With the global economy now resolutely focused on the threat of climate change, businesses of all stripes are now under pressure to clean up their act.
This year has seen a resurgence in climate-focused investor action against listed companies, as shareholders seek assurances that firms are doing “the right thing” with their money.
Nowhere is this more true than in the commodities sector, where disasters like Rio Tinto’s destruction of a sacred cave system in Australia has added even more pressure to an industry which is constantly in the crosshairs.
But for firms looking to convince investors that their operations fulfil ESG criteria, there can be a dizzying array of different standards and requirements to attend to.
That’s where Digbee, the brainchild of 30-year mining finance professional Jamie Strauss, comes in.
“The main problem with regards to ESG generally is the confusion, because there are so many standards, particularly in the mining sector”, he told City A.M..
“So now we’ve got to rightsize and provide a set of frameworks that the industry can embrace, so that firms can disclose their ESG credentials in a clear and simple way which allows capital markets and anybody else to credibly track them going forward.”
The platform consolidates the 40-plus sets of standards that mining firms can choose to use into a set of frameworks that align with global core standards.
This allows firms to standardise their commitments, which can then be freely accessed by investors keen to keep track of companies’ environmental efforts.
Thus far, Digbee has been endorsed by Blackrock, the world’s largest investment manager, and Orion, one of the biggest players in the mining sector.
And Strauss is backed up by an ESG advisory panel comprising a number of industry heavyweights, such as Tom Butler, former chief executive of the International Council on Mining & Metals, and Elaine Dorward King, former executive vice president for sustainability at Newmont, the world’s largest gold miner.
Speaking from Cornwall, where he has been presenting the platform at the commercial segment of the G7 summit, Strauss said that the new pressure from investors had made firms realise they had to firm up their ESG efforts.
“Capital markets are talking”, he said. “They’re the ones saying over the course of the next year to two years, if you want money from us, you need to disclose your ESG credentials. Digbee gives firms the ability to embrace, engage and change.”
A number of mining firms, such as Adriatic Minerals and Tungsten West, are already using the platform.
However, many still question how much an industry that extracts minerals from the ground can really change.
But Strauss is adamant that the transition away from fossil fuels and to a net zero economy simply won’t be possible without it.
“Without mining, there are no wind turbines, there’s no solar, there’s no batteries. There’s nothing and mankind goes back”, he said.
But he acknowledges that there is still a long way for the industry to go. But now, he adds, they know what they have to do.
“Ironically, I think the Rio Tinto disaster last year was the day when the industry changed positively; everyone woke up to the reality of what was now needed, anything less just won’t be tolerated by capital markets and society.
“I think we have a new breed of mining companies that want to embrace ESG and want to engage with ESG to prove that they are better and above their peers and who want to show that they are a sustainable business.”