help them deliver on their ESG commitments and aspirations.
“As a firm, we are committed to incorporating ESG in all our work and decarbonizing our designs by halving their carbon footprint by 2030. Now, in this exciting period of mining transition, I’m keen to highlight how we can help our clients deliver excellence in ESG performance.”
To learn more about how WSP’s Mining group can support ESG across the mining sector, contact Dan McLaughlin.
With more than 25 years’ experience in developing and delivering environmental and sustainability programs across all phases of the mining life cycle, Dan has helped guide some of the world’s largest organizations through complex and challenging scenarios. He has considerable expertise in developing corporate governance frameworks and leading multidisciplinary teams for the resources industry across multiple countries.