Courtesy of Pierre Gratton

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to have a massive impact across the globe, it has become abundantly clear that our sector and its products are essential to the items we use every day, in everything from health care to the communications technology that enables us to connect during this time of social isolation.

We all need mined products, and it is just as critical that this demand be responsibly sourced. The need for standards, specifically those highlighting measurable performance data and commitment to environmental, social and governance (ESG) mandates, have never been more important. Long a leading producer and exporter of mined products, one of Canada’s newest exports is its sustainable mining program, Towards Sustainable Mining (TSM).

Developed two decades ago and a condition of membership in the Mining Association of Canada when officially launched in 2004, the past five years have witnessed TSM’s adoption by other mining associations around the world. Beginning with Finland in 2015, TSM is now in the process of being implemented in Norway, Spain, Botswana, Brazil, Argentina and the Philippines. And earlier this year, mining powerhouse the Minerals Council of Australia signed on, allowing us to say that TSM has now been exported to every continent on the planet.

TSM was originally created to drive performance improvement across a range of social and environmental issues where it mattered most — at the mine site level. The program has fostered a significant cultural shift across the sector, making it more inclusive and transparent. This focus on mine site level performance is making TSM a go-to system for investors and manufacturers looking for assurances that the mined materials they invest in or purchase have been mined responsibly. TSM’s value as a responsible sourcing system increases as more and more companies around the world sign on to it. With Australia, a top global mining jurisdiction, now on board, TSM’s value skyrockets.

Related: An update to the Mining Association of Canada’s standard changes how companies should tackle risks and opportunities from climate change

Performance in TSM is evaluated across a set of detailed environmental and social performance standards, including climate change, tailings management, water stewardship, Indigenous and community relationships, safety and health, biodiversity conservation, crisis management and preventing child and forced labour. TSM helps drive performance improvement where it counts — at the site level — and contributes to securing support for our activities from the communities where we operate.

Overseen by a network of independent community-of-interest advisory panels consisting of Indigenous communities, environmental organizations, labour representatives, finance, local mining communities, social and faith-based organizations and academics, TSM goes beyond principles and requires mining companies to annually assess, publicly report and verify their performance at the facility level. Countries that have implemented the standard understand the importance of transparency to ensure credibility in the way our business operates, and its implementation of TSM will include the development of its own national community-of-interest advisory panel that will play an essential role in the program’s success.

Other jurisdictions are taking note of the program’s success, specifically the way it is enhancing business and consumer confidence in the way companies mine. As a constantly evolving standard, TSM is particularly attractive globally due to its focus on climate change, effective tailings management and good practice in respectful engagement and collaboration with Indigenous communities, three focal points in our industry. Countries that adopt the program are openly committing to going beyond the word of the law when it comes to sustainable practices.

The combination of the current pandemic and the ongoing energy transition have made it abundantly clear that our industry is at a tipping point when it comes to both the need for our materials and the necessity of sourcing them responsibly. So, when a country like Australia, that hosts several of the world’s largest mining companies, decides that Canada is home to the most effective sustainability standard in the world, that’s the vote of confidence that we are not only one of the leading mining nations, we are the leader and gold standard in corporate social responsibility.

Pierre Gratton is the President and CEO of the Mining Association of Canada.