At Teck, we believe that a better world is possible through better mining, and that we have an important role to play in achieving both. This is at the very heart of our commitment to sustainability and responsible resource development.
Sustainability is incredibly important to Teck. It’s core to who we are as a company, and it’s deeply rooted in our company’s history. We were one of the first in our industry to set out a comprehensive sustainability strategy a decade ago with long-term targets to improve our performance. At the time, the goals we set were ambitious, and over the years, they’ve helped drive important progress.
Today, thanks to our employees’ hard work and commitment to sustainability, Teck is a world leader in responsible mining. In fact, we’re the top-ranked mining company by almost every major ratings agency: the Dow Jones Sustainability World Index, Sustainalytics, Vigeo Eiris, FTSE4Good and the Global 100 Most Sustainable Corporations list.
Increasing Expectations for Sustainability
But the world continues to change and the focus on sustainability challenges is always rising, which means we need to work hard to raise the bar and continually improve our sustainability performance. All around the world, we’re seeing increasing expectations from our communities, investors, governments and customers, which underscores the critical importance of work underway across Teck to ensure we stay well positioned – to meet those expectations for the future and to continue to provide materials that are essential to our world.
Recent years have also brought about a significant increase in the importance of environmental, social and governance (ESG) to the investment community. In fact, investment firm Morgan Stanley said recently that “ESG will be THE defining acronym over the next decade” for financial markets. While some may have considered ESG investing just a small niche before, today it’s very much mainstream, and an important focus for many investors.
As an example of this growing importance, consider the Principles for Responsible Investing, known as the PRI, which was founded in 2006 and represents investors committed to ESG. When launched, the PRI represented under $6 trillion in investments. Today, it represents more than $103 trillion. These are investors who care about issues like climate change, human rights and water scarcity. They’re seeking more ESG disclosure and looking for companies that go further to address sustainability concerns. And for companies looking to access capital to maintain and grow a business, ESG performance is now a major determining factor.
We’ve always known that sustainability success was directly linked to business success. The ESG investment trend only makes that connection even more apparent.
But it’s not just investors. We also know that expectations from communities and Indigenous Peoples have evolved. Citizens today are more connected to information, and to each other, than ever before. The spread and speed of information has increased demands for transparency, for fairness and well-being.
And, more recently, challenges like the COVID-19 pandemic have only accelerated the growing focus on social issues, as people have experienced the impacts first-hand and have further raised the bar in their expectations of companies to contribute to solutions.
We’ve also recently seen what can be accomplished with strong relationships between company and community. During the COVID-19 pandemic, offices and operations across Teck stepped up to help, providing much-needed donations, like medical equipment for frontline workers, food for struggling food banks and computers to help people with special needs stay connected.
This is a testament to the spirit of people across Teck, and a reminder of what we can accomplish when we remain focused on working with communities and Indigenous Peoples to understand what’s important to them, and to find a path to mutual understanding and benefits.
The Role of Mining
Meeting these rising expectations from communities, investors and other stakeholders is critical. We have to get it right. Not just for the success of our business, but for the world. Because the world today absolutely needs metals and minerals to grow, to advance, to accomplish important breakthroughs and to solve the most critical challenges.
Consider the global digital transformation. It’s made possible by data servers with miles of copper for wiring and power transmission, lithium for portable batteries, gold for connectors, and numerous rare earth minerals.
People talk a lot about “the Cloud”. But the fact is that the Cloud is made of metal. Our photos, videos and emails aren’t stored in the air. They’re firmly grounded in the products of the earth.
Or take, for example, the infrastructure and technologies required for the global transition to a low-carbon economy. Renewable power, electric cars, green infrastructure – it all requires mined material, and lots of it. Electric cars need four times more copper than gas-powered vehicles. A single solar panel requires 19 different mineral products and metals, including indium, copper and silver, and the average wind turbine requires up to 4 tonnes of copper and 260 tonnes of steel, which in turn requires 170 tonnes of steelmaking coal.
In short, the low-carbon future will be built on a backbone of metals and powered by mining.
And it’s not just the challenge of climate change that mining will help tackle. As the world continues to grapple with COVID-19, people are increasingly recognizing the role that copper’s natural antimicrobial properties can play in fighting transmission of viruses like COVID-19. Teck has already funded projects to install copper surfaces in healthcare facilities, including the Intensive Care Unit at Vancouver General Hospital. We’ve also recently partnered with Translink – Metro Vancouver’s public transit provider – as well as academia and healthcare organizations to test antimicrobial copper coatings on high-touch transit surfaces on buses and SkyTrain cars. Copper could see more widespread use to prevent the spread of infections in places such as on public transit and in hospitals, and to help to create more pandemic-resistant cities for the future.
Our Sustainability Strategy
But to do all this, we need to meet society’s expectations for responsible mining. Because at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what our ore reserves are, how much material we move or how well we do at reducing costs if we don’t have the support of communities, customers and other stakeholders. That’s why we’ve set a goal to be the world leader in sustainability in the mining and metals space. And key to that is our newly updated Sustainability Strategy.
Released in March 2020, our renewed strategy is the end result of over a year of extensive internal and external engagement, research and analysis. We not only identified the sustainability issues most material to our business and to our stakeholders, but also looked at where leading practice is today, and where it will be in the future.
We knew we had to be ambitious to set a real North Star for Teck for the long term. The strategy sets out short- and long-term goals under eight themes: Health and Safety; Communities and Indigenous Peoples; Climate Change; Our People; Responsible Production; Biodiversity and Reclamation; Tailings Management; and, of course, Water.
These build on all of the work and progress that has been made over the past decade. They also reflect vision and big ideas, like setting a target to become net carbon neutral by 2050. And we’re already making progress. Since announcing that goal, we’ve secured over 50% of anticipated electricity needs for our Quebrada Blanca Phase 2 copper project from renewable power, and in September 2020, we switched our Carmen de Andacollo operation to 100% renewable power.
Together, those two measures will eliminate about 1 million tonnes of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions annually. That’s equivalent to taking 210,000 vehicles off the road permanently, or continuously operating 216 wind power turbines, which is more than the largest wind power facility in Canada.
And we’re just getting started.
Our People as Innovators
Meeting our ultimate goals for carbon reduction and other areas won’t be easy. It will require ingenuity, creativity and courage. Luckily, those are qualities I’ve seen displayed by people across Teck time and time again. We’re seeing them in the COVID-19 pandemic, with innovators at our steelmaking coal operations finding ways to 3D-print personal protective equipment (PPE), and teams at Highland Valley Copper sourcing hand sanitizer from the local distillery.
We have also seen it with our work to improve water quality. There was a breakthrough made by teams to reduce the release of nitrate from blasting. They needed to find a way to efficiently place plastic liners into blastholes to keep the nitrate from seeping out. In order to build and test the liner mechanism, the team built a massive tower to test prototypes, and tested more than 20 systems before they got it right. That system is now helping to significantly reduce nitrate release, which may ultimately play a major role in the long-term solution for water quality in the Elk Valley.
It’s that type of courage – to propose new ideas and to innovate – that will make it possible to achieve our sustainability goals.
Doing What’s Right
The lingo, jargon and acronyms of sustainability can be hard to keep track of. But when you get right down to it, sustainability is pretty simple: it’s about doing what’s right – what’s right for people, for communities and for the planet. I think that’s why we’ve been able to set bold goals and build a strong reputation – because our people are dedicated to doing what’s right.
And no matter what point we’re at in the commodity price cycle, our commitment to sustainability remains constant. Because our values don’t change with market conditions.
Together, we’re ensuring that Teck continues to improve, to grow and to meet evolving expectations, so we can continue to provide the metal and mineral products the world needs in the most responsible way possible.
In the end, I know what kind of company I want to work for and to leave behind. A company that all employees – from Alaska to Canada to Chile – are proud to work for, and a company that they would also be proud for their children or grandchildren to work for.
At Teck, we’re fortunate to have an extraordinary team of women and men who work each day to do what’s right by our people, the planet and future generations. Thank you for your commitment to responsible resource development and to doing what’s right. Together, through better mining, we can help create a better world.
President and CEO