January CSR Lunch Summary: Sustainable development at Vale, a Brazilian mining company

Michael TostHead of External Affairs, Europe & North America at Vale, delivered a very interesting presentation for our CSR Lunch on 29 January on how Vale links their core business to sustainable development.

Vale’s mission “to transform natural resources into prosperity and sustainable development” and vision “To be the number one global natural resources company in creating long term value, through excellence and passion for people and the planet”, shows how sustainability links to Vale’s core business. Vale’s values (Life matters most, Value our people, Prize our planet, Do what is right Improve together, Make it happen) guide how they do business.

Sustainability is presented as one of Vale’s strategic pillars, as there can only be sustainable development when companies and society work together, sharing the value generated with their stakeholders. “Development, as it is a journey”. You see this back in the following activities:

– Logistics: a big part of Vale’s operations is logistics. In Brazil they invest more in logistics than any other company. A sustainable development example; When started in Brazil 70 years ago, they built their own multi-purpose infrastructure (vs normally single purpose).

– Energy: as mining is energy intensive, Vale sees it as crucial input for the sustainability of their activities. They research & invest in renewable energy sources such as biodiesel, hydroelectric plants & wind power. They are also developing technologies to reduce energy consumption in their operations

– Environmental responsibility: Their operations in Carajás occupy less than 3% of the area and they protect and/or develop more than 230,000 km2 of natural areas (for an estimated intangible value of US$1.1 billion). The 97% of area Vale protects is above what is required by law (which is 80% in the Brazil Amazone).

– Climate change and energy: target is to reduce their projected 2020 overall greenhouse gas emissions by 5%. They have lowest emissions per gross unit of revenue among all mining companies.

Social Responsibility: As a mining company Vale believes you have a responsibility to build the communities. This means: 1) Consolidating relations of trust and mutual respect; 2) Mitigating the negative impacts and leveraging their positive impacts; 3) Being a local development catalyst.

2 Examples were given; the linkages program in Mozambique and Malawi, and the Inove Program.

People: As there is a lack of skill development in mining, Vale invests a lot, and partners with educational partners to educate all types of employees among the local population.

Health & Safety: Vale has many health & safety programs & standards, mostly stricter than the law, especially in the developing countries. However, they openly admit they’re not there yet.

An interesting discussion popped up with the example of the social investments in Mozambique, where the license to operate, even in collaboration with stakeholders, didn’t cover for the social license to operate, what to do to get accepted. Vale improved the situation and has now become a member of the EITI.

Closing, Vale is recognized as a very well respected mining company in Brazil by its communities. They’re well advancing on the sustainable journey, but also haven’t reached the destination yet.

By Sophie Wisbrun-Overakker, 2014-15 CAS-DAS CSR participant

Download the summary here