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Rating of Environmental Transparency for mining and metals companies: results, challenges and solutions

15 december 2020
On December 15th, WWF-Russia and the National Rating Agency have presented the results of the IV Rating of Environmental Transparency for mining and metals companies. The organizers drew certain conclusions from the research, outlining specific challenges and proposing solutions for them

The Rating was calculated utilizing methodology developed by WWF-Russia. The project was made possible with the support of the UN Environment Program and the European Union.

For the first time in the project's history, the companies have disclosed enough quantitative indicators for organizers to comprehensively calculate the environmental impact with the second part of the developed methodology utilizing average values of the indicators across the industry.

There were a lot of high-profile industrial accidents in 2020. An accident at the Nornickel CHP on the Taymyr peninsula sparked public discussion in the international community, causing unprecedented harm to bodies of water and biological resources. Sanctions against the company soon followed, and the company was not taken into account in this year's rating. Organizers would like to take this opportunity to remind all participants that similar measures will be employed against all violators of civil rights and/or environmental protection laws.

Polymetal company, which takes the second place in this year's rating, may suffer a similar fate.  "2021 Rating will be calculated with the 2020 results, and the company has created grounds for conflict with the environmental protection community this year" — says Alexey Knizhnikov, Head of the Program for the Business Environmental Responsibility at WWF-Russia — "This rating is not the only environmental control mechanism the public has to keep the corporations in check. With Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) procedure and Public Environmental Assessment (PEA), the public can press the companies to lower the impact of their planned industrial operations and become more transparent in their environmental performance. We hope that Polymetal's high rank in this year's rating will push the company to reconsider its corporate approach to accounting for the opinions of all parties involved — including the environmental protection organizations —  and engaging with them in the EIA and State Environmental Expertise procedures for the Kutynskoye project. Last week the Public Environmental Assessment committee has produced a negative assessment of the project documentation for the object in the Khabarovsky region. We hope that the corporation will take the responsible approach and rework the project documentation".

Participants of the Environmental Transparency Rating are striving for transparency not only because of the potential sanctions, but because they are competing among themselves for the top positions in the rating. For instance, the companies started improving their environmental performance on their websites this year, hoping for high scores for transparency.

"These ratings really push the businesses to be more transparent in their environmental performance every year," — says Yekaterina Khmeleva, Green Economy and Governance Director at WWF-Russia — "We are thus contributing to one of the top national environmental protection objectives — enhancing the system of environmental information disclosure." 

The organizers noted while presenting the results of their research that this year's Top-3 is different from the last year: holders of first and third position have switched places. Kinross and Polyus companies now occupy 1st and 3rd position in the rating, respectively.

Accidents and controversial situations are thoroughly considered for rating purposes. Accidents that occurred over the course of the year are marked on a special map. The data is gathered from the state supervisory authorities, local residents, activists, and NGOs. Since 2019, data collection and the calculation of the rating are a part of the People for Nature project that is made possible with the support of the European Union. The project aims to engage the public in environmental protection. The project engaged regional non-profit organizations in the monitoring of environmental incidents. Dedicated NGOs are monitoring and analyzing the impact of the industrial enterprises, participating in environmental expertise, developing the public environmental monitoring system, and making it more robust.

This year's research involved 40 of the largest mining companies in Russia. The research is conducted year round. For that reason, the public, the environmental scientists, and the companies use the research for the rating purposes as a platform to discuss the most pressing environmental challenges in the industry. According to this year's research (2019 data was used for calculation), the engagement of companies with involved parties (NGOs, the public, researchers) and their transparency has improved: this year, the value of the respective indicator was 0.87, against last year's (2018 data was used for calculation) 0.84. Feedback received from 20 companies out of 40 has also played an important role in the latter. In regard to accidents and controversial situations — information about accidents was found in public sources for 9 out of 25 companies (total number of detected accidents and controversial situations — 89).

For the first time in Rating's history, the quantitative indicators from Section 2 were calculated based on average values for the industry for each criterion within each subdivision of the rating (diamond industry, mining of precious metals, mining and processing of non-ferrous metals, mining and processing of ferrous and alloying metals, chemical mining industry, coal industry). The industry average was calculated as the arithmetic average of the indicators for the companies in the subsector represented in the ranking. This approach will stimulate the non-transparent companies to catch up to those who disclose more information, which in turn means that the non-transparent companies will be more likely to review their environmental protection policies and performance. 

Photo in the announcement and splash screen: (c) Mikhail Glazov / WWF Russia.

For additional information please contact
Head of the responsible industry programme