In our report, a material topic is one that reflects our company’s significant economic, environmental and social impacts, or that could substantively influence the assessments and decisions of our stakeholders, per guidance from the Global Reporting Initiative.
The content of our annual sustainability reporting is determined through a detailed materiality assessment, which is a process for identifying and evaluating the topics that mattered most to our business and our communities of interest during the previous year and for the near-term future.
Our annual process for determining material topics follows a three-year cycle and involves three steps: identification, prioritization and validation. The first year involves intensive consultation and research to identify a full list of topics, which are analyzed by internal experts and external stakeholders and validated by our senior management team. Topics in the mining industry are typically consistent year over year, given the long-term nature of operations. As such, the second and third years build on the results from the first year, and the assessment is updated to reflect emerging issues.
In 2017, we conducted a comprehensive materiality assessment and began a new three-year cycle. During the identification phase, we conducted research on trends in our industry and evaluated internal strategy documents, including the five-year plans for each of our business units. We also mapped our impacts and the boundary of our material topics across the value chain with a cross-functional group of 16 internal experts. In this phase, we identified 26 potentially material topics.
During the prioritization phase, we conducted one-on-one interviews with 20 internal and external stakeholders and used more than 20 inputs such as industry reports, survey results and internal workshops to determine the most significant risks and opportunities facing our business and our communities of interest in the past year. During interviews with internal and external stakeholders, a range of topics were identified as most significant in terms of risks and opportunities in 2017. For internal stakeholders, the most significant topics were water management, relationships with communities, and business ethics. For external stakeholders, the topics that were considered most significant were energy and greenhouse gas emissions, biodiversity, and dialogue with communities. In this phase, 15 topics were identified as potentially meeting our threshold for reporting.
During the validation phase, we engaged several members of the senior management team, including the Senior Vice President, Sustainability and External Affairs, who reviewed and confirmed the matrix (Figure 7) as well as the consolidation of 15 topics into 11 topics to increase the readability of this report. We recognize that many of our material topics are interrelated; for example, a topic such as Relationships with Indigenous Peoples is connected to several other topics, such as Biodiversity and Reclamation, Water Stewardship and Human Rights. For the sake of clarity and ease of reference, we report on these topics individually, and where appropriate, we include a description of the interconnection that was significant in the reporting period.
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