Engagement in action - abrdn collaborates with mining companies to improve working standards

02 February 2023

abrdn has engaged with some of its largest mining holdings following incidents of unacceptable work place behaviours in the sector, including sexual harassment and assault. It has produced a statement with recommendations to ensure the wellbeing of employees which has been endorsed by both the International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM) and several mining companies, including the CEO’s of some of the world’s largest miners.

The statement reflects the positive steps we have seen as part of our engagement to address workplace issues and recommends for further action that companies should consider to bolster these efforts. These include the expansion of established health and safety mechanisms, including governance oversight, plus links to remuneration and monitoring and reporting to assure the psychological wellbeing of employees.

The mining industry is central to the economy of many countries, global growth and the transition to a low carbon economy. However, the sector is often criticised for its social impacts. More recently, criticism has been centred on unacceptable workplace behaviours, illustrated by incidence of sexual harassment and assault in Australia and elsewhere in the world.

We recognise the challenge and complexities of this debate, however, in our view, constructive dialogue and engagement with the mining industry offers the best opportunity to support safer workplaces and a just energy transition.

From an investment perspective, performance that fails to meet stakeholder expectations can lead to operational disruption and reputational damage that can negatively affect investor sentiment and asset values.

This, combined with concerns about environmental degradation, have led some investors to exclude or divest from all mining companies in the name of sustainability. While this is understandable, this approach overlooks the fact that our future – which depends on renewable energy, mobility, sustainable cities and a zero-carbon economy – relies on the availability of metals and minerals.

Andrew Mason, head of active ownership, abrdn said:

“Our key conclusion is that mining companies should use all the tools they have available to them – governance, performance incentives, oversight, monitoring and reporting – to improve workplace behaviour, diversity, equity and inclusion, and apply the same rigour of existing health and safety regimes to psychological safety.

“Our key conclusion is that mining companies should use all the tools they have available to them – governance, performance incentives, oversight, monitoring and reporting – to improve workplace behaviour, diversity, equity and inclusion, and apply the same rigour of existing health and safety regimes to psychological safety.

There are so many ways that mining companies can become much more responsible towards the environment and to the people involved in every aspect of the industry. It is up to us as active stewards to help these companies on the path to self-improvement.

Supporting Organisations

International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM)

“Discrimination, harassment, and assault of any kind have no place in the mining industry or anywhere else in society. We recognise that the change starts with us and updating ICMM’s Mining Principles in 2022 was an important step. We welcome investor support for the actions we are taking and the work yet to be done to build psychologically safe and truly diverse, equitable and inclusive workplaces in the mining industry.”

Rohitesh Dhawan, President & CEO, ICMM

Anglo American

“Anglo American has had ongoing engagement with abrdn and is supportive of its recommendations. We have been implementing changes in recent years to help ensure that our workplace culture protects and supports employees’ psychological wellbeing.”

Anik Michaud, Group Director – Corporate Relations and Sustainable Impact, Anglo American

AngloGold Ashanti

“AngloGold Ashanti fully supports abrdn’s Statement on “Employee Wellbeing in the Mining Industry”. Our company is committed to ensuring that every office, every operating site and every exploration property is safe, respectful and inclusive for everyone who works there. This means zero tolerance for discrimination, harassment, and other inappropriate, disrespectful and harmful behaviours. Working in a safe environment is a basic human right and we will not hesitate to protect that right.”

Alberto Calderon, CEO, AngloGold Ashanti Ltd.


“We are making strong progress on creating a safe, inclusive and respectful culture, knowing this will support high performance. We welcome abrdn’s initiative to engage and to support an industry wide approach to workplace culture where we, and our colleagues, can further enhance the wellbeing of our people. We are wholly committed to eliminating unwelcome behaviours at BHP including sexual harassment, bullying and racism. Everyone who comes to our sites has the right to thrive.”

Mike Henry, CEO, BHP


“At Codelco, both safety and employee’s wellbeing are a guiding principle of our internal and external relations. We strongly support initiatives towards better work environments that target discrimination and harassment prevention, as well as nurturing a positive climate and culture within our corporation.”

Mary Carmen Llano, VP Human Resources, Codelco.

Gold Fields

“Gold Fields welcomes and supports arbdn’s call for closer engagement between investors and mining companies on how the industry can build safer, more inclusive workplaces that protect our people from all forms of harm. As part of our own journey in this area, we have broadened our definition of Safety and Zero Harm to ensure we protect our people from emotional and psychological harm, harassment of any form, bullying in addition to keeping them physically safe. The elimination of harmful behaviours such as bullying, harassment and discrimination is an important part of our ongoing work to foster a culture of deeper care and respect across our business.”

Martin Preece, Interim CEO, Gold Fields

OZ Minerals

“OZ Minerals has had ongoing engagement with abrdn and welcome their interest in human rights and workplace culture. We are committed to ensuring our work environment is physically and psychologically safe with zero tolerance for harassment, bullying and discrimination in all its forms. We continue to focus on building a culture of care and respect where both physical and psychosocial risks are proactively assessed and addressed.”

Fiona Blakely, People Executive Lead, OZ Minerals

Rio Tinto

“In 2021, we commissioned a comprehensive, external review of our workplace culture, with more than 10,000 of our employees sharing their experiences, insights and views. We published the results of this review in full in February 2022, which included deeply disturbing findings. By implementing the appropriate actions to address the 26 recommendations, and with the management team’s commitment to a safe, respectful and inclusive Rio Tinto, we are creating an open and transparent environment which will make positive and lasting change and strengthen our workplace culture for the long term.”

Jakob Stausholm, Chief Executive, Rio Tinto


“South32 commends abrdn’s efforts to encourage engagement between investors and mining companies on the common goal of improving workplace culture and psychological safety.

We support the Statement on Employee Wellbeing in the Mining Industry. We recognise the importance of creating workplaces that are both physically and psychologically safe, together with enhancing inclusion and diversity across our workplace. Our internal inclusion and diversity standard sets out our minimum inclusion and diversity requirements across all elements of people management, to help our people feel included and respected at all times.

The most important commitment we make is that everyone goes home safe and well. Safe from physical harm, but also from harassment, sexual harassment, bullying, discrimination or victimisation of any kind.”

Graham Kerr, CEO, South32


“Vale has had ongoing engagement with abrdn and is supportive of their initiative. Vale is attentive and sensitive to the issues of harassment, racism, and discrimination, acting with rigor and based on our Code of Conduct and internal policies, such as our Human Rights and our Diversity and Inclusion policies. Any behaviour that violates the rights or that puts the physical and/or mental health of our employees at risk, or contravenes our Code of Conduct, is taken with the utmost seriousness and dealt with in a timely manner, with consequence management, all parties involved. In addition, we always guarantee data protection and compliance with local legislation.”

Eduardo Bartolomeo, CEO, Vale