Sustainability: Who pays?

Who is to be held accountable for sustainability in the supply chain, and who pays the price?

Sustainability: It’s a term that has been used as a catch-all phrase. Simply put, sustainability describes the ability for a status or circumstance to be maintained at a certain rate or level.

Sustainable development is about meeting the changing needs of populations today while conserving resources we will need tomorrow. With 9 billion people expected to inhabit earth by the year 2050, neither government, industries nor the average person is in a position to ignore the challenge of this century: how we will all share this planet with the best quality of life.

In the minerals industry, sustainability is paramount.  As a natural resource extraction industry, the direct actions of miners and mining companies has an effect on the natural ecosystem and the people that live near mining sites. Environmental issues include water resources risks, air pollution, greenhouse gas emission and acid mine drainage. Social sustainability issues can be tied to worker safety and compensation, and even automation that will determine the strength of labour resources in the future.

A major problem has been the use of mercury, used to separate gold from other materials. This process not only poses a direct health risk to the miners, but has the potential to contaminate food and water supply for surrounding communities if mercury runs off into ground water.

Sustainability issues are a matters of human rights. In the court of public opinion, who should be held responsible for sustainability in the mining industry? More often than not, the finger is pointed at large scale mining companies and the brands that sell finished products to public.

It is easy for the public and regulatory bodies to call out brands on sustainability issues, as they are in direct contact with the consumer, while the mines that are at the beginning of the mineral supply chain are left unchecked. These mines and the faces that work in them remain nameless to the public, while they continue to contribute to pollution and profiteer from the lack-lustre conditions of mining communities. Yet, Large scale companies and brands are expected to shoulder the financial investment in sustainable supply chain solutions.

Mines, that are closest to the source of environmental issues,  have the potential to invest both social capital and a portion of their financial profits into tech solutions that will increase the durability and longevity of the mining industry.Large-scale companies will need to require their supply chain partners to contribute, the more entities that participate the more valuable the solution is.

Peer Ledger’s Mimosi technology is groundbreaking, as it provides the foundation for a responsible supply chain solution that integrates both brands and mines. More than simple track and trace technology that can provide conflict-free status, Mimosi has the potential for Environmental and Social Governance impact (ESG).

Socially conscious investors have been using ESG criteria to determine a set of standards for a company’s operations to streamline their investments.

Environmental criteria look at how a company performs as a steward of the natural environment. Social criteria examine how a company manages relationships with its employees, suppliers, customers and the communities where it operates. Governance deals with a company’s leadership, executive pay, auditsinternal controls and shareholder rights. (Investopedia)

These are areas which Mimosi will provide technological support. In addition, Mimosi can provide the following value to mines:

(1)  Helps MINES become a preferred supplier to brands,

(2)  Inexpensively add proof of conflict-free minerals status to downstream flows.

(3)  Dramatically reduce costs of internal audit, and enable a premium for products.

(4)  Add to CSR and sustainability outcomes with proofs – e.g. proof of no child labour and safer chemical usage in their mines; (users/miners/HR data may be registered on Mimosi);

(5)  Add to transparency goals;e.g.  record of tax payments can be entered into blockchain

(6)  Reduce the costs of audit for transactions associated with conflict minerals, child labor, tax payments, chemicals usage (in-process) etc.

Holding mining sites responsible for their environmental actions is not about penalization, but creating a healthy and sustainable environment so that the mining industry may thrive in years to come.

Brian Jeffcock