GulfNews Business

Gold industry wants mines to play by 'sustainable development' rules, says World Gold Council

Retail|: Dubai: Some of the heightened ‘sustainable development’ awareness is rubbing off on the world’s gold mine operators – but there are still holdouts and that’s where the problems still lie deep. And getting them into the mainstream of the mining industry is proving difficult. “Small-scale gold mining is very different in nature to large-scale, by operating at much lower levels of capital investment and technological sophistication,” said Terry Heymann, Chief Financial Officer at World Gold Council. “As such, there are unfortunately many instances where “artisanal” gold mining is associated with poor social and environmental practices. See More Race to rescue animals as Brazilian wetlands burn COVID-19: Taj Mahal reopens even as India coronavirus cases soar Photos: Rescue under way to save 180 stranded whales in Australia Photos: Plant hunters race to collect rare species before they're gone “The World Gold Council supports the formalisation of artisanal gold mining, which can help address these poor practices. But this can only happen with the engagement and support of governments, communities and the development sector, who all have a role to play in helping address challenges associated with current practices.” But can there ever be enough checks? Under the current framework, all companies in the supply chain have a responsibility to ensure the gold they source is "responsibly mined". The World Gold Council works with the LBMA (London Bullion Market Association), which has set out in their 'Responsible Gold Guidance' the steps refiners need to take when undertaking due-diligence on the gold they receive. Refiners who do not conform will be removed from the LBMA’s accreditation list which means that they will no longer be able to supply gold into the international wholesale gold markets. A need for change And it’s the practices at such small gold mines that end up giving a bad name to the whole industry. At these pits, shoddy worker treatment is often the norm, and even children are dragooned into operating there. Gold brought up from these mines often get diverted for smuggling and the proceeds line the pockets of a few. These are practices that WGC wants to change – but for now, it’s looking to bring in best practices at the larger mine operators. Last year, it brought out the ‘Responsible Gold Mining Principles’, which “clearly set out what constitutes responsible ESG principles for large-scale gold,” said Heymann. “The Principles were developed over two years, with significant engagement and input from a broad range of stakeholders. It is a robust set of Principles that should give confidence to investors and customers that the gold has been produced responsibly. All WGC members have agreed to implement these Principles, which are now a requirement of membership.” Under the Principles, mine operators need to monitor social and governance risks – and moreover, they are required to publicly disclose their conformance and receive external assurance on this disclosure.” Being responsible On Tuesday, the WGC brought out a report – ‘Gold Mining’s Contribution to the UN Sustainable Development Goals’ – that laid out the progress made… and what more needs doing. It includes 39 case studies on how members are bringing about positive change across four areas - global partnerships; social inclusion; economic development; and responsible operations, energy and the environment. * Global partnership: Case studies show a wide-ranging malaria programme as well as partnerships that provide water education and medical supplies to communities. * Social inclusion: WGC members are committed to improve social inclusion in the countries they operate, including support a more gender inclusive workplace, opening up opportunities for indigenous people, and strengthening their human rights track-record. * Economic development: WGC members support the socio-economic development of the communities in which their mines are located. This is through targeted investment in - and creating - direct and indirect jobs for locals, working with farmers to share their produce, bringing down mortality rates with nursing and midwifery training, strengthening public health systems and tackling infectious diseases such as malaria and TB and supporting education programmes. * Responsible operations, energy and the environment: Gold mining companies have made significant strides in reducing energy and water use. This is highlighted in the report by increasing use of renewable energy as well as projects that look to minimise the volumes of water used at mine sites while also ensuring that local communities have access to clean water and sanitation. Not change course “The UN’s deadline of 2030 to meet its Sustainable Development Goals will soon be upon us and it is vital that the pandemic is not allowed to postpone the progress made to date," said Heymann. "While it presents its own challenges, the current situation has brought the need for sustainable business practices to be at the heart of everything companies do."

GulfNews Business

COVID-19: A 30% salary cut is now in the past only for some businesses in UAE

Business|: Dubai: Have you got back the 30 per cent? In the next few days, more of UAE’s workforce will start seeing their full September salaries get credited into bank accounts as employers roll back the wage cuts they implemented after COVID-19 struck. But the reinstating of full salaries continues to be a highly selective process. Staff in sectors such as retail (excluding most online businesses, of course) are yet to get their full paychecks back – and sources say it’s unlikely they will see it until 2021 comes around. Workforces in aviation and hospitality, real estate and construction, advertising and media too are still some distance away from the comfort of being able to withdraw their full entitlements. See More Dubai’s five-year Retirement Visa: It just got easier to apply The easiest way to book a COVID-19 test in the UAE UAE: Can my employer enforce a non-compete clause against me? UAE: How to report workplace harassment? Multiple industry sources say those businesses that are reinstating full salaries would have completed the extremely difficult task of cutting down their staff size. “In most sectors, business activity is far from reaching pre-COVID-19 levels,” said the HR manager at a leading retail group. “So, bringing down the employee numbers is the only way to manage costs - and most of the cuts will continue to happen in the mid- and senior management levels. “Salary reinstatements will not happen until businesses feel they have turned the corner – the question is when will that corner be reached?” Not done yet Most would have thought that whatever pruning of workforces should already have taken place since March, when organisations had their first look at the devastation the COVID-19 brought about. And use the summer months to further cut back and in some way brings costs down. That’s not the way it’s turning out to be, and for key sectors, some difficult decisions lie ahead of them. “We expect to see more changes in the banking sector as we move from traditional banking towards the digital age,” said Vijay Gandhi, Regional Director at Korn Ferry Digital, the consultancy. This has resulted in a “need for talent that is AI-driven to improve the overall processes from risk, credit, operations and compliance roles and the impact of reduced branches. “Most companies affected with the crisis have “de-layered” the management a few months ago to start the next quarter with a low cost base.” Organisations are beginning to reverse the salary cuts - we are seeing it happen in phases between October and January depending on the industry Vijay Gandhi of Korn Ferry Digital A gradual return For a majority of UAE businesses and their employees, a full salary reinstatement will still take months. “We expect to see this trend continuing throughout the remainder of this year,” said Luke Tapp, Partner – Employment at the law firm Pinsent Masons Middle East. “It does ultimately depend on the sector, as some are more robust in terms of the market and economic opportunities, as well as the ability to deliver services and goods in a remote way. “For example, the professional services (accounting, law, etc.) and financial services seem to be responding faster and in a more positive way.” In some sectors, the challenge now is encouraging good talent to consider new opportunities because those individuals are not willing to take a risk on a new role while there remains volatility within the global and regional economy Luke Tapp at Pinsent Masons Most vulnerable Middle level managers cutting across industries will spend the next few weeks in quite a bit of distress. Employers started out with lowering their headcounts at the lower end in the initial weeks of the pandemic. But it’s now mid- and senior-level that are likely to be most threatened. Some have responded by taking voluntary pay cuts rather than end up on the chopping block. Healthcare returns to some normalcy The sector that is out there battling the pandemic went through its own share of critical times. Healthcare also saw salary and compensation cuts across the board during the peak months of the pandemic – but once hospitals and clinics started to operate at full capacity, salaries are being handed out in full. But things are not running smooth as yet. “There are some hospital chains where many doctors are having trouble on salary payments,” said the CEO of a mid-level clinic network. “Delays of a month or two are common – but thankfully, the salaries when they do come are in full.” Retail is worst hit Leading retail groups say it will be some time before their employers can say the same. Many worry that the “30% cut” will become a permanent state. Categories such as jewellery, apparel and automotive have gone through extensive workforce reductions – and more await. “When few are willing to buy, where’s the justification to retain the same number of stores?” queries the CEO of one retail group. “And when there are fewer stores, there definitely won’t be the need for the same number of staff. The big decisions in retail are still pending.” For some, it’s all good New hiring is happening, but even then with definite changes. According to Gandhi, there has been a pick up in recruitments since the start of the month, again restricted to a handful of sectors. “But [these are] at a cost base which is 15-20 per cent lower on fixed pay for similar roles but offering higher commission on lower thresholds for sales and service jobs in particular.” “Reducing the benefits for new hires is a common theme where benefits like children's education and air tickets are being reviewed. There is a shift to ‘total reward’ where base pay management is centered around promotions [but] limited to a small high-potential employee pool. “This is a big shift from the past where the increases were sprayed across the workforce. As every industry went through a disruption few months ago, we have seen more programmes on re-skilling to help create opportunities for employees to move roles within their organisation.” Still a long way off So, 100 per cent salaries will continue to be on a case-by-case basis. And even within the same industry, there could be businesses that are back to full salary and others that aren’t. The 30 per cent cut is not going to go away… “The law that was implemented earlier this year that related to salary and cost saving measures was UAE Ministerial Resolution 279 of 2020,” said Tapp. “This law permitted companies in the onshore, mainland area to implement temporary or permanent salary reductions - with the consent of their employees. “The law primarily applied to onshore companies, but we know that some of the free zones have implemented similar regulations that are applicable within their jurisdictions.” A 30 per cent cut is all part of that ‘New Normal’…