Many mining and metals companies already have existing programs implemented to track, mitigate and report on ESG and EH&S risks and performance. Where the opportunity lies is with digital. Technological advancements are enhancing our ability to mitigate risk, make decisions and allocate resources. As the industry moves further into the digital age, there are a number of existing and emerging technologies that the miners can leverage to improve their ESG and EH&S outcomes. We’ve already started to see some examples these initiatives emerge:
- Software enablement and advanced analytics: collect larger EHS data points to calculate better performance indicators to meet corporate and regulatory requirements, while anticipating and mitigating risks, and identifying opportunities to reduce incidents and improve productivity.
- Virtual reality: improve training effectiveness by providing organizations with a high-impact, scalable and efficient method to rapidly build the capabilities of workers — particularly those with less experience in high-risk environments.
- Drones and robotics: perform typically dirty and dangerous jobs by accessing areas that are difficult to reach, such as those collecting data from inaccessible areas of legacy mines for remediation efforts. This technology can also be used to significantly reduce time performing things such as large site scans or map areas of cultural heritage close to the mine.
These technologies and others are bringing positive impacts to ESG and EH&S management, including:
- Employee health and safety: dedicated software solutions, mobile applications and wearable technologies allowing for more effective EHS management to help improve the safety of staff.
- Risk identification and mitigation: improved, standardized and up to date risk assessment, implementation of more targeted risk mitigation measures, which can be tracked in real time via monitoring technologies.
- Impactful, targeted training: more accessible, digestible, specialized and interactive training for employees through digitization, which enables improved learning and support long term behavioral change.
- Data analytics: expanding the ways to collect data, the types of data that can be collected and the methods available for analysis, which feed better insights.
- Collaboration: improving the way employees interact with each other and with data, and better facilitates the reporting of lessons learned (such as near misses) and leading practices.
From the automation of processes to data collection and predictive analytics, mining and metals companies stand to experience a step change in ESG and EH&S performance — that is, if they grasp these digital opportunities effectively.
Digital effectiveness is, and remains to be, a challenge and a massive opportunity for the mining and metals industry. In fact, it’s listed in the top three of the EY Top 10 business risks and opportunities – 2020 report again this year. The application of technology has become business as usual for many miners, but there needs to be more forward movement from digital implementation to integration across the enterprise. There’s a real opportunity for companies to develop end-to-end digital approaches to unlock sustainable productivity and safety improvements — which, in turn, can lead to an enhanced license to operate and improved margins.
Here are a few steps mining and metals companies can take to successfully leverage digital technologies in end-to-end ESG processes to better understand and manage risks:
Assess the current state
Identify what problem needs to be solved and have a clear picture of what success looks like to make a tangible impact on the business. Companies also need to understand the people, systems and processes, so that they know where they stand and can prepare to set the roadmap to where they are going. Determining where you are involves more than just inventorying current systems; it requires performing a holistic assessment of the state of technology inside and outside the organization.
Align with the digital strategy
ESG or EH&S systems shouldn’t exist in isolation. They should align with or support the broader business goals defined in the overarching digital strategy. Any transformation project — including ESG and EH&S — requires continuous evaluation to address changes in the organization, corporate strategy, technology trends and the market in general.
Review pre-implementation readiness
Prepare a readiness assessment to address what’s needed to make the digital transition a success. This can provide insight into areas requiring additional alignment efforts, allowing the company to pre-empt issues and anticipate additional resources needed. For example, it’s unlikely that a company’s ESG or EH&S professionals are equipped with the proper digital capabilities. This may require new talent needed to navigate the transition or training programs to build the skills required to operate and optimize new digital platforms.
Address process alignment
Compare the current state against where it needs to be. Understanding the current state’s strengths and shortcomings presents the opportunity for operational alignment and allows the business to explore options that could alleviate current constraints and pain points. As business units become more aligned, it can help simplify implementation and upkeep of technology, and streamline resource deployment flexibility.
Capture the data
Take stock of the automated digital systems and solutions that support real-time, customizable and accurate data for informed decision-making. Colleting timely data on factor such as air quality, environmental impacts and local procurement can help companies to make more informed decisions on necessary improvement – and better communicate ESG and EH&S performance and actions to stakeholders.
Enable strong reporting and analytics
Develop an approach that supports simple and consistent reporting throughout the business. This will enable employees to take ownership and develop better insight into the company’s ESG and EH&S trends.
An organization that embraces and effectively uses digital technology will be equipped to make better, quicker and smarter decisions to achieve organizational objectives and improve ESG and EH&S performance. Many organizations already have the existing infrastructure and access to digital technologies — now it’s time to integrate. By gauging the health of existing systems, examining current business processes and identifying goals for the digital journey companies can make big strides to develop a strong ESG and EH&S culture to help improve performance and the bottom line.