Important for business to take a stand on issues: Rio Tinto CEO



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“Beyond core purpose, business is being asked to lend its social and reputational capital in areas it has not done so before,” Rio Tinto Chief Executive, Jean-Sébastien Jacques has told a CEDA audience.

“While a CEO can’t and should not speak on behalf of all their employees on all issues, I think it is important that business does take a stand.”

Speaking at the CEDA Copland Lecture, held in Melbourne, Mr Jacques discussed challenges organisations face in a time of rapid change and disruption.

“Taking firmer views, is part of a wider trend. 

“In 2017 in the US, almost half of all shareholder resolutions put to Fortune 250 companies were about environment and social topics.  

“These increasing asks, signal a fundamental shift in the expectations placed on institutions.

“As I see it, we have now entered a new era, the era of B2P, or Business-to-People.  

“It is no longer good enough to be an excellent Business-to-Consumer or Business-to-Business company.
“These concepts are becoming out-of-date. 

“Businesses must connect with all kinds of people – community members, government leaders and policy makers, employees, civil society and so on. 

“This is absolutely vital as we enter the purposeful age, an era where leadership and robust debate on a range of issues is expected now more than ever.

“In Australia we are taking a leadership role on the issue of family and domestic violence.

“We pioneered land use agreements in the Pilbara. We are one the largest employers of indigenous people. 

“Are we perfect? Absolutely not. Should we do more? Yes.

“While jobs and economic opportunities are vital, reconciliation is also critical.

“We continue to support a national conversation, and partnership on, the Constitutional recognition of Indigenous people.”  

Speaking on trade Mr Jacques said, “there is no doubt global trade is under threat, and this concerns me.”

“As a trading nation, Australia should be concerned by this as well.

“Decades of research and most of the lessons through history show that the most effective way to create prosperity is through open and fair trade.

“We believe bringing trade initiatives together, at the regional (and) global level supports both fair trade and domestic policies to drive local reforms and competitiveness.  

“I fully understand and accept that we live in a world where some may question the fair-trade model, and its ability to make sure that wealth once created is fairly distributed.

“This is where inclusive growth comes into it. It is the role of government in partnership with society, to ensure that wealth once generated by business, is fairly distributed. 

“I also fully accept that business needs to play its part to stimulate economic and social development.

“I use the word stimulate purposefully, as business cannot be the sole agent of economic and social development.

“Business will continue to create wealth but it needs the right tax and policy settings to do so.

“I know big companies asking for corporate tax cuts is not popular. 

“Company tax cuts need to happen sooner rather than later.

“A reduction in corporate tax rates will stimulate growth – no doubt about it – which means more jobs, more support for local businesses and better livelihoods for all. 

“OECD and Treasury research shows company tax cuts benefit all income levels. 

“Australia has the second highest tax take as a share of GDP out of 35 countries in the OECD. And this was before the US, the UK and other countries cut their corporate tax rates. 

“Australia’s position is getting worse. 

“As a nation that imports capital, high company taxes are not good for jobs, investment, or growth. 

“The tax system needs to support the next generation of disruptors, businesses, and exporters to drive prosperity for all.”
Mr Jacques also discussed managing change caused by technology disruption.

“Technology and digital pioneering is really about people. And it is up to each of us to manage the change required as sensitively as we can,” he said.

“It is clear that this transition will see new jobs created, and in some cases, it will require a new set of specialised workers from other industries to support it. 

“The vision I see is this: the mining sector in all its forms, which currently employees almost 10 per cent of Australians, will become an even more high-wage and tech-savvy modern industry. 

“In becoming so, we also need to recognise we may not have all the capabilities we require for the future, here in Australia right now.

“New partnerships between business and universities will be key, as will making it easy for talented people to come to Australia.”


Top 10 Speeches Energy policy 2007-17

To coincide with the Copland Lecture, CEDA released a special edition of the Top 10 Speeches. Top 10 Speeches Energy policy 2007-17 is a collection of speeches from the CEDA stage that highlight the shifting course of policy discussions in the energy space. Read it here.