Rio Tinto’s announcement that it would introduce disclosure and governance oversight measures to rebuild trust with Traditional Owners, following the destruction at Juukan Gorge, has been welcomed by a group of investors who had engaged with the firm.
Superannuation fund HESTA, which led the engagement, said it was pleasing that discussions with Rio Tinto had led to progress towards managing this financial risk for investors.
HESTA chief executive, Debby Blakey, said: “The steps the company has agreed to will support broader improvements in practices, disclosure and oversight urgently needed across the mining sector.
“Rio is at the start of a very long process of rebuilding trust. It will require long-term commitment to deep-seated cultural change and strong frameworks and processes in place to support genuine, open and ongoing partnership with Indigenous communities, no matter who is in management or board roles.
“We will continue to consult with Indigenous communities and organisations to understand how investors can support the mining sector to build long-term, sustainable community partnerships grounded in recognition and respect.”
The investor group consisted of Australian Council of Superannuation Investors, AustralianSuper, Aviva Investors, Aware Super, Brunel Pension Partnership, CareSuper, Catholic Superannuation Fund, Cbus, Council of Ethics of the Swedish National Pension Funds, EOS at Federated Hermes, Equipsuper, HESTA, IFM Investors, Local Government Super, LUCRF Super, M&G Investments, Telstra Super, UniSuper, USS Investment Management, Victorian Funds Management Corporation, and Vision Super.
Federated Hermes stewardship team, EOS, mining lead Andy Jones said disclosure would better include the voice of affected communities.
“It is vital for stakeholders to have trust in the company’s approach and actions. This is a great opportunity for the company to use hard lessons learned over the past year to set a higher benchmark for company reporting on social impact and community relations,” he said.
Rio’s disclosure included:
- Ongoing progress against Rio’s own commitments and internal work-streams, external obligations and recommendations;
- How Traditional Owners’ views are being sought and considered in shaping these commitments and Traditional Owners perspectives on how successfully these commitments are being met;
- The enhanced governance arrangements in place to oversee the company’s progress against these actions; and
- How the company is working to advocate for enhanced sector-wide cultural heritage management and how this is consistent with our internal standards.