BHP says big miners’ profits will not survive if they simply pay lip service to the social and environmental toll of resource extraction, with the “social value” of a business decision increasingly important to a company’s long-term future.
Speaking to investors in London, BHP’s external affairs officer Geoff Healy said it was not viable for companies to ignore that society wants more from them on issues such as climate change, gender equality, and treatment of indigenous communities, with a holistic approach and “social value” a crucial platform for growing profit.
Mr Healy outlined how BHP was seeking to evolve its own focus from ‘social licence’ to ‘social value’ and, in the process, shifting from ‘tolerance and acceptance’ to a ‘trust and partnership’ interaction with the global community.
“For us, it is – plain and simple – good business,” Mr Healy said at BHP’s social value briefing overnight.
“We recognise that our success depends on our ability to earn their trust and confidence. And we know that this means changing the way we do business at all levels, from local to global.”
BHP is one of a number of resources companies facing mounting pressure from activists and investors to reduce its carbon footprint, and to remove itself from industry associations whose actions oppose effective action on climate change.
In July, BHP Group chief executive Andrew Mackenzie acknowledged the role fossil fuels were playing in a worsening climate crisis.
Mr Mackenzie also announced BHP would spend more than $500 million on a climate investment program to reduce emissions from its own operations as well as those generated from its resources.
Last month, the Church of England’s pension body and Atlassian co-founder Mike Cannon-Brookes were among shareholders lobbying the mining giant to suspend its membership of industry associations who impede action on climate change.
According to the Australasian Centre for Corporate Responsibility, these included the Minerals Council of Australia, Coal 21, APPEA, the Business Council of Australia, the Queensland Resources Council, the Resource Industry Network, and the NSW Minerals Council.