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Our environment approach

We acknowledge that the nature of our operations can have significant environmental impacts. Additionally, we depend on obtaining and maintaining access to environmental resources such as land and water.

Competition for environmental resources is growing, with climate change amplifying the sensitivities of our natural systems. Through our Climate Change Position Statement and Water Stewardship Position Statement, we recognise that BHP has a responsibility to play a leadership role in responding to these global challenges.

BHP’s approach to environment is embedded in our Purpose, Our Charter value of Sustainability and key company Position Statements and standards. In line with Our Charter, we acknowledge that we have a role in minimising adverse environmental impacts through every stage of our operational activities and contributing more broadly to the resilience of the natural environment. We also recognise that our environmental performance and management of environmental impacts on our host communities is an important part of our contribution to social value.

Our approach to environmental management is based on the robust identification, assessment and management of risks (both threats and opportunities) across all phases of our operational activities, including exploration, development, operation and closure. BHP applies a company-wide Risk Framework to identify and manage risks, including environmental risks, and we engage with stakeholders and take their perspectives and knowledge into account in our decision making.

As well as commitments in our Position Statements for Climate Change and Water Stewardship, we have Group-wide public environmental targets and longer term goals for water, biodiversity and greenhouse gas emissions. These targets include reducing emissions, sustainable use of resources and contributing to the achievement of collective goals such as the UN Sustainable Development Goals. We monitor and report our Group performance on a range of environmental indicators and metrics in line with external reporting frameworks such as the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI). Annual performance data, progress on public targets and key initiatives, as well as certain environmental monitoring information and environmental social impact assessments are publicly available on the BHP website.

Minimising environmental impacts

We seek to avoid, minimise and mitigate adverse environmental impacts at every stage in the lifecycle of our operational activities in line with our Risk Appetite Statement and have comprehensive frameworks, policies and processes (including on governance and risk management) that apply to environmental risks and set the basis for how we manage those risks and achieve our environmental objectives.

The Our Requirements for Environment and Climate Change standard (OR E&CC) outlines company-wide mandatory minimum requirements to deliver on our commitments and manage risk. It requires us to take an integrated, risk-based approach to the management of any actual or reasonably foreseeable operational impacts (which includes direct, indirect and cumulative impacts) on land, biodiversity, water and air. We establish and implement monitoring and review practices designed to ensure continued management of environment-related risk within our risk appetite through business planning and project evaluation cycles.

An updated version of the OR E&CC was issued in FY2020, to reflect recent changes in BHP’s Risk Framework and other Our Requirements standards, our current public targets for water, climate change and biodiversity, our Water Stewardship Position Statement and new technical standards for water. For new requirements contained in the updated version, our operated assets are required to have an implementation plan in place.

Applying the mitigation hierarchy

We apply the mitigation hierarchy in our approach to managing potential impacts and enabling opportunities to be realised to achieve our environmental objectives. Steps one and two of the mitigation hierarchy – avoid and minimise – seek to prevent adverse impacts as far as possible. Steps three and four – rehabilitate and compensate – seek to address those impacts that cannot be avoided.


Mitigation Hierarchy

As detailed in the OR E&CC, our operated assets are required to put in place controls and plans that reflect the mitigation hierarchy, an approach that helps us to avoid potential adverse environmental impacts and, if necessary, minimise and rehabilitate any unavoidable impacts. If, after application of the first three stages of the mitigation hierarchy, actual or reasonably foreseeable impacts to important biodiversity and/or ecosystems remain, we will seek to identify compensatory actions, such as offsets, to align with BHP’s risk appetite.

Commitments to avoid impacts

BHP respects legally designated protected areas and commits to avoiding areas or activities where we consider the environmental risk is outside BHP’s risk appetite. These include:

  • We do not explore or extract resources within the boundaries of World Heritage-listed properties.
  • We do not explore or extract resources adjacent to World Heritage-listed properties, unless the proposed activity is compatible with the outstanding universal values for which the World Heritage property is listed.
  • We do not explore or extract resources within or adjacent to the boundaries of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Protected Areas Categories I to IV, unless a plan is implemented that meets regulatory requirements, takes into account stakeholder expectations and contributes to the values for which the protected area is listed.
  • We do not operate where there is a risk of direct impacts to ecosystems that could result in the extinction of an IUCN Red List Threatened Species in the wild.
  • We do not dispose of mined waste rock or tailings into a river or marine environment.
Environmental management processes

Our environmental management processes are set out in the OR E&CC and BHP’s mandatory minimum performance requirements for risk management, as well as aspects of other Our Requirements standards. Note that in addition to the environment specific components described below, the OR E&CC also includes specific climate-change related requirements for our operated assets.

  • Development of the OR E&CC considers and aligns to applicable external standards and requirements, including the ISO14001 international standard for Environmental Management Systems and the International Finance Corporation (IFC) Performance Standard (PS) 6, which relates to biodiversity conservation and sustainable management of living natural resources. The OR E&CC applies to environment-related risks and potential impacts on the physical environment: air, water, land, biodiversity, communities and their interrelationships.
  • The OR E&CC applies to all BHP employees and contractors involved in planning or executing exploration, operational or closure activities, or those making investment decisions. Compliance with the OR E&CC is not mandated for non-operated joint ventures; however consideration of the OR E&CC is encouraged.
  • To support continual improvement in environmental performance, each of our operated assets is required to have an Environmental Management System (EMS) that aligns with ISO14001 standards and set Target Environmental Outcomes (TEOs) for land, biodiversity, air and water resources that are consistent with the assessed risks and potential impacts. TEOs are required to be approved by the relevant Asset President or equivalent and included in the life of asset plan. Verification of the EMS is either via ISO14001 certification, for those sites that currently hold ISO14001 certification, or internal assurance processes.
  • Environmental impact assessments are required to consider, within the area of influence, current and reasonably foreseeable activities associated with life of asset and closure plans, including consideration of climate projections.
  • Each of our operated assets must define intended asset-level environmental objectives by setting TEOs for land, biodiversity, air and water resources, consistent with the assessed risks and potential impacts. Management review processes are required to monitor and verify progress towards achievement of TEOs and ensure continued management of environment-related risk within our risk appetite through the business planning and project evaluation processes.
  • We require operated assets to assign and include resources in their two-year budgets to help manage environment-related risks (including regulatory and compliance risks) and to progress  and context-based water targets.
  • Environmental incidents and events are required to be managed in line with BHP’s mandatory minimum performance requirements for event and investigation management, which includes requirements for reporting, investigations, corrective actions and communications relating to health, safety, environmental and community (HSEC) events, with the objective of minimising the potential for recurrence.
  • BHP applies processes to engage with communities and external stakeholders and manage internal and external complaints and grievances. In addition to our business conduct hotline, EthicsPoint, and online case management system, the Our Requirements for Community standard requires local-level complaints and grievance mechanisms to be in place for people potentially impacted by the activities of each of our operated assets.
  • The OR E&CC is regularly reviewed and updated as required.

Environmental governance

Our approach to environmental governance is a part of BHP’s overarching governance processes, as follows:

  • The BHP Board oversees our sustainability approach, with the Board’s Sustainability Committee overseeing health, safety, environment and community (HSEC) matters and assisting the Board with governance and monitoring. The Sustainability Committee also oversees the adequacy of the systems to identify and manage HSEC-related risks, and overall HSEC and other human rights performance. The Board’s Risk and Audit Committee assists with oversight of the Group’s risk management systems.
  • As with all risks faced by the Group, environment-related risks are required to be managed in accordance with BHP’s Risk Framework. BHP uses the ‘three lines of defence’ model of risk governance and management to define the relationships and clarify the roles of different teams across the organisation in managing risk, including environment-related risk. First line personnel at our operated assets are responsible for identifying, assessing, treating and monitoring risks at an operational level. The second line functions, such as our Regional Health, Safety and Environment assurance teams, are required to define and assure the minimum standards to which the first line operates. Our Internal Audit and Advisory team then have accountability for auditing the effectiveness of the standards and their application, as the third line. The outcomes of internal, as well as external, audits are taken into account when updating environmental management systems and the OR E&CC and also considered by the Board and senior management when reviewing the Group’s risk profile.


Contributing to a resilient environment

We look beyond our own operated assets for opportunities to contribute to environmental resilience and seek to work with others to collectively solve for shared environmental challenges, as outlined in our Position Statements for Water Stewardship and for Climate Change.

We recognise that BHP has the opportunity to engage across communities, government, business and civil society with the aim of encouraging actions to improve natural resources governance and advance sustainable solutions for the natural environment. We aim to do this both through our individual company actions, as well as by promoting the adoption of resources industry good practice through industry associations we belong to, such as the  International Council on Mining and Metals, the International Petroleum Industry Environmental Conservation Association and the CEO Water Mandate.

For further information and examples, refer to the Biodiversity and LandWater and Climate Change pages.


Biodiversity and Land

The nature of our operations means we have a significant responsibility for land and biodiversity management. BHP owns or manages more than 8 million hectares of land and sea; however, less than 2 per cent of it is disturbed for our operational activities.

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In recognition of the potentially significant financial, environmental and climate-related and social risks associated with future closure of our operations, we are committed to integrating closure into our planning, decision-making and activities through the entire life cycle of our operated assets.

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Access to safe, clean water is a basic human right and essential to maintaining healthy ecosystems. BHP’s vision is to have a water secure world by 2030.

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Regulatory information

​​​​We are committed to high ethical business practices and governance standards. We provide detailed regulatory information in operational, environmental and community information for our local communities and key government stakeholders.

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