Sustainability and Systems Thinking

Introduction of Rio Tinto Group

Rio Tinto Group is a multinational Australian company. It is the second largest company in mining and metal industry in the world. The company produces iron, copper, diamonds, gold, uranium etc. The company came into existence in the year 1873. It was formed after the consortium where investors purchased mine in Rio Tinto from the government of Spain. Since then the company has grown through series of various mergers and acquisitions (Annual report Rio Tinto, 2019). The company has grown through mergers and acquisitions and recently it has merged with BHP Billiton for mining activities. The company is growing every year and is performing well on the stock exchange. The value of share prices in the past 5 years have increased as depicted in the graph below

This shows that company is growing and is expected to grow in future i.e. in the next 10 years. The company might become the world’s largest in the mining industry and may diversify its business. With the growth in company, requirement for sustainability development will increase. The report is aimed at developing the sustainable strategy for the company in its future growth years.


Sustainability refers to development in a co-existent way. It means fulfilling the needs of the present by not compromising the needs for the future (Ionnou & Serafeim, 2017). To meet the mining requirement of the future, sustainable development should be called as mining has various environmental hazard. Mining impacts can be seen at local level, regional and global level. There are various impacts that are created by mining activities that includes erosions, loss in biodiversity, contamination of soil, groundwater by the emittance of chemicals in the process of mining. To develop sustainably technology will play its part as without mining of materials the world will go back to the ages of cavemen. Over the past decade there is a burgeoning demand of mining activities due to increase in population need of iron has increased in building homes etc. To meet the needs in future, sustainability is required. Also, sustainability has become an important part and has been defined by various environment laws like Environmental and Biodiversity Protection Act, 1999 in Australia. This makes companies follow sustainable development.

Present Sustainability Strategy of Rio Tinto

The company focuses on safety of its employees and the environment. It has kept up its efforts in reducing the fatalities and the carbon emission. The company has reduced its greenhouse gas emission by 24% from the year 2008 to 2020. The company has plans to bring its net emissions to 0% by 2050. The company also requires water for its activities. In areas like Gobi Desert where water is scarce, the company balances its need for operational water with the local communities. Company makes sure that it does not degrade the resources of water in lakes, streams and other ground water where it is scarce. The company aims to manage its resources more till 2030 (Annual report Rio Tinto, 2019). These resources can be managed more efficiently and effectively by the usage of technology. In the next 10 years when the functioning of company will grow, it will require better plans of sustainability so as to ensure the maximum benefits.

Sustainability in Future

Over the years sustainability in mining has improved through technological evolution. The mining industry is developing through technology since 450000 B.C. where surface scratching was done by Palcolithic miners. This created dust and led to environmental pollution. Then in 100 A.A there is a thriving Roman history of mining. That reduced the pollution and improved the technique of mining. Later in 1980’s surface miner’s were discovered as a system for clean mining. Then in 2005 ‘Bio-mining’ application has been widespread. All the technological developments that have happened increased the scale of operations, improved the systems for better usage and provided a cleaner mining techniques (Batterham, 2017). In the present times, sustainability of environment has become a concern for many and in the future mining environment will face the challenges for environmental concerns and will require production in a manner that is clean, smart, minimally disruptive and in turn energy efficient.

Also, investors have become more aware and intend to invest in the companies where sustainability of environment is kept at priority. Therefore, responsibility in the action for mining companies will increase, otherwise investing funds will decrease. Various mining companies have attached the remuneration with the energy usage. Rio Tinto can adopt this too for the future. So, in future the need of sustainable development will increase as the company will grow its operations. For having an appropriate sustainable development in next 10 years with the growth of company a plan should be created for sustainability in order to attain the best results.

Sustainability Plan

In the next 10 years the company will grow and become prevalent in mining industry. It has grown in the past 12 years significantly and is expected to grow in the future. There are various steps that the company can take for future sustainability as its functioning will be enormous and will require various steps towards sustainability action.

According to the reports of sustainability the company is already planning to reduce its net emissions to 0 by the year 2050 (Annual report Rio Tinto, 2019). Also, the company is using methods where the harm to the environment is minimum. This can further be reduced by the company in various ways.

Change starts from the top and also the control is idolized from the top. The CEO or the Boards of the company will grow once the business of Rio Tinto improves. Steps should be taken from the top. Remuneration of the chief or the board will should be attached with lower percentage in the beginning and then with the increase in business and time the percentage of remuneration attached with the sustainability method should increase. This will be a new change that company can brought in (Langefeld & binder, 2019). This can be divulged slowly to employees too. This will bring more seriousness towards the development of sustainability as rewards will be attached to it. From the operation branches at present and in the future whosoever has minimized pollution and best achievement of goals should be rewarded.

Other changes for sustainable development should be brought in technologies by Rio Tinto. The company should focus on technologies that have exploration and characterization of resources. Technologies should do clean excavation and reduce the water consumption. In future the company will open its branches in areas where there is scarcity of water. So, such technologies should be promoted that will reduce the wastage of water. Digital transformation for sustainable development should be brought in by the company. Through digital tools and processes operations should be interconnected. With the information that available early in interconnected systems that are digital will help in monitoring continuously and also in simulations that are virtual (Littleboy et al., 2019). Mines can be transformed digitally. This will help in achieving the reduced fatalities aim of the company. The company wants 0 fatalities and digital transformation will help in achieving its sustainable goal. Also, digital transformation of business of Rio Tinto will reduce environmental footprint too. In future as company grows it should invest into transformative mining for improving the sustainability.

The industry in which Rio Tinto is operational the trend of sustainability and environmentalism drives the future. The company should use newest technologies and acid mine drainage for the management of waste. At present extraction technologies for extracting materials that are valuable from red mud are testing. If, the test become successful, than company should move towards it as that will reduce the wastage for the company.

Another transformation for Rio tinto that can be opted should include the usage of drones and robots. Drones have already been functional in other industries. Through these drones company can analyze the areas that are hazardous for humans. This will also lead to savings of fuel as 3D imaging will be brought in and also electrification for better development should be done that will reduce ventilation and cooling fuels. In this manner for the next 10 years the company can plan its sustainability (Stothard et. al., 2019).

It is a fact that company like Rio Tinto who are functional in the mining industry are prone to more challenges than other. Also, the growth of company is next ten years will be humongous and it will require better plan for sustainability. With the help of these technologies it will become easier for the company to increase its capacity by attaining its sustainable goals.

Conclusion on Sustainability and Systems Thinking

Rip tinto is into the mining industry and has shown a good growth in the last 5 years. With the growth chart of company it is expected that the company will grow in next 10 years in a good pace. Sustainability has become an important part as investors too now look for sustainable growth of the company. To ensure its successful sustainable growth Rio Tinto should follow a plan that includes attaching the remuneration with sustainable growth, usage of drone for reducing fatalities and also digital transformation of mining facilities will help in sustainable growth. Thus, the company should bring in these changes.

References for Sustainability and Systems Thinking

Annual Report. 2019. Rio Tinto. Retrieved from:

Batterham, R. J. (2017). The mine of the future–even more sustainable. Minerals Engineering107, 2-7.

Ioannou, I., & Serafeim, G. (2017). The consequences of mandatory corporate sustainability reporting. Harvard Business School research working paper, (11-100).

Langefeld, O., & Binder, A. (2019). Responsible mining. Scientific and Practical Studies of Raw Material Issues, 205.

Littleboy, A., Keenan, J., Ordens, C. M., Shaw, A., Tang, R. H., Verrier, B. & Hodge, R. A. (2019). A sustainable future for mining by 2030? Insights from an expert focus group. The Extractive Industries and Society6(4), 1086-1090.

Stothard, P., Squelch, A., Stone, R., & Van Wyk, E. (2019). Towards sustainable mixed reality simulation for the mining industry. Mining Technology128(4), 246-254.

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