Recognizing Leaders: Anik Michaud on Anglo American’s Purpose

Anik Michaud of Anglo American interview with GlobeScan CEO Chris Coulter

Anik Michaud of Anglo American interview with GlobeScan CEO Chris Coulter
Anik Michaud is Group Director Corporate Relations at Anglo American, where she is responsible for Corporate Communications, International and Government Relations, Social Performance and Engagement, the Sustainable Mining Plan and the Office of the Chief Executive.
GlobeScan CEO Chris Coulter spoke to Anik about mega-trends, the future of work and Anglo American’s Purpose.

How would you describe the context for business today?

Today there are a great many issues that are moving at such a fast-pace. Mega-trends such as populism, population growth, climate change and the natural environment, wellness and well-being, and inequality are all shaping our future. The speed of progression and importance of these issues are having a bigger impact on corporate success than ever before.
The pace of change is accelerating and staying on top of these interrelated mega-trends is crucial. Look at the environment, population growth and urbanization – these are inextricably linked to human rights and climate change. You have colliding issues that need to be understood as interconnected. If you are not seen by stakeholders and society as addressing these issues,  your license to operate as a business will be eroded.
Conversely, if you can understand and manage the risks, there are opportunities which you can turn into a competitive advantage. If you can focus on the most important and strategic issues and take a position of industry leadership, there is a real opportunity to build trust, partnerships and the social capital needed to support your business success in the long-term.
This is fundamentally the role of corporate relations today. A good part  of our work is to bring the outside world in, stay on top of megatrends and help the company to respond to them. This is much more important than it ever has been and there is a growing recognition of that across companies. The value of corporate relations in the C-Suite is only going in one direction, as trends are coming at you faster than ever.

Can you think of an example of how broader trends are affecting Anglo American’s strategy?

A good example is innovation and the fourth industrial revolution. Generally speaking, mining has been an innovation laggard but now that a range of technologies are here, we have the ability to make great strides in the areas of safety and productivity gains.
But we have to ask what kind of skills will be required with the technological advances we are making? How can we manage not only productivity gains that technology offers but also make progress on important underlying issues such as employment, socio-economic development, inequality and environmental sustainability? It is only by managing this technological transformation thoughtfully and holistically that allows us to have the social license to innovate and achieve sound business outcomes.
Another example is emerging economies, where population growth and urbanization, growth of the middle class and ensuring opportunities for people’s well-being need to be addressed. If you are working in those geographies, you need to be a lot more considered in how you approach the changes that innovation brings, compared to the developed world where alternative employment options are more likely to be available.
In emerging economies, you need to lay the groundwork. You need to create economic activity beyond your operations so that you can innovate in ways that allow for broader societal benefit. If unemployment rates are high, you can’t just close a mine. Ultimately, we don’t own the resources; the country and the people do and therefore we need to be closely aligned to their needs and manage our innovation agenda in a responsible way.
Interestingly, the investment community is also seeing risk in a much more holistic way. When we had our session with ESG investors recently, the first question was how were we going to manage this tension between jobs and innovation? These considerations are now top of mind for many stakeholders.

And how do you manage this tension between jobs and innovation?

Well, we need to be a lot smarter with respect to socioeconomic development and demonstrate real impact on the ground where our mining activity is. At Anglo American we have committed to creating five jobs offsite for every job onsite to ensure that we are making a significant and enduring positive impact to the regional economy near our mine sites.
Collaboration is also key – we can’t do this on our own. We need to partner with NGOs, government and other industries to find a way to deliver an inclusive economy for the many. Everybody needs to be involved so we can plan two or three steps out during this very exciting but potentially challenging time and to coordinate actions so that we get this right.

What has changed for Anglo American over the last decade?

Some of the fundamental elements have not changed: our DNA, wanting to be ethical, wanting to do the right thing. Our social consciousness has long been a part of the company’s culture and is still very much there. It is what attracts many people to the company.
We have continuously improved the business, which has to do with the implementation of our operating model, putting in place best practices and working cross-functionally. It is the whole notion of collaboration. There is a willingness and openness to be more collaborative across the organization in pursuit of clear goals.
Further, there is this positive socialization of challenges and a realization that one function does not have all the answers. The answer is so much better when you can harness the diverse thinking of different people. Our organizational model plays a positive role in sharing these challenges and bringing together pockets of excellence and fostering these connections – the speed at which this happens, and the quality of the conversations has increased significantly over the past decade.
What also has changed at Anglo American over the past few years is that we developed a Purpose – to Re-imagine Mining to Improve People’s Lives. Our Purpose is very much rooted in how Anglo American sees its role in society and how we can and do create value for all stakeholders: shareholders, employees, communities, governments, etc.

Why did Anglo American need a Purpose and what has been the impact?

The impetus was quite contextual for Anglo American – we went through a fair amount of restructuring three or four years ago and needed to re-engage employees across the world. We always knew that internal authenticity would lead to external authenticity and a positive impact.
Our Purpose is now being brought to life across the company. For instance, I see documents from various committees and our Purpose is one of the first things used to set the context – how does the issue being presented help us live our Purpose? This is remarkable. Purpose informs and frames everything we do and it is changing the company for the better.
For example, our Human Resources function has seen that having a Purpose attracts people at very high levels. This is a big deal and has shown its face more quickly than we imagined, as any company wants the best possible talent to drive its business forward.
Another example has to do with our broader societal and environmental impact. Our FutureSmart Mining™ innovation programme epitomizes our Purpose. If we are successful with our innovation agenda and we are able to get our social license to operate right and also drive our Sustainable Mining Plan, then we are on our way.
Our FutureSmart Mining programme, informed by our Purpose, sees us take a differentiated innovation technical leadership position and will help us get to our sustainability goals for 2030 and allow us to be sustainably successful as a business as well as make a positive and meaningful impact on the world.