In FY2020, the communities near our operated assets faced many challenges with social unrest in Chile and the United States, catastrophic bushfires in Australia and the global COVID-19 pandemic.
These events inflicted a significant health, social and economic toll on communities and local businesses. Each event presented a distinct set of challenges and as a result required a different approach from BHP to support the communities in which we operate. However, for each crisis we were clear that we must prioritise the health and safety of the communities in which we operate, together with our own workforce, and contribute where it was needed most.
We also recognised that we could make a more significant contribution collectively, so we partnered with local organisations, research institutions, governments and communities to provide critical support during the crisis and recovery phases of these major events. This support ranged from charitable donations to community organisations, supporting those most vulnerable, including Indigenous communities, accelerating payment terms for our small, local and Indigenous suppliers, and establishing social investment funds to provide medical and counselling services, transport, quarantine facilities and essential supplies.
The communities where we operate are one of the bedrocks of our business. How we support them to respond to the challenges they face can play a significant role in their future prosperity and livelihood. Social value – our contribution to our people, partners, economy, environment and the communities we are part of – is ingrained in our business. If we don’t have the trust and support of our stakeholders, we won’t be able to make meaningful contributions to regional communities and economies.
Social unrest in Chile
In October 2019, when protests broke out in Chile that resulted in many deaths and injuries, our primary concern was the health and safety of our people and the communities where we operate.
Our workforce in Chile was impacted as the country declared a state of emergency and imposed curfews in several major cities, including Santiago, Antofagasta and Iquique. Our priority was to maintain security at our operated assets’ facilities. We took precautions, in terms of workforce transfers and shift changes, and adjusted our plans at both Escondida and Pampa Norte to protect our people. Our regional Emergency Committee closely monitored the situation to guide decisions and deliver information to our workforce.
Aligned with our purpose and our approach to social value, BHP developed a plan to support the regions of Antofagasta and Tarapaca, where our operated assets are located. We focused on supporting these regions’ communities and local economies through working with suppliers, contractors and local businesses, and focused our social investment on small businesses, workshops for young people and opportunities for communities to come together.
As an industry, mining has an important role to play in Chile – we create wealth and generate value for many in Chilean society through our operations, but we also have a commitment to contribute to social value.
Bushfires in Australia
In Australia, the 2019/2020 summer bushfires claimed lives and devastated communities and regional economies. BHP and our employees, together with the BHP Foundation, supported the bushfire relief efforts in a number of different ways, including support for the immediate crisis and recovery efforts for the people, wildlife and environment impacted.
Our first priority as always was the health and safety of our people and communities, and our operated asset teams provided support to employees and their families in affected areas. We were also proud to have employees volunteering during the crisis to support the emergency response.
BHP matched employee donations to eligible non-profit organisations supporting the bushfire relief through the BHP Matched Giving Program. Through this program, BHP donates two dollars to eligible non-profit organisations, which included volunteer fire-fighting and wildlife rehabilitation groups, for every dollar donated by an employee.
Our employees responded quickly to calls for donations and made personal contributions of more than A$200,000, with BHP contributing more than A$400,000 through the Matched Giving Program to bring the total to over A$600,000.
Our operated and non-operated assets also provided support. Olympic Dam contributed A$100,000 to the South Australian CFS (Country Fire Service) Foundation and BHP Petroleum Australia – via our 50 per cent stake in the Gippsland Basin Joint Venture operated by Esso – donated A$430,000 to the Gippsland Relief Fund.
In addition, the BHP Foundation donated A$2.5 million to the recovery efforts, comprising a A$2 million donation to the Australian Red Cross, A$250,000 to Zoos Australia and A$250,000 to the Australian wildlife rescue organisation WIRES to support the rescue and recovery of impacted wildlife and longer-term habitat recovery.
The BHP Foundation’s donation helped the Australian Red Cross provide immediate support through evacuation centres, psychological first aid and emergency assistance, including cash grants to people who lost their homes, as well as support longer-term recovery programs in fire-affected communities.
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, we have worked to keep our people and the communities in which we operate healthy and safe as the outbreak spread across the globe.
We recognised BHP’s ability to continue to operate through the pandemic depended on the steps we took to not only keep our people safe and healthy but also to support the communities where we have a presence. This enabled us to safely operate, support jobs and contribute to regional economic activity. We have worked closely with the communities in which we operate to protect those most vulnerable and help ensure those communities were sufficiently equipped with health and essential services and supplies.
The small, local and Indigenous communities and businesses we work with play a critical role in supporting our operations and we depend on their ongoing wellbeing, success and prosperity.
We sought to provide support where it was needed most within communities, contributing to organisations to meet supply and service shortages, accelerating payments to our small, local and Indigenous suppliers and engaging additional people from local regions. We worked with governments, businesses and individuals to identify service and supply shortfalls and determine the best way to fill those gaps. We worked with our suppliers to source critical hygiene products, such as hand sanitiser, face masks and cleaning equipment to protect our workforce and also local communities.
We established rapid response social investment funds designed to help support the most vulnerable to infection and mitigate the broader impacts. These included: the A$50 million Vital Resources Fund in Australia; in Chile, a US$8 million program to increase the testing capacity and medical treatment facilities in vulnerable areas and an additional US$3 million fund for communities; a US$2 million fund to support local and regional health and wellness programs, as well as essential community services in North America; and a partnership with Project Dignity in Singapore to supply meals to frontline health care workers.
The BHP Foundation committed A$3 million to the prevention and treatment of COVID-19 with two world-leading research institutions based in Australia. The Foundation provided A$2 million to support the University of Queensland to develop a potential vaccine and A$1 million to the Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity for its Australasian COVID-19 Trial (ASCOT).
We were committed to applying the same rigorous health and safety standards as we applied to our workforce to limit the spread of COVID-19 to the communities near our operated assets. We limited access to those communities by our people and made sure vulnerable members had medical services and essential supplies. We ceased face-to-face meetings with Indigenous peoples and supported their return to country.
Black Lives Matter protests
BHP’s long-standing commitment to human rights and inclusion and diversity underpinned a US$500,000 donation to an organisation in the greater Houston area working towards the fight against racism.
Many of us do not share the life experiences of our black colleagues in the United States. Although empathetic to the injustices they face, it may be more difficult for all our people to truly understand and appreciate how this affects their daily lives. That’s why we encouraged our people to learn and explore how systemic racism in the United States continues to disproportionately affect black people relative to other communities so we can have a more informed, meaningful and open conversation. This is only the beginning and there is a lot more to do.