About the Report

Standards and the Extractive Economy, a joint report from the State of Sustainability Initiatives (SSI) and the Intergovernmental Forum on Mining, Minerals, Metals and Sustainable Development (IGF), examines the intersection of voluntary sustainability initiatives (VSIs) and sustainable development within the mining sector. The report summarizes the main sustainability issues in the mining sector, discusses the dynamic relationship between public policy and sustainability standards, provides a systematic analysis of 15 major sustainability initiatives in the mining sector, and presents a snapshot of the mining and minerals sector by commodity type.
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At-A-Glance

Standards Coverage

Questions for Policy-Makers

Many mineral-rich developing countries rely on the mining sector to spur economic development. But to ensure mining is socially and environmentally sound, policy-makers need to consider the relationships between supply chain standards and regulations within their mining sector to help achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Our report asks policy-makers the following questions:

  • How have operational VSIs emerged in your mining sector? Have there been new regulations nationally or internationally? Or have VSIs emerged in response to weak regulation or regulatory roll-back?
  • How does the policy environment create opportunities or drivers for VSIs? Do VSI-compliant companies have permitting advantages? What about reduced tariffs or taxes? Does public procurement support one or many VSIs?
  • What benefits can be derived from VSIs in your mining sector? Do VSIs drive public regulators to improve their monitoring or verification capacity? Do they create new cultural norms? Do VSIs contribute to sustainable development or good governance?

Findings

This report applies IISD’s comprehensive “CARE” criteria to 15 major mining initiatives. The “CARE” approach stands for coverage (content and level of obligation), assurance, responsiveness and engagement.

Below is a visual summary of the results of the CARE analysis for all 15 initiatives reviewed in the report. Two general observations can be made:

  1. The two artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM) initiatives, Fairtrade and Fairmined, score well across all three indexes.
  2. Although there is evidence of some level of correlation between scores for the different indexes, the correlation does not appear to be particularly strong. A high score on the assurance index does not necessarily imply a high score in relation to responsiveness, for example. Nor, however, does there appear to be a negative correlation: high levels of engagement and responsiveness do not appear to lead to the implementation of less robust assurance models.

However, as the following sections show, care needs to be taken in interpreting these findings. The initiatives differ greatly in terms of their stage of development; some have been operational for several years already, while others were not yet operational at the time of assessment.

Standards and the Extractive Economy

A new study from the Intergovernmental Forum on Mining, Minerals, Metals and Sustainable Development (IGF) and International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) highlights how multistakeholder, market-based voluntary sustainability initiatives (VSIs) can promote more sustainable production practices, often at the global level.

The report highlights environmental, social and business-related impacts associated with mining activities and the different types of upstream and downstream VSIs in the sector. It highlights the variety of commodities mined, from precious stones to sand and gravel, and how different VSIs can achieve different results. It identifies collaboration as essential to working toward the interoperability of VSIs, both up and down the value chains and across various sector-focused themes.

“Many mineral-rich developing countries rely on the mining sector to spur economic development,” said Nathalie Bernasconi-Osterwalder, Group Director, International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD). “But to ensure mining is socially and environmentally sound, policy-makers need to ensure that strong legal frameworks and processes are put in place. VSIs, if properly designed, can play a role in complementing national laws and regulations or their implementation, and filling gaps to help limit harm sometimes caused in the mining sector and related supply-chains”.

The report, Standards and the Extractive Economy, summarizes the main sustainability issues in the mining sector, discusses the dynamic relationship between public policy and sustainability standards, provides a systematic analysis of 15 major sustainability initiatives in the mining sector, and presents a snapshot of the mining and minerals sector by commodity type.

“The report applied a distinctly rigorous methodology across 15 major initiatives, capturing not only the content but also the level of obligation demanded by the initiatives to implement sustainability actions. Our review is comprehensive, revealing the different strengths, and often the different intended purposes, of VSIs and the challenge of finding a one-size-fits-all initiative,” says one of the report’s authors, Laura Turley, Associate, IISD.

“In the last decade, there has been rapid growth in the development and adoption of VSIs aimed at promoting sustainable production practices at a global level,” said Greg Radford, Director, IGF. “This is why consumption and production must be done sustainably.”

The report aims to assist policy-makers in analyzing the relationship between regulations and standards in their own country, and in the countries in which their companies operate, to enhance local and global sustainable development efforts.

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Report summarizing sustainability issues in the mining sector with an analysis of 15 major sustainability initiatives.

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