February 28, 2022

Responsible Sourcing Newsletter: February 2022 

Sustainability: What is it and why should we pay attention?

Sustainability' may not be the hashtag burning up the Tiktok algorithms, but it is undoubtedly an inescapable and growing presence in the gold and financial sectors.

Despite its ubiquitous use, there remains a lot of misunderstanding and differing interpretations of what, exactly, 'sustainability' means and how it can and should be applied by governments, the private sector and even individuals.

The etymology of the concept can arguably be traced back to former Norwegian prime minister, Gro Harlem Brundtland, who was commissioned by the United Nations to examine ways the world could better reconcile economic development with the protection of social and environmental concerns.

Her seminal 1987 report Our Common Future defined sustainability as "development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs." There is a direct line that runs between Brundtland's vision and the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, 17 integrated calls to action aimed at alleviating poverty and inequity and finding economic balance with our shared environmental future.

Sustainability has been on our minds at LBMA for some time—no doubt influenced in part by Paul Fisher, the Chairman of LBMA’s Board, and an international authority on the subject.

Later next month, we look forward to unpacking the term when we co-host (with the World Gold Council) the Sustainability and Responsibility Summit in London on 28-29 March, 2022.

While we continue to tweak the agenda (coming soon to your inbox!), the Summit will be an opportunity to hear from leading thinkers in the mining, finance and climate sectors, speaking directly to how sustainability should not be about self-interest but rather an integral criterion aimed at the longevity and financial planning of their respective sectors.

Some speakers, like our own Paul Fisher, have spoken widely about the importance and challenges of meeting our net zero targets, and how sustainability can be used to mitigate some of the social and financial risks associated with threats like climate change. For example, extreme weather events, like floods and wildfires or rising sea levels, can bring with them ruinous financial costs. As can a failure to proactively adapt business plans to accommodate changes brought about by economic and policy changes or shifts in consumer spending habits and governance expectations.

Another focus will also be on the future of responsible sourcing. While the conversation will include perspectives from a leading refiner and luxury jewellery brand, it will also consider views from the OECD and our close industry partner, the Responsible Mineral Initiative (RMI).

With the inclusions of stricter ESG requirements into the recently revised Responsible Gold Guidance (RGG) the planned discussions should open a welcomed and overdue conversation amongst LBMA members and their partners about ways to meet the challenges ahead.

Personally, I look forward to moderating a workshop and a session on Artisanal and Small-scale Mining (ASM). As last month’s newsletter highlighted, examining practical and actionable ways LBMA refiners can increase their direct sourcing of ASM material is a key objective of LBMA in 2022. It’s a sector in desperate and urgent need of more of the sustainability Brundtland speaks of above. While as many as 40 million people around the world depend on ASM for their livelihood, producing as much as 20% of the global supply, most of them exist in precarious and exploitative environments outside of legal frameworks or legitimate supply chains. Greater market access for their material will undoubtedly contribute to more sustainable incomes and greater security and stability in the communities in which they work.

If one looks closely at Brundtland’s definition of sustainability, she’s approaching economic prosperity through the lens of collective and holistic responsibilities in an extremely interconnected world. We can all benefit if we see the shared advantages of the common good—that one person’s success does not necessarily have to come at the expense of others, or the long-term viability of our shared planet.

Alan Martin, Head of Responsible Sourcing

To learn more about the Summit, including how to register, please visit the event microsite.

We look forward to welcoming you to London and continuing this conversation then.

All the best,

Alan Martin, Head of Responsible Sourcing LBMA