Social and environmental responsibility


Businesses help society to prosper. They do so by providing goods and services that consumers want. Businesses also contribute to the well-being of society. They provide jobs and incomes, they innovate and build the skills of their employees and pay taxes to support government spending. They provide returns to shareholders and shareholder funds that generate incomes for pensioners.

Anglo American is one of the largest British-based international businesses and is one of the 20 largest companies on the London Stock Exchange. Chiefly through Tarmac, it employs nearly 8,000 people in the UK. It is also one of the world's largest mining companies. It has managed operations in over 40 countries and employs over 100,000 people worldwide.

Anglo American diagram

Anglo American produces five main materials and also owns a 45% non-managing stake in diamond leader, De Beers.

Most of Anglo American's work is in primary industry. Primary industry is the first stage of industrial activity. For Anglo American this mainly means extracting materials from the ground through mining and quarrying. To produce metals like copper or platinum it then processes the ore.

These materials turn into manufactured goods at the secondary stage of production. For example, coal and iron become steel at a steel works. Finished steel goes into many industrial products. These include steel for ships' hulls, car bodies, bridges or buildings.

Sustainable developments

Anglo American seeks to contribute to sustainable development through being socially and environmentally responsible. It achieves this through high performance in five overlapping areas.

 Sustainable development

Sustainable development is ´passing on to future generations a stock of 'capital' that is at least as great as the one our generation inherited´.

Sustainable development is based on respect for:

  • one another, everyone who shares our planet
  • future generations (what is called 'inter-generational equity'), as well as the existing one
  • for nature itself for plants, animals and all life forms.

Exploitation of natural resources is essential for economic growth. For many poorer, developing countries, the development of these resources is the only means of attracting foreign investment and wider development. This in turn helps to fight poverty.  We all use natural resources. For example in:

  • heating our homes
  • travelling to work or school
  • leisure activities (e.g. gym equipment has metal components).

Anglo American is a major provider of raw materials. To support sustainability, it must try to balance using 'natural' capital, such as iron ore, with activities that enhance skills, opportunities, health and education for local people. These may benefit them directly through community projects or indirectly through paying taxes and royalties.

Sustainable development priniciples

Anglo American has created a set of sustainable development principles that underpin the way it seeks to do business. These are to:

  • be ethical, efficient and create value for its stakeholders
  • create meaningful employment in safe, healthy environments
  • reduce its environmental footprintand contribute to biodiversity
  • increase innovation, technologyand process improvement
  • contribute towards building more adaptable societies in the communities where it operates.

Sustainability programmes

The following examples illustrate how these principles work in practice.

Anglo American places a strong emphasis on Safety and Health. The mining industry has major safety challenges, including a substantial number of fatalities. Anglo American is seeking to address these through creating a 'zero mindset'. This means that the total elimination of accidents and injury is the goal. There is a supporting principle of 'zero repeats'. If an accident occurs, it should never happen again. All employees are expected to follow these rules. They are simple and non-negotiable standards.

Anglo American works in a number of countries where water is scarce, including Chile, Australia and South Africa. The Emalahleni water treatment plant in South Africa purifies waste water from coal mines into drinking water for use by the Emalahleni community. At the Kleinkopje colliery in South Africa water from mining activity is treated and used for farming projects such as growing beans. In the UK, Tarmac avoids using water from drinkable sources. Instead, it uses water resulting from industrial processes wherever possible.

It is important to note that Anglo American works in partnership to achieve many of its projects. This means it works with both governments and private companies, and with community groups or international donors to ensure that the capacities and networks of local communities are enhanced.

In South Africa Anglo American has the largest directly delivered workplace HIV/AIDS treatment programmes in the world. It took the lead in providing medical help for its HIV employees at a time when the government was not prepared to provide life-saving drugs. It provides free drugs to about 4,500 employees as well as extensive community prevention and treatment programmes.

Anglo American sees technology transfer and capacity building as significant elements in helping local communities to grow economically. In Venezuela, it has created experimental farms for the transfer of horticultural and agricultural knowledge. In Chile, it has worked with goat farmers and beekeepers to improve techniques and product marketing. In South Africa and Chile, the company's programmes generate new small businesses through supply chain opportunities, training, mentoring and access to finance.

 Anglo American and sustainable development

Socio-economic development zone

Anglo American reviews how it operates in a sustainable way in a number of areas.

1. Anglo American carries out its mining with a concern to:

  • minimise noise and other types of pollution
  • minimise harm to the landscape after mining has been completed
  • seek to improve the skills and opportunities available to local people.

2. Anglo American is active in many conservation projects. These developments surround all of its plants. At Tarmac's Langford Quarry in the UK, the company has created reed beds in streams and ponds surrounding the quarry. Reed beds are an endangered habitat in this country. Members of the local community worked with Tarmac to plant the first 10,000 reeds. Anglo American seeks to contribute financially to local communities where it operates.

3. The company believes that mining should become a catalyst for wider development. Anglo American takes part in a range of such projects, including helping to generate new small businesses. These help local farmers and businesses to prosper. It contributes to health education and schooling programmes too. These take place within the communities in which it works.

Anglo American was named as the mining sector leader for 2005 in the Dow Jones Sustainability Index. This index was launched in 1999 to track the financial performance of the leading sustainability-driven companies worldwide. Anglo American also won the Business in the Community International Award in 2005. This was for its contribution to the Millennium Development Goals in Africa.

 The pressure for social and environmental responsibility

Pressure for social and environmental responsibility comes from two main sources:

  • internal to the business
  • external to the business.

Internal pressures

Internal pressures are the most important ones in driving change. The decision-makers in Anglo American ensure it works towards sustainability. The Board of Directors has identified key strategic issues for the business. These include:

The Board establishes the key principles for using resources in the most efficient way. The business must work closely with local communities. It must also minimise the impact of its operations on the environment. Anglo American has created a series of policies and plans that put principles into action.

Shareholders are the owners of Anglo American and want the business to do well long-term. They recognise that stability, prosperity and community confidence are important in sustaining the business. These factors help to persuade other communities that mining can be compatible with a decent environment and social progress.

Another internal pressure comes from the company's need to recruit talented new staff and retain valued employees. Anglo American aims to attract and retain the services of the most appropriately skilled individuals. It relies on the skills, enthusiasm and commitment of its people to meet the needs of the business and to fulfill its aims and objectives. By showing it behaves responsibly with regard to the environment and the communities it works in, it can attract the widest range of people to the organisation.

External pressures

External pressures are also important. For example, legislation plays a part. The UK Parliament provides minimum standards for areas such as the treatment of workers, the environment and customers. Because they have an international reputation to protect, major multinational companies will generally seek to operate within the law. In almost all countries, governments are also the ultimate owner of mineral rights and provide a mining business with its licence to operate. In some developing countries, however, governments promote laws, but do not have the mechanisms to enforce them.

Meeting international standards

Anglo American also seeks to meet the increasing requirements of a number of international standards initiatives, including:

  • the ten principles of the United Nations Global Compact. The governments of the thirty or so leading developed countries(the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) have also adopted a set of guidelines. Multinational companies are expected to comply with these wherever they operate. There is a complaints process led by governments to support the guidelines.
  • the International Labour Organisation has agreed guidelines for companies for the treatment of employees and contractors
  • a number of initiatives which involve governments, NGOs and businesses working together voluntarily on issues like governance and human rights. Anglo American is party to two of these groupings whose guiding principles have become standards in practice the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights and the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative.

Strong pressure in some markets may come from customers. Many customers demand high standards of ethical behaviour. There are also pressure groups such as the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), Oxfam or Amnesty, which seek to ensure that businesses operate ethically and in a sustainable way.

There are significant business pressures for behaving responsibly. Prosperous and stable communities support long-term business success. This leads to better returns for shareholders.

 Impacts on and benefits to business

There are real benefits to a business in acting responsibly. Being responsible wins the trust of communities. It gains respect from the governments of countries where it operates. It wins the loyalty of customers and the respect of the public. It gives a company an edge in attracting new recruits and talent. It wins recognition from investors for managing a business well. Anglo American has made sure that its social and investment programmes match its strategic objective of being a good citizen.

Today it is common practice to refer to the Triple Bottom Line of a business. A business is successful if it makes a financial profit on the bottom line. To continually generate profits, it is also necessary that:

  • a) a business respects the environment and
  • b) takes a wider social responsibility.

 Sharing economic benefits

Sharing economic benefits

It is important to understand how the benefits of an international company such as Anglo American are distributed amongst its various stakeholders. A relatively small proportion of its 'value added' will typically go directly to shareholders with suppliers, employees, governments and lenders also benefiting significantly.

Anglo American has created an innovative process - the Socio-Economic Assessment Toolbox (SEAT). This measures the impact of all its activities on the communities in which it operates. It engages local stakeholders in each community to learn about their concerns, needs and priorities. It then sets out its plans for improving its socio-economic performance through a three-year action plan made widely available to local people. SEAT enables the company to generate a successful triple bottom line.


Social and environmental responsibilities are vital components of a business strategy. They are the cornerstones of successful sustainable businesses.

Anglo American today has a strong reputation in many countries. This reputation comes from basing strategic decision-making on respected social and environmental principles. This starts with senior managers and is carried through right down to grass roots community projects.