I am pleased to report that in 2020, we continued to integrate sustainability into the heart of our business, leveraging our activities to help promote viable, sustainable communities, reducing and mitigating our impact on the environment, and ensuring that we create a business that is inclusive and diverse, reflecting the societies in which we operate. Serving the interests of the stakeholders of our business is good for shareholders: living up to our values enhances sustainable value.
Our swift response to the challenges of COVID-19 saw the introduction of a series of humanitarian initiatives to keep our employees and those in communities surrounding our operations safe and healthy. More than that, we ensured that none of our employees lost salaries or benefits as a result of lockdowns related to the pandemic. Their financial security, in addition to our socioeconomic support for our host communities, has greatly reinforced the interconnectedness of our mines and communities.
We have learnt some valuable lessons during the pandemic. In fact, the lessons learned during the outbreak of Ebola in West Africa six years ago informed some of our actions under COVID-19, and ensured that we closely monitored developments around the spread of the virus at the beginning of last year, and we were quickly able to respond with altered and updated protocols and travel advisories.
The escalation in seriousness – and the consequential impact on our employees, communities and the business – was alarmingly quick. We saw how cooperation between the health ministries, local governments and our own health teams helped to limit infections. It was this dialogue that allowed us to build trust, and to create solutions together – whether it was securing access to testing, designing social distancing plans or bolstering the number of available hospital beds. We firmly believe that our interventions must extend beyond the mine fence.
The lessons learned in the last decade in Ghana in reducing the incidence of malaria through an ongoing education and awareness campaign, provision of bed nets and an Indoor Residual Spraying across communities, meant that we were able to rapidly adapt these programmes - using existing infrastructure to disinfect common areas in the community and the workplace, against COVID-19.
Although we have made progress in the area of safety over several years, we tragically lost six of our colleagues in 2020, four of whom died in underground accidents in South Africa in March, while one underground fatality and one traffic-related fatality were recorded at Obuasi, in Ghana. We extend our deep condolences to the loved ones of our colleagues who passed away. These terrible events underline the fact that we have to remain forever vigilant and we will continue to work to ensure our colleagues return safely to their families each day.
We have since taken the decision to implement an updated safety strategy across our business, with a focus on the critical controls needed to eliminate what we call ‘high consequence, low frequency’ events. Work on the revitalisation of our safety strategy will commence in 2021.
We look forward to engaging with investors that look beyond quarterly financial results of companies in which they invest, to demonstrate how the overall net positive impact that companies bring to their operating environments and host communities can and will address some of the burning issues of our time.
And, while we have worked hard to embed sustainability and a paramount regard for ESG issues into our business and its processes over many years, we recognise that this work is never truly done – particularly for mining companies, which are developing the precious national patrimony of the countries in which we operate.
To remain truly sustainable, we must look to continually improve the value proposition we provide to our hosts and investors. Success in this regard means we will be sought out as an investment and development partner, creating more growth opportunities.
In 2020 we formed an internal Climate Change Working Group (CCWG) to lead the development of an updated climate change strategy for the Company. Its work includes development of a pathway to carbon net zero for AngloGold Ashanti that will enhance the climate resilience of our operations and host communities. This will be supported by internal climate performance incentives and implementing the Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosure (TCFD) recommendations.
We will have a significantly smaller carbon footprint (c. 40%) after the sale of our South African assets reduced the total scope 1 and 2 greenhouse gas emissions of our portfolio. In 2008, the Company announced a target of a 30% reduction in its greenhouse gas emissions by 2022 and had already achieved a 45% reduction in carbon intensity of its operations by 2018. We are now working on an updated climate strategy, with clear medium-term and long-term targets, which we plan to announce later in 2021.
Diversity and inclusion
We are committed to creating a more diverse organisation and continued to roll-out initiatives based around our Diversity & Inclusion Framework, which is designed to align our group objectives to foster the empowerment of all staff, irrespective of race, gender, ethnicity, religion and sexual orientation.
AngloGold Ashanti has been included in the 2021 Bloomberg Gender-Equity Index (GEI), recognition of the work we are doing to achieve diversity across the group.
Our Company has always recognised that effective talent management practices are needed to remain competitive, navigate the volatile macro-economic environment and achieve strategic objectives.
During 2020, we improved our succession coverage ratio to 1:4.88 for critical and key roles. This means that, on average, we identified almost five internal successors for each critical role. Of particular importance is that the representation of women within the talent pool has increased.
As we build our business, we are also driving to maximise the number of people hired from the countries – and indeed the immediate areas – in which we operate.
Through this year we will continue to be confronted with the turmoil created by the global pandemic and its economic aftershocks. There will be many ways in which the economic upheaval of the past year will manifest in the years to come, but one of those is likely an increase in the number of illegal and artisanal and small-scale miners in some of our mining jurisdictions.
We advocate formalisation of this important economic activity, where possible, and are working with host governments to achieve this challenging aim. We are also pursuing community development projects that provide alternative incomes. All the while, we will continue working with local and national authorities to safeguard our concessions for the benefit of employees, communities and our assets.
We intend to support vaccination campaigns implemented by our host governments and are committed to aligning our efforts with the priorities in each jurisdiction. These new vaccines offer enormous hope, but it will take time before they can be rolled out sufficiently to provide real protection across our societies.
The pandemic has drawn a spotlight to glaring gaps across the world in public healthcare systems, and in societal inequality. As a business we want to be part of a collective global effort to support measures to protect citizens; this has long been our goal and is being propelled by investors’ desire to see business drive an ESG agenda.
We continued to strengthen our tailings management governance, and supported efforts to establish an international standard for the safer management of tailings. We are working towards a very tight timeline on the conversion of our Brazilian tailings facilities to dry stacking this year. This is an issue of the highest priority for the business, and we will ensure that the appropriate resources and expertise are allocated to this project to ensure that it is completed on time.
It is increasingly evident that operating in an ethical and transparent way, consulting and supporting communities and stakeholders, working to address climate change and promoting diversity are synonymous with operating a successful and sustainable Company. We have a strong set of values promoted by comprehensive frameworks and protocols, ensuring that we measure our sustainability performance.
I am honoured to have been requested by our board to serve as AngloGold Ashanti’s interim CEO since 1 September 2020. The entire board, under the leadership of our new Chairperson, Maria Ramos, our SES Committee chair, Kojo Busia and myself are committed to driving our values forward which is fundamental for a responsible and sustainable business.