Why is this important to us?
Natural resources are at a premium: water demand is predicted to outstrip supply by 40% by 2030, according to the World Economic Forum, while clean air is becoming a real challenge in today’s increasingly urbanised world. Natural capital – the world’s fresh water supplies and land-based ecosystems – is vital to both business and society, since it provides society with countless benefits every year. It’s no surprise that this is the focus of two of the emerging new UN sustainable development goals.
The commercial imperative
What kind of challenges do we face?
Our sector depends heavily on natural resources: mining sites have an impact on extensive areas of land, which later need restoration; older steel mills have often had a poor reputation for air quality; and steelmaking requires large amounts of water (even though its net use is actually relatively small). In addition, our steel and mining operations may have impacts relating to noise and vibration, wastewater and soil protection. Where we don’t get these right, our business faces disruptions, and we know the risk of pollution fines or reputational damage is likely to increase.
What do we need to do?
Developing the trust of our stakeholders to use natural resources responsibly is essential to maintaining our social licence to operate and pre-empting disruptions to our business. We need to continue to reduce air pollution and protect sensitive natural habitats – and prove that we do so. We must further bring the perspectives of our stakeholders into our business outlook, and anticipate new regulations, so that we can prevent problems before they arise, and act quickly if they do. We need to engage better with our stakeholders on these challenging issues, knowing that this is the only way to build and retain trust over time.
What is the potential to create value?
We are learning the value of being more open about actual and potential issues, so that we and our stakeholders can build a common understanding of the problems we face. While our operations may have some unavoidable impacts on local air, land and water resources, we can create more innovative ways of enhancing habitats and protecting biodiversity by seizing the opportunity to work alongside our stakeholders. Our long-term partnership on Sustain our Great Lakes is an excellent example, as is our work on the environmental management plan for East Nimba, Liberia.