6 May 2020
Media release: Amidst COVID, pressure builds on Rio to address climate lobbying stance
Rio Tinto is facing increasing internal division over climate lobbying ahead of its Australian AGM to be held virtually on May 7, according to climate campaigning organisation 350 Australia.
In the past three weeks, 350 Australia has conducted an anonymous survey of Rio Tinto employees via LinkedIn, asking staff of the mining giant to reveal their views on climate change and their employer’s continued membership of known climate-policy opponent the Minerals Council of Australia (MCA).
According to 350 Australia, over 100 employees have completed the survey. So far a majority of respondents (59%) have indicated they are concerned or very concerned about climate change, and only 39% say they think Rio should remain a member of the MCA, with 40% saying they think Rio should leave the industry association on climate grounds, and 21% undecided or unsure.
According to 350 Australia CEO Lucy Manne, this internal division is an indication that Rio is out of step with its employees, and Rio should send a strong signal to the MCA by throwing its support behind a Covid-19 economic recovery that prioritises projects in line with the Paris Agreement.
“Rio Tinto wants to be seen as a climate leader, but it insists on continuing as the single largest financial contributor to the Minerals Council of Australia – one of the most notorious climate-wrecking lobby groups in the world.
“It’s been clear for years that Rio’s investors want the company to walk the walk on climate change, and it’s now clear that a substantial proportion of Rio’s staff feel the same way. Rio Tinto has a huge opportunity at this AGM to draw a line in the sand and withdraw from the Minerals Council of Australia. We, the community, and importantly their employees, will be watching.
“While the rest of the world moves towards clean economic recovery initiatives that prioritise the Paris Agreement goals, the Minerals Council has been calling for slashing environmental regulation and tax cuts for corporations. Rio needs to send a strong message that this is unacceptable.”
The firm’s Australian AGM will be held online from Brisbane on May 7. In addition to presenting Rio Tinto management with the staff survey results, 350 Australia intends to hold a virtual “rally” ahead of the AGM, and present Rio Tinto with a petition calling on them to leave the MCA with more than 15,000 signatures.
Rio Tinto quietly released its 2019 Industry Association Disclosure in March, failing to walk away from the Minerals Council of Australia despite the review finding “instances of public commentary and advocacy” from the Minerals Council that “is inconsistent with the goals of the Paris Agreement.” At the London AGM in April, Chairman Simon Thompson conceded this was “frustrating.”
More information on the Minerals Council of Australia’s climate blocking activities can be found at http://cutallties.350.org.au/
Wording of survey targeting Rio Tinto staff:
Rio Tinto is one of Australia’s largest companies. As a leader within corporate Australia Rio Tinto says it takes its responsibility to act on climate change seriously. Rio Tinto’s climate change position states: ‘We support the outcomes of the Paris agreement and the long term goal to limit global average temperature rise to well below 2°C.’
Rio Tinto is the single largest financial member of the Minerals Council of Australia. In 2018/19 Rio contributed $3.3million to the Minerals Council. The Minerals Council is recognised as one of the world’s top ten organisations working to oppose action on climate change (Source: InfluenceMap.org).
If you are a current staff member, please complete this short, anonymous 6-question survey to help understand the views of Rio Tinto employees on this issue. A summary of the results will be shared with Rio Tinto senior management. No identifying information on survey participants will be shared.
Lucy Manne, 350 Australia CEO
0417 387 516