Sometimes the expectations are too high

Anna Krutikov has been responsible for sustainability at the raw material giant Glencore for one and a half years. In her first interview, she takes a position on various allegations, and explains why transparency is not always easy.
Photo: Anna Krutikov, Head of Sustainability manager at Glencore, with headquarters in Zug.
Anna Krutikov, what is it like to work as the Head of Sustainability of a group of companies that is constantly criticized for its activities and the way it deals with nature?
I find the job exciting! Look: mining is a difficult, challenging industry, and it has always been like this. But, as an industry, we also have a huge opportunity to make a difference in the countries in which we operate. I know everyone is saying this, but I really do believe it. We create jobs, we build infrastructure, we help local businesses - things that didn’t exist in many countries before.
How do you deal with the criticism?
There will always be critics who are fundamentally against mines and the mining of raw materials. But what we note in our conversations with all the concerned and involved parties is that the dialogue, and thereby the understanding for each other, is increasing. This affects all the involved parties: ourselves, our customers, the population, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), local authorities and so on. And that is encouraging.
You mentioned the fundamental critics. In the new documentary "Trading Paradise", Glencore is heavily criticized for its activities, for example, in Peru and Zambia. Have you seen this film?
What do you have to say about the allegations?
Firstly: we were very open with the film team. They spoke with our employees in Peru and Zambia, and they interviewed our CEO, Ivan Glasenberg. I would criticise two things: In our view, the film is not balanced, which we regret. We showed the director various projects in which we carry out positive things on the ground,  for example, a training facility for apprentices in Zambia, which are not shown in the film. That is a pity.
Second, the film is three years old. It was filmed in 2014. And three years is a long time, in which a lot can happen.
What about the specific allegations that a Glencore copper mine in the Peruvian province of Espinar contaminated the water, and that this had led to malformations in animals and diseases in humans?
There are two rivers in this region, one of which is the Rio Salado. As the name suggests, it is saline, so its water is not suitable for human consumption, and never has been. But it can be used for agriculture and cattle.  The source of the river is near a thermal spring, and the water therefore contains heavy metals. These values do not reach a poisonous level, however, and therefore do not cause disease in cattle or other animals. They do not die because of that either.
Together with the Peruvian environmental agency, we have investigated several times whether the mine has an influence on the quality of the water of Rio Salado. And the effects on agriculture, the health of humans and that of animals. There were no indications of these being influenced by the mine.
Ten how did the animals die?
There was a special investigation, which indicated that the malformations were caused by bad breeding and a poor diet.
So the water is okay?
All the research results we have received show that the mine has no negative influence on the water.
In the "Schattenreport" (shadow report ed.) about Glencore’s activities in South America, which was published this summer, however, I was stated that the Peruvian environmental agency has imposed several penalties against Glencore, including some because of the water.
I know of no such penalties or fines in relation to the water quality of the river. What we do accept, however, is that the communities there have trouble obtaining potable water.
Not because of the mine, but because, as mentioned above, there is no drinkable water there. We therefore built a sewage treatment plant there a few years ago. Before the plant came into operation, the local people had around two hours access to clear water. That’s now been increased to ten hours. We are work together with the authorities to extend this availability to 24 hours.
As a large company operating there, we see it as our responsibility to help. Unfortunately, this is not shown in "Trading Paradise".
In the film, a local woman farmer criticizes Glencore, and says she is afraid for her life, if she stands up for herself too much.
We know this woman rather well. We have agreements with the farmers there. We buy wool or milk from them. And this farmer has also sold us her products. She often talks to us, so I do not believe she is afraid of her life. I’m amazed that she said that.
By the way, the raw products we buy from the farmers are processed in the D'Altura dairy, for example, into yoghurt or cheese, which are sold in large supermarkets throughout Peru. This manufacturing process is subject to strict quality controls, and the animals that give the milk also drink from the river. If there was a problem with the water, these foods would never pass the quality tests.
Let's talk about the Mopani mine in Zambia, which also appears in the film. Air polluted by sulphur dioxide is said to have destroyed whole crops.
These pictures were also filmed in the spring of 2014. We commissioned a modern detoxification plant there a few months later. The Mopani mine has existed since 1933, so it is very old. When we took it over in 2000, we wanted to shut it down temporarily and upgrade it. But the Zambian government forbade this, because it feared the loss of jobs. So we had to bring the mine up to a new level while it was still operating, and this is enormously difficult. But we were able to continuously trap more and more toxins, and we have a new facility that captures 95 percent of the toxic substances.
The inhabitants of the village adjacent to the mine report persistent poisonous emissions, however.
What the film ignores, is the fact that mains power regularly fails in Zambia. When this happens, the mine must be re-started from the very beginning again every time, until it reaches certain temperatures. This can lead to emissions, like when a car is started. We inform the local population if the mine has to be "restarted", and provide medical personnel, including an emergency team, should someone feel uncomfortable. Sometimes, the expectations of Glencore are a bit too high.
What do you mean?
In Zambia, for example, the municipalities expect the Mopani Mines to solve all the problems. They have come to us and asked us to take over the garbage collection. But we said that this was the task of the municipality, that’s what it’s there for. We also offered to help by providing fuel for the refuse collection trucks free of charge at our service station.
But we basically want to ensure that the people on the ground do not become too dependent on the mines, because they will eventually disappear.
How often are you there in person to get an overall picture?
I’m on the road visiting one of our locations about once a month.
As the Head of Sustainability, do you want to be more in the public eye, to communicate more?
We are as open as we can be, and talk with all our stakeholders, including the NGOs and local people. But being open is a process that is not always easy. One doesn’t wake up one morning and find yourself to be transparent.
And, of course, if you are always the target of criticism that you perceive as unjustified, it can be hard to stand up and say, "Come, let's talk."
Admittedly, we have needed a certain amount of time to grow into this role, and we have seen how positive this can be. Especially when talking to the local people. These are good partnerships, but it takes time to build them up.
We have worked hard over the last few years to become more transparent. And not only when things are going well, but also in those areas where there are problems.
Where is the greatest potential for improvement?
In the partnerships with local communities. We want to support them even more. For example, we are not agricultural experts, but we can work more with organizations that have this knowledge and make it accessible to the local population. It is also important that the money does not disappear into corruption here. We support the EITI, an international initiative that calls for transparency. We therefore publish the payments we make to governments, and governments must also identify these amounts. Ideally, the totals should be the same. If not, you can quickly see where the problem lies.
How great is the conflict of interest between respect for human rights and the maximization of profits?
I don’t understand why this question always comes up again. We do not make any concessions on the respect of human rights. Full stop!
It wouldn’t make any sense in the long run, because then you have an angry population on your doorstep. There is therefore no conflict of interest between the respect for human rights and the operation of mines. We strictly adhere to all the rules of the United Nations regulations.
Let's take a look at the corporate responsibility initiative: Glencore made it clear that the initiative was "generally good," but that it was of no avail. Why is this?
We support the goal behind the initiative "For Responsible Enterprises", in particular the implementation of international directives in the area of corporate social responsibility, but not the measures envisaged. Switzerland is already very strong when it comes to the implementation of such directives.
Anna Krutikov (37) was born in Moscow and grew up in New York. She studied International Relations and Development Research.
Before joining Xstrata in Zug and then Glencore in 2013, Krutikov worked as a financial analyst in the field of mining, with a focus on sustainability. She has now been the Head of Sustainability at Glencore for a year and a half.

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