Earlier this year the weekly journal, The Economist, published a supplement on corporate social responsibility. It was most unlike the average such supplement, scores of which are published in newspapers and journals around the world each year. These usually offer large companies the opportunity to tell readers about their 'good works' programmes, and invariably invite companies, in addition, to reinforce the 'positive message' about their commitment to socially responsible activity through the medium of a paid-for advertisement.
Instead, The Economist put forward to readers a heartfelt attempt to reverse what it sees as the 'victory' of the CSR (corporate social responsibility) lobby. The publication believes that this lobby has forced business leadership to adopt an almost embarrassed attitude to the pursuit of profit, when in fact this pursuit - as Adam Smith said all those years ago - willy-nilly serves the public good. Rather, it worries, business executives are wont to say, at least in their public pronouncements, that their preferred priority is the pursuit of what the publication sees as a woolly, apparently heartwarming but ultimately destructive (of economic progress) notion of CSR.
To be sure, The Economist was not advocating the crudest form of the philosophy that 'the business of business is business'. It acknowledged that the pursuit of self-interest by enlightened means could well be the sensible thing to do. However, the bottom line was that any activity which does not grow the bottom line is illegitimate.
At many levels, this view is correct. The primary purpose of any business must be to provide competitive returns to those who fund it - the shareholders. And we at AngloGold Ashanti seek to achieve this without any apology at all. That much is stated up front in the first paragraph of our business principles.
However, our business principles go further. They encompass commitments to fair economic reward and opportunity for employees, to their right to a healthy and safe working environment, to the communities living near our operations, and to the physical environment in and surrounding our operations.
We accept, and embrace, these commitments because we believe that, in order to operate, we need to do more than merely meet the minimum regulatory standards set by the government administrations in the countries and regions in which we operate. We also believe we need a moral licence to mine; a licence that has to be acquired, too, from our employees, from the communities in which we operate, and from other stakeholders. In its simplest terms, we take the view that communities, and others, "must be better off for our having been there".
South Africa is one country where these parallel licensing standards have been, to some extent, recognised by law through the mechanism of the mining charter.
That moral licence to mine is not something we seek in order to make us feel good. We do it for good business reasons. Without it, our ability to carry out our work, and improve the return to our shareholders would be compromised. Gauging its value to the bottom line is not easily measured. Indeed, by any normal accounting standards, it is impossible. But it is real, nonetheless.
It is not just AngloGold Ashanti's licence to operate which hinges on the benefits of companies' efforts being spread widely. Ultimately, the entire international market economy's legitimacy depends on it. It is because market economies have the capacity to achieve this that they survive.
This Report to Society is AngloGold Ashanti's latest attempt to assess how we meet these aspirations. As in the case of the Report to Society 2003, it is intended primarily as a user-friendly web-based document. It follows a similar structure to last year's, with key sections again assured by PriceWaterhouseCoopers. Where not, it is essentially because our systems have not yet been adequately developed, though we hope there will be no exceptions by this time next year.
One innovation is that we are also publishing operation, region or country-specific reports, to ensure a more focused examination is available to stakeholders local to specific operations.
We hope you find this document to be a useful and objectively presented assessment of AngloGold Ashanti's operations. We welcome your feedback.
Chief executive officer