Most people probably don’t consider global mining companies the vanguard of sustainability. But global potash and phosphate fertilizer producer Mosaic Company has included sustainability targets as part of its strategic goals since 2015. And in the often-fuzzy world of defining environmental, social, and governance (ESG) metrics, the company’s broad definition and long-term approach to sustainability aim to do more than simply reduce its environmental footprint.
“The first thing when you think sustainability is the environment, and it’s absolutely the environment, but it comprises aspects related to our employees, the environment, society and our company,” says Natali Archibee, sustainability manager for Mosaic.
Alongside recently announced net-zero GHG targets, Mosaic laid out aggressive diversity and inclusion goals for its workforce, which play a vital role in its renewed efforts towards sustainability.
“We know that employees play a really critical role in achieving our progress and helping us drive innovation,” says Archibee. So, a significant emphasis has been placed on improving the diversity of the Mosaic workforce to reflect local demographics and making investments into the communities impacted by the mines’ operations.
“We’re trying to improve the diversity of our own workforce, and so that is different in Saskatchewan than it is in Florida than it is in Brazil,” says Archibee. “Each geography is responsible for establishing its own key performance indicators, and Saskatchewan will no doubt maintain an emphasis on First Nations and Métis communities.”
From procurement strategies to training and hiring, the company has impressive goals for diversifying its workforce, improving safety and wellbeing, and investing in the health of the communities that are home to their employees. Mosaic’s Indigenous engagement strategy, for example, includes 15 per cent of its new hires being Indigenous people.
To help achieve this goal, Mosaic recently partnered with Morris Interactive and Cowessess, Zagime Anishinabek, Kahkewistahaw and Ochapowace First Nations to create a potash mining pilot program in Saskatchewan. The pilot trained nine Indigenous students and aims to provide “equitable access to jobs, training, and education opportunities.”
“We define sustainability as the sum of things that will help us maintain our business in the long run,” says Archibee. “If you think about the diversity of your workforce, the wellness of that workforce, the engagement of the workforce, all those things can have measurable impacts on your business. And so, it just makes sense for us.”
Global management consultant and think-tank, McKinsey Global Institute recently released a report that claims “ESG-oriented investing has experienced a meteoric rise” and today “tops $30 trillion.” The sheer volume of investment “suggests that ESG is much more than a fad or a feel-good exercise.” And, while consumer, social, and governmental attention to the “broader impact of corporations,” is clearly a factor, there is also a growing number of investors and executives who “realize that a strong ESG proposition can safeguard a company’s long-term success.”
What that means is a focus on ESG improves business performance. Besides the obvious risk factors of being targeted by higher insurance, or not being able to secure insurance at all, and restricted access to investment capital, the fact is that a strong sustainability strategy is now considered an indicator of a profitable business model. At the heart of a profitable and sustainable business model is a diverse and vibrant workforce.
Since setting early targets in 2015, Mosaic’s operations in Saskatchewan have played an important role in helping the company achieve its sustainability goals, and they continue to be vital contributors to the company’s progress towards sustainability.
“Our three potash mines in Saskatchewan were early and significant contributors to our sustainability progress,” says Archibee. “We first announced a set of targets in 2015 that revolved around our water energy and greenhouse gas emissions performance. Those expired in 2020 and were replaced by a new set of targets. Those three sites were really instrumental in helping us achieve those targets and they’re making significant contributions to the target set we’re working toward today.”
To reach those targets, which include net-zero greenhouse gas emissions ambitions, the company is leveraging its significant landholdings and working through its entire supply chain, even the end-user farmer, to reduce its environmental impact. And, taking a broader perspective, Archibee suggests fertilizers are critical to sustainably feeding a growing population in a world that adds close to a million new people each week.
“I don’t think it’s a mystery that food security is a pressing global issue, particularly in light of some of the conflicts happening in Europe,” says Archibee. “To reach those targets, which include net-zero greenhouse gas emissions ambitions, the company is leveraging its significant landholdings and working through its entire supply chain, even the end-user farmer, to reduce its environmental impact.”