Our sustainability approach

Our sustainability approach

Finding better ways to provide the materials the world needs

Our approach to sustainability is guided by our purpose: finding better ways to provide the materials the world needs. It’s about driving innovation and continuous improvement to produce the minerals and metals used in everyday life in the safest and most sustainable way possible.

Sustainability considerations are deeply embedded in the way we run our business. We have put climate change and the low-carbon transition at the heart of our business strategy. We are decarbonising our assets, helping our customers decarbonise by developing new products and technologies, and growing in materials essential for the energy transition.

Two of our four business objectives are focused on our social licence and achieving impeccable environmental, social and governance (ESG) credentials. This ensures we align our business priorities with society’s expectations and that sustainability considerations are at the core of every decision we make.

To meet our goals, we are focusing on developing the right mindset and culture, encouraging our people to work together to find new solutions and building partnerships with those who share our ambition.

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Sustainability reporting

We have a responsibility to extract the full value from the minerals and materials we produce in the safest and most sustainable way possible.

Our sustainability framework

Our sustainability framework describes how we manage the ESG issues that are important to us and our stakeholders, and how we contribute to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs). This includes providing people and communities with economic opportunities; safeguarding and promoting the health, wellbeing and human rights of people and communities; combatting climate change; and becoming trusted stewards of the natural resources entrusted to us.

Alignment with the United Nations Sustainable Development goals

Our approach to sustainability aligns with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs), which are recognised as the global blueprint for a sustainable future.

Our sustainability framework focuses on the two lead goals that we feel are most relevant to operating our business responsibly and where we can have the biggest impact: responsible consumption and production (SDG 12) and decent work and economic growth (SDG 8).

Our business operations also contribute to eight supporting SDGs (3, 4, 5, 6, 9, 10, 13, 15), while partnerships for the goals (SDG 17) reflects our approach to sustainability and is fundamental to the way we run our business.

ESG framework

Sustainability goals and targets

  • Supplying low-intensity materials
  • Becoming a responsible steward of resources
  • Supporting social and economic opportunity


Lead SDGs 12, 17 and supporting SDGs 9, 13

Business objectives:

Impeccable ESG credentials

We aim to:

  • Decarbonise our value chains (Scope 3) and maximise the full value of our resources
  • Encourage circularity and provide critical minerals that the world needs to advance

Our targets:

  • To achieve net zero emissions from our operations (Scope 1 and 2) by 2050

Examples of actions we’re taking:

  • We committed $537 million in partnership with the Government of Canada to decarbonise RTIT Quebec Operations and boost critical minerals processing
  • Our Steel Decarbonisation team has advanced 49 projects with more than 30 partners
  • We successfully piloted an innovative, low-carbon iron-making process on Pilbara iron ore, known as BioIronTM
  • Invested in a new aluminium recycling facility at our Arvida operation in Canada
  • We continue to find ways to sourcing critical minerals from waste – we began extracting tellurium concentrate at Kennecott, achieved first production of scandium oxide and demonstrated an innovative spodumene (lithium) concentration process at our Critical Minerals and Technology Centre in Quebec


Lead SDGs 12, 17 and supporting SDGs 6, 9, 13, 15

Business objectives:

Impeccable ESG credentials

We aim to:

  • Decarbonise our operations (Scope 1 and 2 reduction)
  • Minimise environmental and heritage impacts and act as a responsible steward of water and biodiversity to strengthen our resilience to a changing environment, assessing impacts across the supply chain

Our targets:

  • To reduce our absolute Scope 1 and 2 greenhouse gas emissions by 15% by 2025 and by 50% by 2030
  • To achieve local water stewardship targets for selected sites by 2023

Examples of actions we’re taking:

  • We set up six large carbon abatement programmes focused on repowering our Pacific Aluminium Operations, renewables, ELYSISTM, alumina process heat, minerals processing and diesel transition
  • We commenced evaluation of proposals to repower our aluminium assets with up to 4GW of wind and solar, backed up by energy firming and storage solutions
  • We have planned investment of $600 million in 230MW of solar power facilities and 200MWh of storage. This is in addition to the 34MW solar facility installed at our Gudai-Darri iron ore mine in Western Australia
  • We progressed to a pre-feasibility study for a double digestion project to reduce emissions and operational expenditure at the Queensland Alumina operation
  • We developed partnerships with Scania, Caterpillar, Volvo and Komatsu to deploy more efficient autonomous haulage solutions and battery-powered trucks
  • We established a dedicated team to secure nature-based solutions projects that help offset emissions, improve biodiversity and create opportunities for communities


Lead SDGs 8, 17 and supporting SDGs 3, 4, 5, 10

Business objectives:

Best operator, Impeccable ESG credentials, Social licence

We aim to:

  • Build a healthy, diverse and inclusive workforce, support local communities to achieve their goals and aspirations and deliver positive social outcomes

Our targets:

  • Zero fatalities and to eliminate workplace injuries and catastrophic events
  • All-injury frequency rate target: 0.38
  • To have all of our businesses identify at least one critical health hazard material to their business, and demonstrate a year-on-year reduction of exposure to that hazard
  • To reduce the rate of new occupational illnesses each year
  • To improve diversity in our business by:
    • Increasing women in the business (including in senior leadership) by 2% each year
    • Aiming for 50% women in our graduate intake
    • Aiming for 30% of our graduate intake to be from places where we are developing new businesses
  • To improve our employee engagement and satisfaction

Examples of actions we’re taking:

  • We are implementing all the recommendations of the Everyday Respect external review of our workplace culture, with actions and training being rolled out across the business
  • We launched the Building Safe and Respectful Workplaces pilot programme, with BHP, Fortescue and the Australian Minerals and Energy Skills Alliance
  • We introduced a new communities and social performance strategy with updated standards, targets and vision for the business
  • We have changed the way we engage with Traditional Owner and First Nation groups
  • We enhanced our internal human rights expertise and updated our Human Rights Policy to reflect emerging trends and expectations

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.

  • Copper Mark

    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 Bill of Human Rights

    We respect internationally recognised human rights including those set out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

  • 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. Eighteen Rio Tinto managed assets completed self-assessments in 2022. In addition, 11 Rio Tinto managed assets reviewed their previously completed self-assessments to capture works completed to meet conformance and detailed information found during the Everyday Respect Report review. Overall, the majority of assets met the requirements in the areas of ethical business practice, decision-making, recycling and reuse, social performance and stakeholder engagement. Our teams identified opportunities to improve our performance in human rights, risk management, health and safety improvement, environmental performance, and conservation of biodiversity.

  • Kimberley Process

    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.

  • Proteus Partnership

    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 Diavik diamond mine in Canada, and our Kennecott copper mine in the US, for gold. With the closure of the Argyle mine in Western Australia, Argyle formally resigned from being a member of RJC in 2021.

  • 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. We are a participant member, including of the UK and Australian local networks. Each year we publish our Communication on Progress against the Ten Principles, available here: Rio Tinto plc | UN Global Compact

  • 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.

  • Voluntary Principles Initiative

    We are a proud founding participant of the Voluntary Principles Initiative (VPI) and we are committed to following the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights (VPSHR). The VPSHR guides extractives companies on how to maintain the safety and security of their operations in line with respect for human rights. VPI members, including governments, companies and non-government organisations, agree to proactively implement and 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. Our annual reports are available here.

  • 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.

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We operate in 35 countries where our 57,000 employees are working to find better ways to provide the materials the world needs
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Finding better ways to do things is in our DNA