Producing essential materials responsibly
Our strategy, objectives and values guide our approach to sustainability.
Decarbonisation is an urgent priority for us and the world. Our strategy sets a new direction for us to decarbonise our assets and our products and grow by investing in those materials that are essential to a low-carbon future.
To deliver the strategy, we are focused on four key objectives, including our drive for impeccable ESG credentials and maintaining our social licence to operate. We must ensure all our stakeholders benefit from our success. To do this, our business priorities and performance must align with society’s expectations, which are constantly evolving. Robust and trusting relationships with our stakeholders are essential to secure a strong future for our business while ensuring we make meaningful contributions to our host communities and help address the world’s most urgent challenges.
Our approach to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals
In 2021, we refreshed the way we think about sustainability and more clearly articulated how we are supporting our priority United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs).
Our sustainability framework reflects our focus on the two lead goals – SDG 12 (responsible consumption and production) and SDG 8 (decent work and economic growth) – that we feel are most relevant to operating our business responsibly, and where we can have the most significant impact. Our business operations also contribute to eight supporting SDGs (3, 4, 5, 6, 9, 10, 13, 15) while SDG 17 (partnerships for goals) reflects our approach to achieving our sustainability objectives.
Voluntary commitments, accreditations and memberships
We take part in a number of global, national and regional organisations and initiatives that inform our sustainability approach and standards, which in turn allows us to better manage our risks. External organisations and initiatives assess and recognise our performance, and we participate in industry accreditation programmes for some of our products.
These organisations and initiatives include the following:
Aluminium Stewardship Initiative (ASI)
The ASI aims to create sustainability and transparency throughout the aluminium industry. It has developed the world’s first global Responsible Aluminium Standard, used to assess environmental, social and governance practices across the aluminium supply chain for responsible sourcing. We were the first company in the world to receive certification under the Aluminium Stewardship Initiative (ASI).
Blue Green Alliance (BGA)
The BGA aims to solve environmental challenges in ways that create and maintain quality jobs and build a stronger, fairer economy. We are on the Advisory Board of the BGA.
Business for Social Responsibility (BSR)
BSR is a global non-profit organisation that works with its network of more than 250 member companies and other partners to build a just and sustainable world. As a member, we share information on sustainable practices.
Developed by the International Copper Association – with input from a range of stakeholders, including customers, NGOs and producers – The Copper Mark is a comprehensive assurance framework to demonstrate the copper industry’s responsible production practices and contribution to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Our copper operations at Kennecott in the US and Oyu Tolgoi in Mongolia were the first producers to be awarded the Copper Mark – verifying the copper is responsibly produced.
Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI)
We are a founding member of the EITI and have played an active role in this global standard since 2003. The EITI promotes open and accountable management of natural resources to make sure our activities benefit the many, not the few. We are transparent about the taxes and royalties we pay – publishing an annual Taxes paid report since 2010.
Global Reporting Initiative (GRI)
GRI is an international independent organisation with an international framework and standards for sustainability reporting. Our Group-level sustainability reporting is informed by the GRI Sustainability Reporting Standards (Core option) and the GRI Mining and Metals Sector Supplement.
International Council on Mining & Metals (ICMM)
As a member, we commit to implementing and reporting on ICMM’s 10 Principles for Sustainable Development. These cover corporate governance, environmental stewardship and community engagement. Our Chief Executive is a member of the ICMM Council, and we participate actively in various working groups, such as the climate change and energy working group. In 2021, our Chief Executive signed the ICMM Climate Change statement, committing Rio Tinto and other member companies to a goal of net zero by 2050 or sooner.
We are also committed to implementing the ICMM Performance Expectations (PEs). The ICMM Mining Principles framework focuses on implementation of systems and practices related to a broad range of sustainability areas. Eleven Rio Tinto managed assets completed self-assessments in 2021. These assets met the requirements in the areas of ethical business practice, decision-making, health and safety, social performance and stakeholder engagement. Our teams identified opportunities to improve our performance in human rights, risk management, environmental performance, conservation of biodiversity and responsible production.
We participate in the Kimberley Process (KP) through our involvement with the World Diamond Council (WDC). The KP is a joint initiative between governments, diamond industry bodies and civil society organisations, mandated by the United Nations and the World Trade Organization, to stem the flow of “conflict diamonds”.
London Bullion Market Association (LBMA)
The LBMA has renewed Rio Tinto Kennecott’s responsible gold and silver certificate, which guarantees that the precious metals produced from Kennecott’s refinery are accepted and traded globally. The certificate is one of the requirements for precious metals refineries to be placed on the LBMA’s Good Delivery List, an internationally recognised standard for quality and responsible production. Many precious metal exchanges will accept gold and silver bars only from refiners who appear on the GDL.
Natural Diamond Council
We are a founding member of the Natural Diamond Council whose mission is to advance the integrity of the diamond and jewellery industry to inspire, educate and protect the consumer.
OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises
The OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises are recommendations by governments to multinational enterprises operating in or from adhering countries. They include non-binding principles and standards for responsible business conduct in a global context consistent with applicable laws and internationally recognised standards. These guidelines are a multilaterally agreed and comprehensive code of responsible business conduct that governments have committed to promoting.
The Proteus Partnership was formed in 2003 as a collaborative effort between leading extractive companies and the United Nations Environmental Programme World Conservation Monitoring Centre (UNEP-WCMC) to improve accessibility to biodiversity data for better decision making and support the further development of global biodiversity resources. As a Proteus Partner, we have access to the UNEP-WCMC online biodiversity assessment tool, which allows us to scan for potential sensitive areas in places where we are seeking tenure before major investments are made.
Responsible Jewellery Council (RJC)
The RJC is an international non-profit organisation that promotes transparent and responsible ethical, human rights, social and environmental practices throughout the jewellery industry – from mine to retail. We are a founding member and were the first mining company to be certified in 2012. Since then, we have continued to uphold the ESG standards and maintained RJC certification, which needs to be renewed once every three years. We were re-certified in 2021 against the RJC Code of Practice Standards. RJC certification covers operations or activities of our businesses that produce diamonds, gold or gold in concentrates that contribute to the jewellery supply chain. This includes our diamond mines – Diavik in Canada and Argyle in Western Australia – and our Kennecott copper mine in the US, for gold.
The B Team Responsible Tax Principles
We are a signatory to The B Team Responsible Tax Principles, developed by a group of cross-sector, cross-regional companies to define what leadership in responsible tax looks like. The disclosures in our Taxes Paid Report, available on our website, demonstrate our approach to the B Team’s seven Responsible Tax Principles.
Towards Sustainable Mining (TSM)
We participate in the TSM programme through our membership of the Mining Association of Canada (MAC). TSM is a sustainability certification scheme that applies to members of MAC operating in Canada.
United Nations Global Compact (UNGC)
The UNGC is a voluntary initiative based on CEO commitments to implement universal sustainability principles and to take steps to support UN goals. As members, we incorporate the Ten Principles of the UN Global Compact into strategies, policies and procedures.
United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs)
The UNGPs are a global reference point for preventing and addressing the risk of adverse impacts on human rights linked to business. We seek to operate in a manner consistent with the UNGPs.
United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)
The SDGs are a set of 17 goals and 169 targets endorsed by the UN in 2015. These present a broad sustainability agenda focused on the need to end poverty, fight inequality and injustice and respond to climate change by 2030. In 2016, our chief executive signed a public statement of support for the SDGs.
United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR)
The UDHR is a milestone document in the history of human rights which sets out, for the first time, fundamental human rights to be respected. We respect and support all internationally recognised human rights consistent with the UDHR.
Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights (VPSHR)
The VPSHR guide extractives companies on how to maintain the safety and security of their operations in line with respect for human rights. Participants, including governments, companies and non-government organisations, agree to proactively implement or support the implementation of the VPSHR. We published our VPSHR report for the first time in 2018 (previously only provided to other participants) and have committed to doing this each year.
World Economic Forum (WEF)
WEF brings together the foremost political, business, cultural and other leaders of society to shape global, regional and industry agendas. It is independent, impartial and not tied to any special interests. The Forum strives to demonstrate entrepreneurship in the global public interest while upholding the highest standards of governance.