The annual Sustainability Report must be more than a glossy booklet filled with feel-good stories. The report is a statement to external stakeholders on the performance of the company that should:
- Satisfy the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) standard criteria at a Level A, B or C: The GRI standard ensures that the report is of an international standard by satisfying it’s minimal requirements of the relevant supplement (e.g. Mining and Extractive Industries Supplement)
- Identify and discuss material issues of external stakeholders which impact the sustainability of the business: Identification of material issues of external stakeholders should follow a risk-based approach and form components of the corporate risk register with accompanying treatment plans.
- Be transparent, easy to read, not only provide success stories but also discuss areas for improvement, as well as progress against Key Performance Indicators.
- Report and collate data, which was collected accurately: A third party assurance audit can verify the accuracy of the data collection and statements made within the report.
However, in order to address the long-term future of the company, sustainability needs to be proactively incorporated within its corporate governance:
- Sustainability champions need to be identified on the Board, Audit and Risk Sub-Committee of the Board, and within the senior management team, and their roles and responsibilities need to be clearly defined.
- There requires a framework within which sustainability will be defined and addressed within the operating systems of the business.
- The policy and strategy should be based on a model of continual improvement (such as those outlined in ISO 14001 and 9001).
- Adequate resources should be provided to ensure the policy and strategy and its associated action plan is implemented, and accurate data is collected.
Remember, sustainability crosses so many aspects of the business, often focussed on environment but also inclusive of economic performance, governance structure, indigenous affairs, external affairs, human resources and health and safety. A gap analysis should ascertain whether or not the resources are available to address material issues. Work within existing frameworks and systems to keep it all simple, and then address gaps where required.
As I have said time and again, it is very easy for even the smallest of mining companies to implement sustainability within their business, just keep it all very simple. This does not need to be a complicated and detailed exercise. Make it cost-effective and you’ll reap the benefits in the long term as well as the financial savings in the short term.