The Board has a responsibility to ensure that a compliance program is in place and operating effectively (Australian Institute of Company Directors Course, 2011).
A compliance program is an essential component of the company. The program includes:
- Policies and procedures, which ensure it meets the requirements of regulatory frameworks in which the company operates.
- A positive environmental culture, an important component of any compliance program, which is often overlooked.
7 questions for directors to explore in relation to environmental compliance include:
- Does the company have a register of all applicable legal obligations?
- Is there training and awareness, including refresher courses of all applicable legislation? Explore this further by requesting topic, audience (who attended, representation from all levels, departments, voluntary or not), competency testing, qualifications of the educator?
- How often are changes to legislation being reviewed? communicated? assessed for implications to the company?
- Is there a change control procedure in place to assess compliance requirements for changes to equipment (e.g, diesel storage), activities, processes, disturbance footprint? (if change occurs and has not been assessed for legal implications by appropriate personnel then this is the most likely time that a company will become non-compliant)
- Historically, when were the change control procedures implemented? If some time has passed following company establishment, has an assessment/external audit been conducted to determine if non-compliances have occurred as a result of changes prior to the implementation of the change control procedure?
- How often are internal and external audits conducted to determine: if there are non-compliances? if the change control procedure is being implemented effectively? if the above questions have been answered correctly?
- Is there an ISO 14001 certified Environmental Management System in place? (there are simply no excuses for not having this system in place, it can be implemented cheaply, it can be implemented fit-for-purpose, it can be implemented when other systems in the business are lacking!).
One question that I havent included is: Is there a positive culture of environmental responsibility? It is often difficult for directors to assess this and would need to gauge culture through informal discussions and observations of leadership teams at all levels, including management’s reactions to environmental topics in various meetings. Most mining companies don’t have a positive culture at all levels of the organisation. Therefore, regardless of how well the questions above are answered, there will likely be a risk of occurrence of environmental non-compliances unless a culture-building program (see Blogs in the category Environmental Culture) is implemented.
The comprehensive assessment and monitoring of the implementation of compliance programs may be the responsibility of the Audit and Risk Sub-committee of the Board.
In addition, the questions above should also be applied to land tenure, OHS, corporate governance, intellectual property, industrial relations and human resources, information systems, taxation and finance.
The coexistence of those with environmental interests and those with mining interests is often perceived to be like “chalk and cheese.” While that may have been the case 10 years ago, it is no longer the case now. Australians naturally have very strong connections with their environment – our beaches, our small country towns surrounded by natural areas, our climate and our unique flora and fauna. Protecting our way of life and the values associated with being Australian and a lover of the great outdoors coincides with looking after our countryside, our beaches, our outback. So, there is no reason why this connection wouldn’t extend into the workplace and thus there is no reason why there should be a conflict.
Factors that may influence that conclusion may include:
- the remote locations of the workplace in comparison to the home location and therefore a disconnect with the outdoor values associated with being at home; and
- the male-dominated nature of the workforce (an average of 19% female within the mining industry in Western Australia, 2012).
Building an environmental culture within a mining company isn’t easy. The transient nature of the Australian mining workforce and the short-term nature of project construction adds to the difficulty. It is also worthy to note that this is a long-term initiative and will likely take at least five years to see results.
If an industry-wide approach to building an environmental culture was taken then the positive outcomes from such programs would be observed much sooner.
There is such a positive arguement for implementing a culture-building program:
- the budget requirements for such a program can be minimal;
- reduces risk of impacts to the environment;
- involving the broader workforce encourages diversity of ideas; and
- an environmental culture extends beyond the mine site and into homes and our way of life.
Support and endorsement by the senior management team is critical to its success. While an environmental culture-building program can be implemented without the directive of senior management, the success of any program within a mining company is very much dependent on a top-down approach.
Internal culture-building programs can be developed by:
- provision of information;
- environment-themed activities; and
- employee involvement to facilitate decision-making that extends beyond the formal environment teams.
Examples of such initiatives are provided below.
Provision of information:
- weekly newsletters (email and posted in tea rooms);
- prompts for recylcing waste, energy (e.g. turning off computer screens) and water usage;
- environmental-themed calenders.
- celebrating and reflecting on significant dates (earth day, world environment day);
- tree planting.
- green committee’s at all facilities and implementation of their intiatives to reduce and recycle waste, increase energy efficiencies, and reduce water efficiency.
- competitions (going beyond compliance, nature photo competition for annual calender).
- developing “environmental representative” programs and involvement for those that dont have a formal environmental education.
Please send me any ideas or initiatives that you have implemented. I’d be keen to hear what you are doing and how you measure success of the program.
Building an Environmental Culture
When building an environmental culture, mining companies often place most of their resources into educating their employee’s using a variety of media (e.g. booklets, inductions, posters, newsletters, training, tool box meeting topics). Mining personnel are often inundated with information, which is important but not sufficient alone to drive a change in culture. Results from broader community based programs have demonstrated that education alone and millions of dollars invested in such programs does not guarantee that they will work.
The CBSM Approach
I recently attended a 3-day workshop held by Dr Doug Mckenzie-Mohr on Community Based Social Marketing (CBSM). Doug is an internationally recognised environmental psychologist, a leader in his field, having published books on CBSM and developed an informative website (http://www.cbsm.com/public/world.lasso) sharing success stories and information.
As the only representative from the mining industry at that particular workshop, I recognised the potential application of Doug’s CBSM methodology to the mining community. The methodology that Doug outlines is as follows:
- Select behaviours based on environmental aspects that are material to the business e.g. turning off computer screens have the potential to have a 20% energy saving in a corporate office.
- Identify barriers and benefits e.g. based on face to face surveys with a subset of the office community it may be determined that the barrier is not attitude. It may be identified that employees are not in the habit of turning off the screen.
- Develop a strategy e.g. using the computer screen example – the strategy may be to send reminders to those that commit to turn off their screen (and are happy to receive reminders) for a period of two weeks to get them into the habitat.
- Pilot program – test the strategy on a subset of the population. This wont work if the mining community is small (< 150 employees) and thus for a small mining company this will fall under Step 5, but may serve as a pilot program for the industry more broadly if the outcomes were shared. For a larger company, implementing a pilot program initially (Step 4) will ensure the broader program is cost-effective.
- Implement broadly and evaluate.
It is worthwhile reading Doug’s books, Fostering Sustainable Behavior: An Introduction to Community-Based Social Marketing
and Social Marketing to Protect the Environment: What Works,
or attending a course if this blog sparks your interest. There is so much more to the methodology than that outlined above.
Stay tuned to future blogs as I explore the use of Doug Mckenzie-Mohr’s CBSM approach to fostering sustainable behaviour within the mining industry.