Dr. Elaine Dorward-King is Executive Vice President, Sustainability and External Relations at Newmont. She brings 25 years of leadership experience in creating and implementing sustainable development, safety, health and environmental strategy, and programs in the mining, chemical, and engineering consulting sectors. Before departing for the World Economic Forum, GlobeScan Director Eric Whan spoke with Elaine about the importance of transparency in sustainability leadership.
Knowing that Newmont is consistently recognized for its sustainability leadership within the mining sector, what are your keys to success?
I think the critical piece is that Newmont’s leadership starts from the top. We have a CEO who understands the importance of strong social, environmental, and governance performance. This ensures that there are other leaders in place who can develop the strategies and approaches required to deliver that leading performance. The next step is operationalizing those commitments. You can have the greatest policies in the world, but you need to find a way to make them practical and implementable within the organization so that you are delivering on performance. Without that, you won’t be able to achieve what you want to achieve, either in terms of performance, or managing risk, or achieving social acceptance for being a good partner that delivers on common objectives.
What role does transparency play in all of this? Can you talk to us about how it fits into your strategy at Newmont?
Transparency is really the only way you can build trust. There’s increasing suspicion with regard to institutions of all kinds – not just companies, but governments and other institutions as well. The best way to develop trust with others is to be transparent with regard to what you’re doing. For example, how are you delivering your goods and services, and how are you making that kind of information accessible to people in ways that are relevant to them? Some people want to hear it directly from leadership, others want information and data in hardcopy, and others want to be able to go to the internet and access information and data in a digital format.
An important aspect of transparency is about connecting with people in a meaningful way. Companies need to be willing and able to make their information relevant and reliable. Transparency is not just about communicating information or making information available – it’s also being willing to listen, sharing bad news as well as good news, and acknowledging when things don’t go right. Being humble and talking about what you’re going to do to put things right.
We hear a lot about the importance of meaningful engagement and collaboration in challenging times. How does Newmont approach this? What skills and mindsets are required to really engage and collaborate?
The key is to recognize that we can’t do this by ourselves – we need to have partnerships. Good partnerships are fundamentally based on your ability to listen to each other, to be humble, to accept that other people may have good ideas that will help you. We have many examples of partnerships that have helped us deliver our objectives, whether that’s on the environmental front or the social front, which we wouldn’t have been able to do otherwise. What you get out of that is much greater than what you’re able to do by yourself, but you have to have that mindset of openness. You need to work with other people, organizations, and entities that in some cases may have different agendas than you do, but you can come together and agree to collaborate in a way that delivers something beneficial.
Earlier you spoke about the importance of driving sustainability performance and execution through strong leadership at the top of the organization. Do you have any advice on how to integrate and drive sustainability across the organization, rather than having it get stuck in its own silo? What are some of Newmont’s cultural aspects that seem to work well?
Fundamentally you need to make sure that your approach to sustainability is fully aligned and supportive of the business strategy. It can’t be something that the company does just to look good. It won’t be sustainable unless it’s seen as contributing to business success, and that could come from contributing to operational excellence. The way we run our mines and our facilities is to focus on efficiency: using the least amount of resources to do the job that we need to do; recycling and reusing where we can. This gives us flexibility for growth and expansion opportunities. It also means working with exploration early on in the life cycle of mining, supporting business development, and making sure that there’s a common language in the company when we’re assessing a partnership opportunity or joint venture. It needs to contribute to the capabilities of the organization.
We know that the strong social and environmental performance of Newmont is very important to our employees feeling proud of the company and being engaged inside the organization. We also know that it’s important to our ability to recruit strong candidates across disciplines. People have lots of choices about what sector they work in and what companies they work for. Young people coming into the workforce today don’t come to work just for a paycheque. They want to work at a company where their values are aligned with the purpose of the company. Newmont’s purpose is very clear – we are about creating value and improving lives through responsible and sustainable mining – and that resonates with folks. So the integration of sustainability into the organization supports our operational priorities and employee engagement, as well as contributes to our success for that set of stakeholders that’s really focused on the financial and economic attributes – our investors.
What excites you about the future of mining over the next ten years?
I’ve been involved in this for more than two decades, and our understanding of what sustainability actually means has matured and grown. The next phase that will be really exciting is understanding how we can be a catalyst for creating economic opportunity in the communities and regions of the world where we operate. Creating the opportunity for skills development, for education that’s transferable, for businesses to be created that can thrive independently of the mining activity. We are starting to get better at that and there are non-profit organizations and inter-governmental and governmental organizations that also understand that if we’re going to be able to help the world transition to a more sustainable world, we need to work together. So I think that’s really, really exciting and challenging.
One of the biggest challenges that we all need to think about is how do we protect and conserve our natural world, the ecosystems that we all depend on for everything – for clean air, for clean water, for the resources that we use. How do we protect and conserve that world while we continue to help hundreds of millions of people around the world come out of poverty and enjoy a better standard of living? That’s going to require us to apply our minds and use new technologies and opportunities. That is the other exciting piece – how do we grow and change and use technology to help people improve their lives and to protect and improve the environment?
Featured photo credit: © Newmont Mining Co.