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Mining and metals in a sustainable world: World Economic Forum

This study by Accenture and the World Economic Forum (WEF) identifies key issues and trends on sustainability and the circular economy.


View a video of Accenture Mining lead, Rachael Bartels, on the topic

At the 2013 Annual Meeting in Davos, the Mining and Metals governors asked the World Economic Forum to look at the role and contribution of metals and mining in a sustainable world. A team of experts from the Forum, industry and Accenture specialists identified key issues and trends on the topic to inform the governors at the 2014 Annual Meeting so they can identify which activities the team should pursue in 2014 and beyond.


View or download the Infographic (PDF 1.12MB)


The mining and metals sector will be critical in a sustainable world to reliably and responsibly provide materials and products to global economies and communities. Societal expectations of mining and metals companies are rapidly changing and becoming more demanding.

As a result, the industry will operate in a fundamentally different way in a sustainable world. The key themes that will influence mining and metals companies are:

  • Consistent global policy and regulation provide a level playing field with a clear view of what sustainability is, as well as the expectations of and requirements for companies.

  • Ownership models are more varied, with recognized roles for a wider range of stakeholders.

  • Stakeholder relationships and partnerships are even more critical, with a commitment to delivering shared value to industry, governments and civil society.

  • New customers hold mining and metals companies accountable to higher social and environmental standards for their operations, products and services.

  • Advances in nanotechnology, robotics and digital technologies lead to full automation across the project life cycle, and 3D printing is routinely used for maintenance and repair.

  • The accessing of new sources, such as deep sea and asteroids, is commercialized and part of the portfolio of existing mining companies.

  • Operations are meeting enhanced environmental requirements for minimal emissions, waste and water use.

  • Project infrastructure, tools and processes are more resilient to more extreme weather conditions.


The manner in which mining and metals companies respond to the drivers of change will affect their market position, reputation and value in a sustainable world. Companies in the sector should consider five actions now to proactively prepare for contributing positively to a sustainable future:

  • Re-emphasize the journey: Businesses need to have a decisive conversation with stakeholders (companies, civil society, governments) about their visions and milestones for a sustainable world.

  • Invest in research and development (R&D): Mining and metals enterprises must start developing the technologies to operate in a clean, affordable and safe environment in frontiers previously considered inaccessible.

  • Define shared value: To prepare for operating in a sustainable world, companies in the sector need to look at what drives value for their customers and the communities in which they operate.

  • Rethink multistakeholder models: Mining and metals companies can accelerate the transition to a sustainable world by embracing multistakeholder models.

  • Cultivate the workforce: The skills and capabilities required to operate mining and metals companies in a sustainable world will be different; this needs to be considered, planned for and developed in advance.