Our Journey to A4S: Addressing Human Rights Through Sustainable Sourcing

Friday, May 24, 2024
by SFM Students: Jaiden, Harrison, Dhiya, Ethan, and Vincent
Harrison, Jaiden, Vincent, Dhiya, and Ethan

As students entering our upper years in the Sustainability and Financial Management (SFM) program, we wanted to find opportunities to expand beyond the scope of financial competitions. 

With this in mind, we were immediately drawn to the Accounting for Sustainability (A4S) International Case Competition for its unique combination of financial considerations and human rights.

The Competition

The competition's broad focus was very intriguing for us as we needed to select a company, identify a human rights issue within that company, and develop a financially viable solution.

After much debate, we settled on Glencore, a global natural resource company, looking at the potential to include artisanal and small-scale mining, or ASMs, into their supply chain.

ASM refers to informal mining done with little to no mechanization, poor health, safety, and environmental considerations, as well as a lack of job and income stability. Driven by poverty or crime, ASMs are associated with human rights violations including modern slavery, extortion, bribery, and corruption. More than 134 million individuals are involved worldwide, including supporting industries.

Glencore has global operations, many of which are close to ASMs, though the company’s current policy is to avoid ore sourced from ASMs. This policy presents an opportunity for Glencore to address the issue, which is where our solution comes in.

Our Solution

Our solution provides tangible benefits for all parties involved. It centers around building a reciprocal relationship between Glencore's large-scale mine (LSM) sites and local ASMs through legitimization. This solution comprises three key aspects:

  • An on-site implementation team from Glencore’s existing site operations
  • A maturity scale to assess the ASMs’ operational level and determine the price paid by Glencore for minerals
  • A reporting tool to ensure transparency

By leveraging their current operations and personnel, Glencore can provide site-specific support to ASMs while minimizing initial outlay.

Upon onboarding, ASMs are assigned a tier, receiving support to legitimize their operations. The reporting tool ensures full disclosure of ASM operations enabling them to increase their tier. Additionally, Glencore will purchase ore at a percentage of the LSM sourcing cost, increasing according to tier; the lowest purchase price starts higher than ASMs’ current market rate.

Despite having a clear idea in our heads, we struggled to clearly articulate the solution to our audience. It took multiple practice rounds, where we frequently scrapped entire parts of our presentation to drastically change its framing before we felt that we were able to effectively communicate our vision.

Watch our initial pitch for the first round of the competition

Remote video URL

Our Experience

After two rounds, we were super excited to head to Toronto to compete in the final round of the competition which featured many talented teams from around the world. After two incredible days filled with networking, presentations, and speeches, we were thrilled to receive first place!

This was an amazing opportunity to effectively integrate sustainability and financial considerations in a way that is both directly applicable to our program, as well as connecting to real-world considerations.