We have entered a period of stakeholder capitalism or capitalism socialism – a period in which companies and investors are more concerned than ever with addressing the needs and expectations of end-users and consumers. This new reality reflects widespread concerns about the environment and global warming, employee and community well-being, and other factors that are generally framed as ESG topics (Environment, Social, and Governance).
Attending the annual Mining Indaba in Cape Town this week, I have seen first hand how preoccupied the industry is with ‘bridging the gap between the brand of mining and the benefits of mining, which continues to widen,’ according to Marc Cutifani, CEO of Anglo-American. It’s pressure from end-users more than investors or regulators that is dictating the pace of reform. How quickly African miners and African mining jurisdiction respond to these challenges will determine the competitiveness of the sector.
Mining supplies many of the raw materials for essential industries and products that we rely on every day. Everything from the computer I’m writing on to the ships I can see from my window transporting cargo in the port of Cape Town, and the machine that ground my coffee this morning.
A well-governed and cleaner industry, capable of communicating its value to communities and consumers, has a very bright future. After all, solutions to our global climate crisis will only be met with battery technologies and clean energy systems that use copper, nickel, cobalt, and other mined materials.
So, the race is on for the mining industry to address this new imperative. How companies do so will determine their financial sustainability and the competitiveness of the industry as a whole.
The days of passive acceptance of the industry are over. Miners must ready themselves for unprecedented levels of scrutiny and find ways to communicate direct, measurable, and visible progress on sustainability, or risk losing the support of a younger generation of consumers, workers, communities, and investors.
Marcus Courage is the CEO of Africa Practice, a strategic advisory firm operating at the nexus of industry and government throughout Africa.