Interview with Ms. Dara Edmonds, Sustainability Programs Officer at Teck on March 12th, 2013
Canada is known for very abundant natural resources. This abundance of natural resources is an engine of economic activity that is essential for many resource-based industries like mining. Mining and its related industries are critical for Canada socio-economic development as for environment and community impacts. The question now is: How to balance this economical industrial potential with a way of activity align with sustainable development requirements?
Ms. Dara Edmonds is part of sustainability programs office at Teck, a 100-years old company and the largest Canadian diversified natural resources company. She explained their approach to different issues that matter to ensure responsible mining and mineral development. Mining can have significant social, economic and environment impacts. At Teck, their relationship with communities is the foundation of their work and they have developed deep connections to the communities in which they operate. This relationship is critical, both to support the growth of local communities and also to ensure social support exists for its operations and « to have community together to follow our goals ». Teck is committed to consultation and collaboration with local communities that have lived on and occupied the land for generations and generations.
« The feedback and informal monitoring from the communities allows us to improve our activities in order to enhance positive effects », said Dara. AtTeck’s operations, they aim to build deep relationships with the community and they are working on a collaborative way to address local priorities. Secondly, their approach to sustainability is supported by their Charter of Corporate Responsibility and their participation in sustainability focused organizations (cf. International Council on Mining and Metals with their Sustainable Development Framework, Mining Association of Canada’s towards Sustainable Mining initiative, membership of the United Nations Global Compact LEAD initiative, a sustainability leadership platform uniting over 50 companies from around the world to achieve higher levels of sustainability performance, impact and action) has led them to develop and improve their regulations and standards of sustainability to moderate the effects of mining operations. Thirdly, « we do the right thing because it’s the right thing to do », she said. At Teck, they believe that being responsible corporate citizen is the right thing to do, both for business and for society as a whole.
In 2009, they outlined a new strategy to do the right thing as a company in a holistic approach; to put into practice operations and philosophies that would not only grow their business, but also contribute to the greater good of the community. As a result, in 2011, they launched a Sustainability Strategy that guides their activity over the coming years, with short-term objectives for 2015 (and also long-term for 2030). The Strategy focuses on 6 crucial areas: Community, Water, Biodiversity, Energy, Materials Stewardship and People. These focus areas represent Teck’s main challenges and opportunities throughout the phases of the mining life cycle. Although, the big challenge as advocated by Dara is: « How to reflect the same spirit of building vibrant, healthy communities around all our operations and staff ». The definition of a strategy of sustainable management addressing all these issues is a very hard task. All focused areas are interconnected. For example, water is important for the operation, but also vital for local communities, for the ecosystems functioning. Also, reducing the use of fresh water may necessitate the use of more energy-intensive technologies. The development of more sophisticated methods of conserving water may contribute to climate change and may have an impact on local ecosystems and biodiversity. When making decisions, it is important to balance all these interests and to look at how all this 6 focus areas are impacted.
Since 2009, they have been working on translating standards and commitments into a SMART framework (Social Management and Responsibility at Teck), which is designed to help them achieve sustainability goals. A SMART toolkit provides sets of tools and guidelines in a common language that put SMART framework into practice by helping employees manage social risks and improve social performance across the company in a consistent way. It deals with, for example, engagement planning about human rights, indigenous people, community health… relevant to specific phases in the mining cycle (exploration, acquisitions, closure).
Among the case studies, we can promote Teck’s commitment on zinc deficiency problems. About two billion people around the world don’t get enough zinc in their diet and nearly 450,000 children die every year from disorders related to zinc deficiency. As one of the world’s largest zinc producers, they recognised the role that Teck could play in finding solutions to this global issue. The Zinc and Health program they have formed partnerships with governments, businesses and international agencies such as UNICEF, the Micronutrient Initiative, the Government of Canada and Free the Children, is raising awareness about the devastating effects of zinc deficiency and delivering zinc treatments and supplements to children in need.
Teck is quite aware that sustainable development is a long-term learning process, meaning that its approach towards sustainability must continue to take root and grow.
Teck’s overall performance in sustainability was recognized in 2011 when it was included in the Dow Jones Sustainability World Index (DJSI) indicating that their sustainability practices rank in the top 10% of companies in the resource industry world-wide. In addition, in 2013, named the top-ranked Canadian company and top mining company worldwide on the Global 100 Most Sustainable Corporations list by media and investment research company Corporate Knights. To have a deep insight about their sustainability goals and key initiatives in each focus area to achieve those goals and some case studies with best practice you can have a look at their 2011 Sustainability Report here.