Rio Tinto CEO, Jean-Sébastien Jacques has joined leaders from more than 30 major Australian businesses in signing a public statement of support for the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The SDGs lay out an ambitious path to end extreme poverty, fight inequality and injustice, and protect our planet over the next 15 years. These 17 global goals have been agreed by all 193 UN member states and came into effect on 1 January 2016.
Risk and opportunity
The signatories to the CEO Statement of Support represent companies from a range of industries, all with a strong presence in Australia, including EY, IKEA Australia and Telstra.
“While governments hold primary responsibility for the SDGs, the private sector is indispensable to achieving the goals,” said Alice Cope, executive manager of the Global Compact Network Australia (GCNA). GCNA is the Australian business-led network of the UN Global Compact, the world’s largest corporate sustainability initiative, and led the development of the CEO Statement. Rio Tinto is a founding member of the GCNA and will participate in its inaugural multi-stakeholder SDG summit in Sydney today.
“The SDGs provide a framework for both risk management and opportunity,” she added. “Businesses that are able to offer solutions to the local and global sustainability challenges represented by the goals will build resilience, find new markets and position themselves competitively for the future.”
Catalyst for collaboration
In their shared statement, the leaders acknowledge the role that business must play in achieving the SDGs globally - through running responsible operations, and through investment, innovation and collaboration: “Through our participation in the UN Global Compact and the incorporation of the SDGs into our strategies, we will continue to invest in these priority areas and work together with governments, civil society, academia, and other businesses to realise the opportunities the SDGs offer to all.”
Jean-Sébastien Jacques said that "The SDGs provide an important framework that helps us show how our work with communities and other stakeholders produces tangible long-term benefits on the ground. Making a meaningful contribution to the communities where we work is vital to maintaining our licence to operate,” he added. “Strong partnerships are also key and the SDGs can be a catalyst for more effective collaboration between business, government and communities around sustainable development.”
Towards the SDGs
Rio Tinto is already contributing to the SDG agenda in many ways. SDG 8, for instance, is to “Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all”. The mining industry plays an important role in supporting this goal, by providing employment and economic development opportunities.
In Cape York, Queensland, for instance, 24 per cent of the workforce at Rio Tinto’s bauxite mining operations are Indigenous employees. The Amrun Project, currently under construction, has developed a Local and Indigenous Participation Strategy to identify business and employment opportunities to develop economic development and job creation in this remote region.
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