The Global Industry Standard on Tailings Management was launched today to establish the first global standard on tailings management to ensure improved safety in the mining industry.

The standard was developed through an independent process – the Global Tailings Review (GTR) –which was co-convened in March 2019 by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI) and International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM) following the tragic tailings facility collapse at Brumadinho in Brazil, on 25 January 2019.

GTR announced at the end of June its intention to launch the standard, confirming that it would establish “much needed robust requirements for the safer management of both existing and new tailings facilities globally”.

Strengthening current practices in the mining industry by integrating social, environmental, local economic and technical considerations, the tailings management standard covers the entire tailings facility lifecycle – from site selection, design and construction, through management and monitoring, to closure and post-closure.

GTR said in a statement the standard “establishes clear expectations around global transparency and disclosure requirements, helping to improve understanding by interested stakeholders”.

The co-conveners have each endorsed it and call for its broad and effective implementation across the industry:

  • UNEP will support governments that wish to incorporate and build upon this Standard into their national or state legislation and policies.
  • PRI, representing $103.4trn (€86.7trn) in assets under management, will develop investor expectations to support all mining companies in implementing the standard.
  • ICMM member companies will implement the standard as a commitment of membership.

Bruno Oberle, chair of the GTR, said: “It is my hope that the standard will be supported by an independent body that can maintain the quality and further refine and strengthen the standard over time.”

Scottish Widows invests £2bn in BlackRock’s new climate transition fund

Insurance and pensions provider Scottish Widows has become the first investor in BlackRock’s newly launched Authorised Contractual Scheme (ACS) Climate Transition World Equity Fund.

The investor is initially allocating £2bn (€2.2bn) of its pension portfolios into the fund, which it also helped to design.

Climate transition is a new data-driven investment approach developed by BlackRock that measures a company’s exposure and management to transition risks and opportunities.

It seeks to provide investors with a broad market approach to invest in the transition to a low carbon economy, the asset manager stated.

Philipp Hildebrand, vice chair of BlackRock, said: “The world is undergoing a rapid transition to a low-carbon economy. This transition — driven by climate change, technological innovation, consumer preference and regulatory and policy development — is going to create winners and losers, and investors need to be prepared.”

The fund offers portfolio diversification by providing exposure to companies across sectors, regions, and business maturities. “The transition to a low carbon economy won’t just affect oil and gas companies, but rather all sectors – including hospitality, transportation, and healthcare,” BlackRock said.

Scottish Widows recently launched a Responsible Investment and Stewardship Framework that outlines how it will make decisions on asset allocation, fund manager selection, fund research, and engagement activity.

Its commitment to responsible investment is fully supported by its parent company, Lloyds Banking Group, which in January 2020 set an ambitious goal to accelerate working with customers, government and the market to help reduce the carbon emissions they finance by more than 50% by 2030.

Companies operating in Gulf nations urged to protect workers from debt, slavery

A group of institutional investors with more than $3trn (€2.5trn) in assets under management – led by CCLA and supported by investors including Aviva Investors, Schroders and M&G – has written to 54 companies, including those with business operations in Gulf nations, to request details about their approach to safeguarding migrant workers.

This follows concerns about workers’ welfare, particularly relating to recruitment practices which may result in debt bondage, as well as the retention of their passports, it said.

The investors are responding to recent reports that have identified how migrant workers in Gulf nations, recruited and employed through labour outsourcing agencies, are coerced into paying large fees to agents and third parties as part of the recruitment processes for roles in major international companies.

The payment of recruitment fees, often only made possible by taking out excessive loans at high interest rates or by signing over assets and property, can mean that workers are left in a position of ‘debt bondage’, and thus are at high risk of forced labour and modern-day slavery, the group said.

“The global Covid-19 pandemic has resulted in many migrant workers’ roles being revoked or in workers losing their jobs. This has left many facing substantial debts that they will likely find impossible to repay and the prospect of rising rates of suicide and other social harms,” the group said in a statement.

Focused on high-risk sectors such as hospitality, construction, and oil and gas, the investor letter noted that, due to the complicated nature of migrant worker recruitment supply chains and layers of labour outsourcing, many end-user companies may be unaware of these risks that impact upon the migrant workers who work in their operations.

Therefore, the letter asked companies that use any labour outsourcing companies or migrant workers within their operations in the Gulf states for information on how they work with these agencies.

The letter also asked for details about the policies and processes in place to identify, reimburse and provide other forms of remedy to migrant workers who have been impacted by recruitment fees and/or passport retention.

Peter Hugh Smith, CCLA’s chief executive officer, said: “The International Labour Organisation regards the payment of recruitment fees and costs as a significant indicator of forced labour with debt bondage estimated to be a factor in over half of the 25 million cases of forced labour worldwide.”

faith ward, chief responsible investment officer, brunel pension partnership ltd

Faith Ward, chief responsible investment officer at Brunel Pension Partnership

He said that as investors, the group has a moral duty to ensure that “we are not profiting from modern slavery in any shape or form”.

Faith Ward, chief responsible investment officer at Brunel Pension Partnership, added: “Whilst investors are increasingly interested in the impact of environmental, social and governance factors on the financial performance of companies we have to make sure that we are also delivering real world, positive, change. I hope that this letter encourages companies to investigate their labour supply chain and provide strong safeguards for migrant workers”

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