The coexistence of those with environmental interests and those with mining interests is often perceived to be like “chalk and cheese.” While that may have been the case 10 years ago, it is no longer the case now. Australians naturally have very strong connections with the environment – our beaches, our small country towns surrounded by natural areas, our climate and our unique flora and fauna. Protecting our way of life and the values associated with being Australian and a lover of the great outdoors coincides with looking after our countryside, our beaches, our outback. So, there is no reason why this connection wouldn’t extend into the workplace and thus there is no reason why there should be a conflict.
- the remote locations of the workplace in comparison to the home location and therefore a disconnect with the outdoor values associated with being at home; and
- the male-dominated nature of the workforce (an average of 19% female within the mining industry in Western Australia, 2012).
Building an environmental culture within a mining company isn’t easy. The transient nature of the Australian mining workforce and the short-term nature of project construction adds to the difficulty. It is also worthy to note that this is a long-term initiative and will likely take at least five years to see results.
If an industry-wide approach to building an environmental culture was taken then the positive outcomes from such programs would be observed much sooner.
There is such a positive argument for implementing a culture-building program:
- the budget requirements for such a program can be minimal;
- reduces risk of impacts to the environment;
- involving the broader workforce encourages diversity of ideas; and
- an environmental culture extends beyond the mine site, and into homes and our way of life.
Support and endorsement by the senior management team is critical to its success. While an environmental culture-building program can be implemented without the directive of senior management, the success of any program within a mining company is very much dependent on a top-down approach.
Internal culture-building programs can be developed by:
- provision of information;
- environment-themed activities; and
- employee involvement to facilitate decision-making that extends beyond the formal environment teams.
Examples of such initiatives are provided below.
Provision of information:
- weekly newsletters (email and posted in tea rooms);
- prompts for recycling waste, energy (e.g. turning off computer screens) and water usage;
- environmental-themed calenders.
- celebrating and reflecting on significant dates (earth day, world environment day);
- tree planting.
- green committee’s at all facilities and implementation of their initiatives to reduce and recycle waste, increase energy efficiencies, and reduce water efficiency.
- competitions (going beyond compliance, nature photo competition for annual calender).
- developing “environmental representative” programs and involvement for those that don’t have a formal environmental education.
Please send me any ideas or initiatives that you have implemented. I’d be keen to hear what you are doing and how you measure success of the program.