23 March 2021
Investor collaboration following heritage destruction at Juukan Gorge achieves agreement with Rio Tinto on improved disclosure and governance arrangements
International investors involved in engagement with Rio Tinto on how it will address failings that led to heritage destruction at Juukan Gorge have welcomed the company’s announcement today on new disclosure and governance oversight measures aimed at rebuilding trust with Traditional Owners.
HESTA led an engagement supported by a group of Australian, UK and European investors that sought key transparency commitments aimed at giving investors confidence the company was making progress on managing cultural heritage and fostering respectful partnerships with Indigenous communities.
“Investors put forward very clear requests around what disclosure and governance arrangements we needed to see to ensure that the tragic heritage destruction at Juukan Gorge never happens again,” HESTA CEO Debby Blakey said.
“It’s pleasing that we’ve had constructive discussions with Rio Tinto that can support progress towards managing this clear financial risk for investors. The steps the company has agreed to will support broader improvements in practices, disclosure and oversight urgently needed across the mining sector.”
“Rio is at the start of a very long process of rebuilding trust. It will require long-term commitment to deep-seated cultural change and strong frameworks and processes in place to support genuine, open and ongoing partnership with Indigenous communities, no matter who is in management or Board roles.”
Ms Blakey said the investor group welcomed Rio’s commitment to continue dialogue with investors on disclosure and governance improvements.
“It’s vital that we see ongoing public reporting so investors can monitor progress over time and all stakeholders can have confidence that what Rio commits to is implemented and is effective,” Ms Blakey said.
The investor group consisted of: ACSI, AustralianSuper, Aviva Investors, Aware Super, Brunel Pension Partnership, CareSuper, Catholic Superannuation Fund, Cbus, Council of Ethics of the Swedish National Pension Funds, EOS at Federated Hermes, Equipsuper, HESTA, IFM Investors, Local Government Super, LUCRF Super, M&G Investments, Telstra Super, UniSuper, USS Investment Management, Victorian Funds Management Corporation, Vision Super.
Andy Jones, Mining Lead, EOS at Federated Hermes, said: “We welcome the commitment by Rio Tinto to provide enhanced disclosure on communities and cultural heritage performance.
“Importantly, the disclosure will better include the voice of affected communities. It is vital for stakeholders to have trust in the company’s approach and actions. This is a great opportunity for the company to use hard lessons learned over the past year to set a higher benchmark for company reporting on social impact and community relations.”
Rio announced it would support increased transparency around its approach to cultural heritage with additional regular disclosure on:
Ms Blakey said HESTA had regularly sought the views of a range of stakeholders including representatives of Traditional Owners and Indigenous organisations. This ongoing consultation will inform what disclosure and other arrangements are needed to provide greater certainty around cultural heritage protection and respectful partnerships with local communities.
“We will continue to consult with Indigenous communities and organisations to understand how investors can support the mining sector to build long-term, sustainable community partnerships grounded in recognition and respect,” Ms Blakey said.