The mining industry, which has a significant role to play in contributing to and achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), is falling short, according to a new report by the Responsible Mining Foundation and Columbia Centeron Sustainable Investment, titled 'Mining and the SDGs – a 2020 Status Update'.
While most of the world’s largest mining companies now mention the SDGs in their sustainability reporting, with a few frontrunners having integrated the SDGs into their business strategies, the report indicates that most SDG-related reporting by mining companies is “purely cosmetic” and that there is little public reporting of firms’ negative impacts on progress towards meeting the SDGs.
The report also states that “there is a real risk of companies being accused of ‘SDG-washing’ while reporting remains unbalanced”, and when looking for evidence of companies taking practical actions to help deliver the goals, the results are mixed.
The report's findings are based on the Responsible Mining Foundation’s 'RMI Report 2020', which assesses the policies and practices of 38 large-scale mining companies around the world.
It found that there are some examples of good practice within the sector, with relatively widespread action on SDG 4 (Quality Education) and SDG 17 (Partnerships for the Goals).
However, the report also found that no one company is taking strong action to address all 17 goals, and the sector’s action on four goals in particular – SDG 3 (Good Health and Wellbeing), SDG 5 (Gender Equality), SDG 6 (Clean Water and Sanitation) and SDG 14 (Life Below Water) – is especially weak.
There are also “multiple and striking” mismatches between companies’ rhetoric and action, it notes.
The report found, for example, that SDG 3 and SDG 6 are two of the goals that many firms claim to be prioritising, yet they also account for some of the weakest levels of action.
“Working towards the SDGs is about more than doing the right thing: there is a strong and well-established business case for companies to integrate the goals into their business strategies,” the statement says, noting that, as the report states, mining companies that embed the SDGs into their core operations will strengthen their ability to meet future challenges – and will build trust among all stakeholders, including an investment community increasingly concerned about sustainability matters.