Mining's Public Service Announcement on Climate Change

If you watch carefully you will see the mining industry is starting a bit of a marketing and communications divide. We've known is was going to happen. Deep down, we in the global mining industry knew we were going to have to start addressing it. Folks, if you watch closely, you will notice it has already begun.

The culprit of such division and movement is climate change and mining is probably the most central industry to the debate.

Before we get into any sort of argument over the scientific, political or economic basis of climate change, lets take a step back provide some context to how climate change is beginning to sway public and external communications for mining companies.

Research conducted by EY in 2015 found that climate change is now under the radar by mining executives as risk priorities. Other topics in the same category were social licensing, access to water and rising regulations.

 Courtesy of EY, 2015

Courtesy of EY, 2015

Earlier this week, Rio Tinto, the third largest mining company in the world, released their positioning statement on the role the company plays in combating a warming and changing climate.

"We aim to be a part of the solution." Rio Tinto says in its statement. "At Rio Tinto, we recognise that climate change is occurring, and that it is largely caused by human activities."

Newmont Mining is also publicly sharing their strategy in climate change mitigation, but in somewhat of a different approach.

In the company's 2015 sustainability report, energy and climate change were key topics of information sharing. They are straight-forward in recognizing their operations require the very energy consumption contributing this phenomena, yet their operations will also be stricken by its outcomes in the long run.

"We recognize our role in addressing the global challenge of climate change. Our operations run on fossil fuels to extract and transport ore, and electricity to run large processing and milling facilities. The cost to meet our energy needs is around 20 percent of our total costs applicable to sales (CAS), and extreme climate-related events – such as drought, extreme storms and wildfires – present risks to our business."

Newmont provides an example of how the company is looking into developing alternative energy sources, such as natural gas and solar power generation, for their Tanami operation in Australia. Such projects will reduce the carbon emissions and footprint of the operation.

The Copper Alliance, a leading advocate for the copper industry and its producers, is also helping position the copper mining companies as key combatants of the global climate change crisis. Obviously, copper plays a critical role in electricity generation due to its high level of conductivity.

"Through significant capital investments, the copper producing industry has successfully reduced its CO2 emissions by cutting its unit energy consumption by 60% versus 1990. Copper producers are united in their dedication to continuing this effort and will report on their progress," the Alliance states.

Some Historical Messaging during Public Debates

Some of the best messaging in the world come from companies willing to stick their necks out during a social, political or environmental debate. But they do not just do so in the heat of the conversation just to take a position. Most great branding comes from data proving the direction of public sentiment on any given topic.

For example, this year's Budweiser commercial during the 2017 Super Bowl hit on the notes of how immigration helped form the company. Budweiser is now one of the largest and most profitable companies in the world.

So what is the public sentiment on this topic (in the United States)? Well, according to Pew, 62% surveyed said it is very or somewhat important to establish a way for most people here illegally to stay legally, while 61% say the same about taking in civilian refugees from countries where people are trying to escape violence and war. We can see by these numbers where sentiment value is heading and how Budweiser used its powerful brand to hit those similar tones.

In 2014, Chevy highlighted gay families in a commercial advertising their automobile, the Traverse. At the time, gay marriage and equality was at the height of its debate in America.

By the time this commercial aired during the Winter Olympics, 52% of U.S. adults were in favor of same-sex marriage.

What is the Public Sentiment on Climate Change?

A Pew Research project in 2015 showed 50% of those surveyed believed the world was warming due to human involvement, 23% believed the world was warming due to natural patterns and 25% believed their is now solid patterns of climate change. These numbers are somewhat non-definitive of the direction of sentiment.

However, what is most intriguing is the age demographics of those surveyed and how mining companies can be impacted without forward thinking, sustainable communications.

According to the study, a vast majority of people ages 18 - 49 view climate change as the doing of human activity. These are staggering numbers which any mining company considering sustainability and growth must not turn a blind eye to.

Clear Creek Digital believes that public trust is garnered through time and commitment of transparent information. Once we begin thinking about a mining company's brand, reputation and public sentiment, then we can begin structuring sustainable dialogue and public outreach. This is why climate change is so important to a company's communications efforts and social license. Public sentiment and the market demand it. Forget politicians in the climate change arena, for they may only improve your profitability. Only you can improve your brand and reputation.

To develop and implement strategic communication strategies around your mine operation and its climate impacts, reach out to us at Clear Creek Digital. We will bring a fresh perspective on why this topic is crucial to your operating budget and social license.