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Decarbonizing the future of metals and mining

5-minute read

In brief

  • Shifting leader behavior and corporate culture will have the greatest impact on reaching decarbonization objectives in the mining & metals industries.
  • Companies that develop leaders with behavioral characteristics aligned to the five elements of responsible leadership can accelerate decarbonization.
  • Companies that embrace Total Enterprise Reinvention as a catalyst for driving decarbonization will be the ones to lead their respective industries.

How leadership drives the green future of industry

The world faces an unprecedented climate crisis, with the mining and metals industries having an equally unprecedented opportunity to address it. But at present, companies in these sectors are mired in outdated, inefficient operating models that do little to improve environmental sustainability—principally through decarbonization—and in many cases work in direct opposition to a green future.

To meet the urgent need for decarbonization, companies must re-examine every aspect of the enterprise and be willing to rethink how everything—even the most established practices—should change. It will be critical for industries to embrace Total Enterprise Reinvention. This will require companies to develop inspirational, sustainability-focused leaders who are catalysts for reinvention—shifting behaviors and culture to make decarbonization top of mind for every decision and action taken across the enterprise.

Previously, the World Economic Forum’s Future of Work Taskforce conducted a Global Talent Innovation Initiative that defined the types of talent and capabilities mining and metals companies will need to transform into more modern, diverse, efficient and sustainable enterprises. In the second phase of this initiative, the Taskforce focused specifically on leadership and culture across industrial clusters, including mining and metals, setting out to define the mindsets and behaviors leaders must embody to make decarbonization a defining element of business culture. 

The result is a model for activating leadership and cultural change that accelerates decarbonization in the metals and mining industries spanning three elements: 

  • A leadership maturity framework that defines core mindsets and leader behaviors needed to enable decarbonization.

  • An assessment tool to determine where leadership is currently positioned within the maturity framework today.

  • Actionable steps to shift leader behaviors and organizational culture toward a decarbonized tomorrow.

The ideal future leader is a paradigm shifter who understands that decarbonization demands working with diverse ecosystems of communities and partners.

Leaders of change

From its most recent study, the Future of Work Taskforce concluded that a certain kind of leader is required.

Such leaders need to be bold and fearless protagonists of change who want to accelerate their organization and the world towards decarbonization. These ideal leaders should embody the qualities and behavioral characteristics that align to the five elements of responsible leadership previously defined by Accenture and the World Economic Forum: Mission and purpose, emotion and intuition, intellect and insight, stakeholder inclusion and technology and innovation.

However, different individuals will arrive at a level of full leadership maturity through different paths and at different points in their journey. Therefore, the Taskforce defined three leadership archetypes representing a progression of leadership maturity:

Foundational leader

A leader who focuses decarbonization efforts on meeting legal and regulatory requirements.

Progressive leader

A leader who views decarbonization as a pillar of the business strategy, and business value is recognized and targeted.

Advanced leader

A leader who uses decarbonization strategy as a proven differentiator, driving value & innovation across the enterprise and industry.

Future leadership archetypes

Every journey needs a starting point and a clear path forward. For industries to develop ideal future leaders, they must know where their leaders stand today in the leadership maturity framework. Therefore, the Taskforce created a self-assessment tool that enables leaders to determine where they currently fit within the three leadership archetypes. Leaders can then pinpoint which behavioral characteristics they should elevate to drive decarbonization across the enterprise.

To facilitate the necessary changes, the Taskforce tapped into the behavioral science world to create a set of behavioral exercises designed to shift leader mindsets and actions in a fun and engaging way. Each activity focuses on a typical everyday challenge leaders face in the normal course of doing their job, identifies the behavior to use as a lever to solve the challenge, and employs a series of action-oriented, game-like activities to shift that behavior toward greater leadership maturity. Once you take the self-assessment, navigate through the behavioral exercises in the full report and focus on the exercises built for your assessed level.  

Reinventing corporate culture

Cultivating responsible leadership extends beyond recasting behaviors of individuals. It also requires an organizational ecosystem that enables leaders to flourish across the five key elements of responsible leadership. It requires embedding a mindset of decarbonization into the corporate culture.

In some cases, corporate culture and the organizational ecosystems within that culture can be barriers to individual behavior change. Therefore, the Future of Work Taskforce examined ways to ignite enterprise-wide actions that will accelerate culture change to advance the organization’s decarbonization mission.

Called “jump starters,” these change-enablers are designed to spark new levels of enthusiasm and commitment to decarbonization across the enterprise. As with the behavioral exercises for individuals, these organizational jump starters are aligned across the five elements of responsible leadership: Mission and purpose, emotion and intuition, intellect and insight, stakeholder inclusion and technology and innovation.

Planning the journey to reinvention

Organizations should consider re-imagining the future leadership of their industries through the lens of the three future scenarios for mining and metals as identified in the first Future of Work taskforce report: Hight-tech, ESG leader and geopolitically adept leader. This will help in planning the leadership attributes needed to “dial up” and prioritize for future leaders.

When starting to use the leadership archetype framework, organizations should bear in mind the following key considerations:

  • The as-is leadership profiles/make-up of the organization: percentage of leaders at each of the archetype levels (Foundational, Progressive and Advanced) and where they are positioned in the organization (e.g., function, seniority, etc.).

  • The desired leadership profiles and leadership shifts: strategic decisions that must be made based on the organization’s vision and ambition toward decarbonization, taking into consideration seniority, layers of leadership (e.g., corporate function, mine site leadership) and job scope.

Shifting the course of the mining & metals industries

Based on findings from the latest work by the World Economic Forum’s Future of Work Taskforce, companies should now have a clear directive:

  1. Understand the ideal mindsets and behaviors needed in leaders to drive meaningful change and reshape corporate culture to focus on decarbonization.
  2. Determine where leaders are positioned today in the leadership maturity framework.
  3. Take the steps needed to shift leader mindsets and behaviors—and thus shift corporate culture—to realize a decarbonized future.

However, understand that real change happens only when there is genuine commitment at every level of an organization. Change must occur at the individual level, spread to teams and be infused across the enterprise.

But the sphere of influence should not end there.

Companies must also work with their partners up and down the value chain to enact change that drives decarbonization. That is how, collectively, entire industries become environmentally sustainable—and, ultimately, more economically viable into the future.


Gaston Carrion

Managing Director – Talent & Organization, Growth Markets Lead