The United Nations 17 Sustainable Development Goals are broken down into 169 targets and 231 unique indicators.

Although framed for governmental responses, many of these targets and indicators are readily applicable to companies – particularly those seeking to address (as many are) the SDGs as part of their wider ESG programme.

In this series of Briefing Notes, I will draw on examples to illustrate how selected SDG targets and indicators are being addressed.

The mining industry does not have a good track record when it comes to pollution and water pollution in particular. This is especially true in mining for heavy metals (which are extremely toxic/poisonous) and in the global south (where much of this mining takes place). It is, therefore, perhaps paradoxical, that in this age of ESG and the SDGs, globally mining in heavy metals (and associated minerals) is already increasing to meet the needs of the battery production industry.

For modern mining companies like Altech Chemicals Ltd, taking water conservation seriously, from planning, through production to having an exit strategy are central to their business ethos. Altech Chemicals, therefore, incorporates a range of measures under SDG 6 (Clean water and sanitation) into its business practices.

Altech Chemicals Limited is aiming to become one of the world’s leading suppliers of high purity alumina for the battery market. Material for the plant will be sourced from the Company’s 100%-owned kaolin deposit at Meckering, Western Australia.

SDG 6 Altech’s responses

Impact

Target 6.3

By 2030, improve water quality by reducing pollution, eliminating dumping and minimizing release of hazardous chemicals and materials, halving the proportion of untreated wastewater and substantially increasing recycling and safe reuse globally

  • Incorporation of this SDG concept in the planning and development stage of plant.
  • Adhere to environmental regulations in manufacturing activities
  • Ensuring proper sanitation facilities, e.g. toilets and sewer facilities
  • Do no harm to the local environment or local community
Target 6.4

By 2030, substantially increase water-use efficiency across all sectors and ensure sustainable withdrawals and supply of freshwater to address water scarcity and substantially reduce the number of people suffering from water scarcity

6.4.2

Level of water stress: freshwater withdrawal as a proportion of available freshwater resources

  • Adopt sustainable manufacturing practices, e.g. recycling of water
  • Potential for rainwater harvesting system
  • Reduce the impact on local water sources.
  • Improve water conservation
Target 6.6

By 2020, protect and restore water related ecosystems, including mountains, forests, wetlands, rivers, aquifers and lakes

  • Incorporate sound planning and management of water resources in Environmental Management System
  • Enhancing the quality of local environment
Target 6.b

Support and strengthen the participation of local communities in improving water and sanitation management

  • Provide education and training to local communities
  • Enhanced understanding of mining and its contribution

It is important to remember that not all SDGs and certainly not all targets and indicators are relevant to every company. Companies are, in fact, pretty much free to choose which of the SDGs, targets and indicators are most relevant to their activities – the important thing is to be clear about this and to be explicit about the intended impact of each measure. There is, however, one caveat, to wit, the SDGs, their targets and indicators cannot be offset: companies cannot offset one SDG against another. Honesty and integrity is, after all, a key element of the G in ESG.

This article was written by Professor Kevin Haines

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