Expert Insight

Canada at leading edge of assured standards

MAC is working with others towards interoperability of sustainability standards

October 2, 2020

Pierre Gratton

Expert Insight
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February 21, 2020
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Increasingly, when buying products people and companies are asking themselves questions like, “How can I know this wasn’t built using child labour?”, and “Was this constructed in a way that is detrimental to the environment?” Now more than ever before, consumers and businesses are rightly focusing on ensuring the materials they are purchasing have been sourced responsibly and the need for standards, specifically those highlighting measurable performance data and commitment to ESGs, have never been more important.

With the variety and number of standards specific to the mining industry growing by the year, it is clear our sector is taking note of this expectation and being proactive in providing assurance of sustainable practices while also working to minimise the burden on miners by aligning and developing equivalencies amongst the standards themselves.

The dynamic between sustainable mining standards and the responsible sourcing movement continues to evolve with companies around the world using them to increase their brand recognition with stakeholders, customers and investors. Standards are playing a critical role in our industry, and their importance in being recognised by affected communities, investors, customers and stakeholders to provide assurance that our sector is being held accountable for its practices cannot be overstated.

Canada is one jurisdiction that is leading in sustainable practices, knowledge that is increasingly being exported beyond our borders, through the Mining Association of Canada’s (MAC) Towards Sustainable Mining (TSM) programme. First established in 2004 in efforts to encourage sustainable mining practices, MAC developed TSM with the goal of enabling mining companies to meet society’s needs for minerals, metals and energy products in the most socially, economically and environmentally responsible way.

Specifically, TSM goes beyond principles and requires mining companies to annually assess, publicly report and verify their facilities’ performance across a set of detailed environmental and social performance standards, including tailings management, water stewardship, indigenous and community relationships, safety and health, biodiversity conservation, crisis management, energy use and greenhouse gas emissions management, and preventing child and forced labour.

Transparency is essential to the credibility of ESG standards in order to establish and maintain trust in how company reporting is being measured. Every reputable standard provider must have some process in place to provide this assurance.

The combination of the current pandemic and the ongoing energy transition have made it abundantly clear that our industry is at a tipping point when it comes to both the need for our materials, and the necessity of sourcing them responsibly

The TSM programme is overseen by a Community of Interest advisory panel, which consists of individuals from Canada’s three Indigenous communities, environmental organisations, labour representatives, individuals involved in finance, local mining communities, social and faith-based organisations, academics and those involved in international development. This multi-perspective panel provides guidance and advice on the development and maintenance of TSM’s standards while also playing a critical role in the assurance and verification of facility performance.

While implementation of TSM is a requirement for all MAC members’ Canadian operations, many also choose to voluntarily apply it to their international sites. Other jurisdictions are also taking note of its success, specifically the way it is enhancing business confidence in the way companies mine. Since its inception, national mining associations in countries around the world have adopted TSM to improve performance in their domestic mining sectors and it is encouraging to see global interest in sustainable mining standards growing at an increasingly rapid pace.

What is overwhelmingly clear, with both TSM and the many other standards available in our sector, is that the future of ESG standards will depend on a number of aspects to ensure comprehensive uptake in the mining industry continues.

Greater interoperability between them to reduce administrative burden, specifically by allowing one report and assurance process to be used concurrently by several standards, is something that will go a particularly long way in both lessening red tape and creating an easier reporting process for companies.  TSM is currently working with a number of other standards owners including ResponsibleSteel, the Copper Mark, the World Gold Council, the Responsible Jewelry Council, the International Council on Mining and Metals, and the Initiative for Responsible Mining Assurance to make this a reality.  

Similarly, having reliable and credible standards used to a greater degree in supply chains – as manufacturers and global brands increasingly seek assurances that they are sourcing metals and minerals from responsible sources – will also undoubtedly be of even greater importance in the future. As will recognition of standards in the financial sector as a means to build quantifiable and comparable metrics into their investment models in a way that can better incorporate ESG into their investment decisions.  

The combination of the current pandemic and the ongoing energy transition have made it abundantly clear that our industry is at a tipping point when it comes to both the need for our materials, and the necessity of sourcing them responsibly. Given the essential nature of our sector and its products, support for mining will be integral to supporting the broader global economy in order for businesses to thrive moving forward. Sustainable practices must be a part of this process to ensure we are holding ourselves accountable in the responsible extraction of mined materials.

There is tremendous potential for the industry to position itself as a responsible supplier not only of the mineral and metal products the world needs but also of the standards to ensure they are being sourced sustainably.

Pierre Gratton is the president and CEO of the Mining Association of Canada

Expert Insight
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October 2, 2020

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