“ We will only achieve our vision if we can prove our ability to operate sensitively to and with our communities, to partner with them to create ‘enduring value’.”Listen to podcast
Since 2008, as members of the AngloGold Ashanti team, we have all been working to rebuild our business to ensure we are positioned to realise our full potential. Our strategy has been based on the establishment of a stable growth foundation – we have regenerated our financial capacity and reinvigorated operational performance, including the delivery of substantial improvements in safety performance, while constructing an exciting range of new projects and development opportunities. Together, these initiatives are designed to position AngloGold Ashanti to deliver long-term sustainable value for all its business and social stakeholders. In our world the concept of sustainability, the creation of a better present and future for all of our partners, can only be secured if we are navigating our future together with local communities.
Our vision is to be ‘the leading mining company’. We will only achieve this vision if we can prove our ability to operate sensitively to and with our host communities, to demonstrate that we will partner with them to create ‘enduring value’. We recognise that ‘enduring value’ is a relative concept and can only be defined in the eyes of each partner – the challenge is to find common ground upon which we both see enduring value as it relates to our respective needs. AngloGold Ashanti is committed to the journey that discovers where these needs intersect – to help build our company and the communities in which we operate.
In the shorter term we need to develop appropriate responses to the many sustainability challenges that we face in operating across geographically and culturally diverse landscapes. In the long term we must be defined by the nature of our relationships with our business and social partners.
What are these challenges and how are we addressing them now? Improving safety performance is our most important business goal and remains our most significant business challenge. In 2010 we took two critical steps towards realising our long-term goal of operating an accident-free business – we launched our safety transformation project and we undertook the detailed design work that was required to integrate safety transformation into our Project ONE operating model. Our approach to safety incorporates three elements – engaging people in the work of creating a safe environment, building robust systems which support safe work and managing risks effectively through appropriate controls at all levels. Integrating this thinking into the DNA of the business is essential if we are to make sustainable gains in safety performance.
While safety in the workplace is our main concern, the overall health and wellbeing of our employees is a major consideration for the same reason – people are our business and their wellbeing takes precedence. In South Africa, where we have a large workforce, many of whom are migrant workers, there is a continued incidence of silicosis, stubbornly high HIV prevalence rates, the related scourge of tuberculosis and a continuing incidence of noise-induced hearing loss. In Continental Africa, we mine in areas where malaria is endemic and carries a major health risk for employees and communities.
We have made significant progress in bringing down malaria incidence rates in Obuasi, one of the worst-affected areas, and will continue to work in 2011 to replicate the integrated approach that has been so successful there in other affected regions where we operate, as well as in other areas of Ghana, at the request of the Ghanaian authorities, through a substantial grant from the Global Fund.
We are addressing the incidence of silicosis by reinforced information and education, reducing the exposure of employees to silica dust and measuring exposure more effectively to help us more effectively manage all aspects of our operations. Unfortunately, we are unlikely to see the results of this work for another decade due to the long latency period of the disease. In the meantime, we continue to offer vulnerable employees the means to improve their wellness, particularly by combating HIV and tuberculosis, both of which aggravate the affect of silicosis.
Responsible environmental stewardship and the effective management of scarce natural resources are important to us in living to our value of respect for the environment. While we are improving processes in this area, we regrettably had cause to temporarily suspend or curtail production at our two operations in Ghana during 2010, in order to remediate water-related concerns. We are addressing these challenges in part through the establishment of a task force in the region, with a team member dedicated to sustainability issues. We made significant progress in reducing environmental incidents in 2010, through a concerted effort in South Africa to address nagging problems that were causing repeated incidents. In the meantime, we continue to develop company-wide approaches to longer-term issues such as energy and water security.
A burgeoning priority area of focus in 2010 was developing a clearer understanding of the steps necessary to ensure that our business operates with due respect for human rights. We operate in regions where communities are vulnerable and we therefore need to be uncompromising in our commitment to respect for human rights and intolerant of corruption in all of its forms. Such an approach is simply the consequence of our belief that people are our business.
We continue to progress the integration of human rights issues into our security strategy, by embedding the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights (VPSHR) into all aspects of security management. In 2011, we will continue with this work and will also examine the implications of the work that is underway in the UN on human rights and business for other areas, for example, in applying due diligence on human rights issues in our operations and in respect of our supply chain dealings.
Against a backdrop of increasing consumer concern about the impact and origin of the products that they purchase, we are continuing our active engagement with the World Gold Council and the Responsible Jewellery Council to develop industry standards for responsible gold production and chain of custody. In 2010, legislation was passed in the USA which will give consumers greater transparency over the chain of custody of products manufactured with gold from the Democratic Republic of the Congo and its neighbours. We are proactively engaging with governments in the region and with the USA government to understand the implications of this legislation and in particular to avoid measures that might inadvertently stigmatise gold produced responsibly in the region.
The sustainability challenges that we face are as significant as they are varied and require a considered strategic response from AngloGold Ashanti. In 2010, we started the development of a sustainability strategy that not only addresses priority areas of concern but also seeks to achieve competitive advantage for the company through excellence and innovation in sustainability practice.
A key objective of this strategy is to achieve a fundamental shift in the nature of our engagement with communities. The mining industry has a legacy of paternalistic relationships with communities and – in many ways – AngloGold Ashanti has not been an exception to this rule. This is hardly surprising as mining companies are so often better resourced and more formally structured than the communities which host them. We have always tried to engage respectfully and in the spirit of good neighbours, but in some cases have tended to direct engagement efforts rather than viewing communities as partners. Our aim is to develop an approach that enables communities to play the dominant role in designing their economic future, with AngloGold Ashanti as a supporter and contributor in their development. This is essential if we are to fulfil our promise of leaving communities better off for our presence.
Success in this regard is possible, and the positive outcomes already experienced in the limited application of this approach are confirmation that it is. In Argentina, for example, we have worked with the community, government and local businesses to sustainably regenerate a region that was in economic decline. In Ghana, we have co-developed projects with local communities and, notwithstanding setbacks that still occur, are starting to reverse a cycle of mistrust that has been allowed to develop between the mines and the communities over several decades.
Our challenge is to take these successes and replicate them consistently in our business, and therefore one of the most important aspects of our strategy is how we integrate it into the company’s operating model, through Project ONE. This is essential as we develop a culture of learning to build successes over the longer term.
Proactive management of sustainability challenges will bring substantial benefits to the company and assist in securing the long-term future of our operations. We believe this approach is more likely to help instil a sense of pride in our employees – that will be reflected through more constructive relationships within our communities.
Important reference points for our strategy have been the work undertaken through various industry and government bodies on sustainability issues, particularly as they relate to the mining sector. We continue to support the International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM) and the work of bodies such as the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI). We also support the goals and objectives of the UN Global Compact principles. Together with our core values, these international standards provide a guideline for implementation of our strategy.
AngloGold Ashanti’s sustainability vision will take time to fully realise, but we believe that success will allow us to provide a better set of outcomes for our industry and its stakeholders. We are working together with our independent sustainability review panel – a carefully selected collegium of independent experts – in order to achieve this arm’s length critique of our approach and our progress.
I look forward to keeping you updated on progress as this important area of our work develops.
Chief executive officer