Interoperability in the metals, mineral and mining sectors

May 22, 2018
ISEAL Alliance
São Paulo, Brazil

This year, the Global Sustainability Standards Conference – hosted by the ISEAL Alliance – took place in São Paulo, Brazil, from 22-24 May.

On the 21st of May, Bettercoal participated in a pre-conference workshop which was part of a project between the German International Development Agency (GIZ) and the ISEAL Alliance to examine the metal, mineral and mining sustainability standards’ potential for collaboration, referred to as interoperability.

The metals, mineral and mining sectors are a highly diverse collection of industries with different supply and demand dynamics operating in a world of finite resources and increasing complexity. As a response to this, an equally diverse range of sustainability standards have emerged. To some stakeholders, this has raised concerns about duplication of efforts and voiced the need for combined effectiveness. As part of the research project, a literature review, interviews and surveys were conducted with a range of metals, minerals and mining initiatives, including Bettercoal.

The initial findings and recommendations were shared during the one-day workshop in São Paulo. Lessons learned from other sectors were also presented and discussed. Although there has been an assumption that the mining and metals sector has been slower to adopt interoperability practices than for example the agricultural or forestry sectors, the research showed that the opposite is in fact true. Many standards organisations are working collaboratively with related initiatives and have systems in place to cross-recognise equivalent standards and certifications and harmonise their audit programs. Bettercoal is currently finalising the new Assessment Manual which includes details and guidance on how existing certification of Bettercoal Suppliers will be recognised in the Assessment Process.

Although collaboration cannot be forced between stakeholders, the research showed that interoperability of sustainability initiatives has the potential to reduce costs and amplify the reach and outcomes achieved by individual initiatives. Bettercoal looks forward to continuing collaborating with related initiatives in the energy and mining space to share insights, harmonise and benchmark programs and identify further collaboration opportunities where possible.

An applied research project also looking into the interoperability of sustainability initiatives relevant to mining and metals supply chains was undertaken in 2017 by the Centre for Social Responsibility in Mining (CSRM) at the University of Queensland and funded by the German International Development Agency (GIZ). The report can be found here.

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