Aldo Pennini - Will public perceptions of the mining industry matter in a post Covid-19 world?
Updated: May 31, 2020
In the late 1990s a group of CEOs from some of the world’s leading mining companies came to the conclusion that if they did not embrace sustainable development the industry did not have a future. A growing chorus of voices from environmentalists to academics and civil society groups were speaking up against poor environmental and social practices. The CEOs acted, developing an international framework for the sustainable development of the industry along with guiding principles and policies.
Despite progress made over the past two decades, industry commissioned research highlighted that while the reputation of individual companies may have improved among stakeholder groups, the industry’s overall reputation has not. Meanwhile public perceptions of the sector vary between developed and developing countries; mining and non-mining countries; and between urban and rural populations.
Perceptions matter because they have a material impact on the industry. Billions of dollars in stalled projects due to community conflict. Difficulty in attracting talent because young people see mining as old, dangerous and damaging to the environment and communities. Shareholders and consumers demanding more responsible supply chains and climate action. Investors reflecting these demands by either divesting from mining or requiring higher standards of sustainability performance when deciding where to invest.
In 2018-2019 the International Council on Mining and Metals ran a pilot communications campaign called Mining with Principles (see figure 1) aiming to enhance societal awareness of the importance of the products of mining to society, and what responsible mining looks like. The results showed perceptions can be changed if the industry demonstrates how it is addressing issues that are of concern to society and stakeholders, ranging from the environmental impacts to human rights and sharing of benefits.
Fig 1. ICMM pilot campaign website: https://miningwithprinciples.com/
The initiative was significant because the industry leadership acknowledged the importance of enhancing communications and engagement with society as a means of shifting perceptions. It demonstrated the willingness of competitors to speak with a single voice, and commitment to the objective as a long term strategic imperative.
As the world emerges from the economic and social damage caused by the pandemic, it is plausible society will make even greater demands of governments, institutions and corporations to be more responsible and place people at the centre of what they do. In the coming years, as societal expectations continue to rise the shifting of negative public perceptions of the industry will be as important as ever.
Aldo is a public affairs professional with more than 25 years' experience and a career spanning government, global corporate and international membership organisation. He worked in the mining industry for 11 of those years. Prior to joining SATARLA in May 2019, Aldo was Director of Communications at the International Council on Mining and Metals where he led the transformation of its approach to communications.
He spent eight years at Anglo American Plc serving as Director of External Affairs in Australia, then as Chief of Staff to two Chief Executives at the company headquarters in London, where he acquired a unique perspective on the dynamics at the top of a multinational corporation. Aldo began his career in government, spending more than 14 years serving as senior policy advisor and Chief of Staff to State Premiers and Ministers in New South Wales and Queensland (Australia) where he shaped policy and negotiated legislation ranging from natural resource management to carbon emissions trading.
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