We work hard to leave a lasting, positive legacy everywhere we work. Our long-term economic contribution is one way we do this. We also support local communities to thrive and become more resilient over the long term.
In 2021, our direct economic contribution was $66.6 billion, including the total value of operating costs, employee wages and benefits, payments to providers of capital, payments to governments, development contributions, payments to landowners and community investments. Catalysing economic opportunities for our host communities and regions continues to be a priority. We strive to employ local people, buy local products and engage local services. For example, we awarded contracts valued at over A$500 million to local Western Australian and Pilbara Aboriginal businesses for the Greater Tom Price Operations.
Through social investment, we seek to deliver positive, measurable social outcomes and support communities to achieve their goals and aspirations. Our total voluntary global social investments were $72 million, covering health, education, environment, agricultural and business development programmes. This is an increase of approximately 53% on 2020 voluntary social investment spend. This increase is associated with the completion of the $25 million COVID pledge, a review of social investment strategies across product groups and the launch of a number of significant multi-year partnerships, particularly through Rio Tinto Iron Ore.
Our economic contribution includes the taxes paid to local and national governments, dividends to shareholders, the direct and indirect employment we create, procurement opportunities and investment in community programmes. Our payments to suppliers form a significant part of our global economic contribution, and our impact on regional economic development.
Paying our fair share
We are committed to paying our fair share of tax, and reporting what we pay transparently. We also support transparency and accountability in the way taxes and royalties are used. One way we do this is by making our minerals development contracts with governments publicly available, so everyone can see exactly what our contribution is, which in turn lets people see how much money (in the form of taxes, royalties, dividends) will flow from our projects to various governments.
We also make targeted investments in partnership with others that help communities to thrive long after our operations close. In 2021, we contributed more than $72 million to community programmes covering health, community infrastructure and services, education, environmental protection, agricultural and business development sectors.
We strive to employ local people, buy local products and engage local services, and we have targets reflecting this at each of our operations. We also invest in establishing and supporting new supply chains by educating and training people in local communities, with a strong focus on engaging young people, women and Indigenous peoples. In Australia, for example, we have partnered with the Gumatj Corporation and the Northern Territory and Australian governments to establish the Gulkula Regional Training Centre, which offers on-the-job learning opportunities for local Yolngu people. We also support the first 100% Indigenous owned and operated Gulkula mine in the Northern Territory, through buying and exporting the bauxite from the mine.
We will not replace the State but acknowledge that we have a role in promoting and supporting long-lasting regional economic development, which requires dialogue and coordination with other stakeholders, including governments, civil society, communities and businesses beyond our own. We are working to strengthen our contribution towards the Sustainable Development Goals.
One example of this is in Mongolia, where our Oyu Tolgoi mine is partnering with the Wildlife Conservation Society, Stanford University, the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and luxury group Kering to implement the Sustainable Cashmere Project. This initiative aims to increase and diversify local herder incomes through improving access to new markets and providing technical and financial support to improve grazing, husbandry and environmental practices.
We support the diversification of local economies. In Madagascar, our QIT Madagascar Minerals team provides funding for equipment and business skills training to support a local agricultural co-operative. Initiatives like these create diverse local economies and help our communities become better off, beyond the life of our projects and operations.