Currently viewing Global edition

Bristow on the overlooked part of 'E' in ESG

Barrick Gold was quick to highlight its focus on ESG in its 2020 annual report released last week, although president and CEO Mark Bristow drew attention to an aspect he believed was overlooked and possibly the biggest problem facing mankind.
Bristow on the overlooked part of 'E' in ESG Bristow on the overlooked part of 'E' in ESG Bristow on the overlooked part of 'E' in ESG Bristow on the overlooked part of 'E' in ESG Bristow on the overlooked part of 'E' in ESG

ESG was prominent in Barrick Gold’s latest annual report

Staff reporter

"The E in ESG has been receiving much of the attention lately but I would argue that its social dimension is as important," he said.

"I am particularly concerned that the issue of poverty — perhaps the greatest problem facing mankind - is not more prominently on the agenda.

"The world's poorest people live in its poorest countries and easing their lot will require a global and not just a local response."

Barrick said the COVID-19 pandemic was likely to push more people below the poverty line and cited the World Bank's estimate of this figure being as many as 100 million people worldwide.

The Canada-based miner said on top of additional COVID-related support this year, its locally-led community development programmes had provided US$26.5 million of support in 2020, with initiatives including providing 4,000 residents of Las Flores in Argentina with clean drinking water.

Another B

Barrick scored itself a B on its sustainability scorecard in 2020, unchanged from its 2019 result.

"Although our group safety frequency rates have significantly improved year-over-year, we received a bottom quintile score of 5 for our TRIFR performance due to the unfortunate fatality at Kibali in November 2020," it said.

"Thus, despite improvement across most of our Sustainability Scorecard indicators, we believe a B grade for 2020 is fair, as it is our absolute belief that one fatality is one too many."

The company said it published the scorecard last year in an industry first, to demonstrate how it benchmarked itself against peers.

It said unlike the increasing number of third-party providers selling ESG scores and ratings, it did not believe measurement was "simply a case of churning generic data points through a scoring algorithm to spit out a ranking".

"We believe it is about transparent and consistent monitoring of those material indicators that help our operations to make better decisions, de-risk projects, discover new opportunities and deliver real value for our business," it said.

The "daunting matrix" of various international regulations on ESG (environmental, social and governance) was almost drowning the mining sector, PDAC 2021 heard earlier this month, with Satarla CEO Sarah Gordon saying miners should focus where it mattered: on the ground. 

Despite the challenges posed by COVID-19, Barrick said it had met all its key performance indicators in 2020 and made "significant progress" towards achieving its key objectives.

It expected to publish its 2020 sustainability report in April.

Barrick shares are trading towards the lower end of a one-year range, closing up 0.2% on Friday in Toronto to C$26.17 to value it at C$46.5 billion (US$37.2 billion).