Q&A with Bellevue Gold chief sustainability officer Luke Gleeson and his introduction into the Power50 list

(Image source:Evan Collis Photography)
(Image source: Evan Collis Photography)

For the second year running, FS Sustainability has released the Power50 list which lists the 50 most influential environmental, social and governance (ESG) leaders in Australia from ASX-listed companies who act on a wide variety of sustainability issues.

Entrants in this year’s list are addressing challenges that need urgent attention, such as climate change, with emphasis on renewable energy and net zero targets.

The professionals listed come from a wide range of companies, including financial,
mining and consumer goods, just to name a few.

The Australian Mining Review speaks with Bellevue Gold (ASX: BGL) chief sustainability
officer Luke Gleeson about his and Bellevue’s sustainability journeys.

AMR: What does it mean for you to be included in the Power50 list?

LG: With only three mining company executives featured in the Power50 list, it’s a huge compliment to the work that we’ve done here at Bellevue. Mining, inherently, is typically a carbon intensive business and to look at things from a decarbonisation lens and to be recognised for the work we’re doing is a huge privilege and it’s a reflection of the strategic planning and all the hard work we’ve done in the last five years.

AMR: How do you feel to be featured alongside the likes of Medibank, Downer, Commonwealth Bank and Orica?

LG: It’s very humbling, but again it’s a credit to the work that we’re doing at Bellevue. We’ve been very strategic in our thought process with regards to our attitudes to decarbonisation and building a modern day mine. To be recognised alongside some of those companies and some are ASX20 organisations, I think it’s a credit to the work we’re doing here. It’s a big privilege to be named with those businesses that are a lot bigger than Bellevue.

I think one of the interesting things about ESG is that people will typically refer to decarbonisation as the ‘only thing’ for mining companies. When you step back and look at the broader work we’re doing at Bellevue we have tried to create a competitive advantage through our approach to sustainability and across gender diversity in the business. As an example, last year we were running close to 40% gender diversity in the business which is extremely positive and well above the industry average of 17% participation rates.

The impact that we’re having socially as well is very positive, whilst we’re ticking all the boxes in decarbonisation, there’s more to ESG than just decarbonisation.

(Image source:Evan Collis Photography) Bellevue Gold chief sustainability officer Luke Gleeson.
(Image source:
Evan Collis
Photography)
Bellevue
Gold chief
sustainability
officer Luke
Gleeson.

AMR: Can you tell us about spearheading Bellevue’s ESG strategy and the creation of the company’s first sustainability report in 2020.

LG: One of the things we’ve looked to try and do at Bellevue is create a competitive advantage in our approach to ESG reporting. That’s something we really embarked upon early on at Bellevue. Those strategic initiatives that we put in place in the business over the past five years were really a part of the broader strategy of incorporating ESG concepts into our business and we really looked to try and create a competitive advantage with our approach to sustainability.

We were the first ASX-listed company in pre-production to release a sustainability report back in November 2020. Our first sustainability report came out four years ago and we’ve come out with three reports since then. Over the last three reports we’ve looked to initially to align with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs). We commenced our Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) alignment in early 2020 and we were the first ASX-listed company to align our employees to the aspirational goal of being net zero by 2026. In the 2022 Sustainability Report, we aligned the business to the UN SDGs and the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) and Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB) reporting frameworks; and in 2023, we became members of the UN Global Compact and we’ve continued to refine the reporting of sustainability and look to embed sustainability frameworks over the business.

AMR: You’re the chief sustainability officer at Bellevue, what does that role entail?

LG: In the business, I make sure that we [Bellevue] have the systems and processes in place around sustainability reporting and the macro initiatives in the business, particularly on the decarbonisation side. What we’ve looked to do is align the project to the carbon mitigation hierarchy of avoid, eliminate, reduce and offset the emissions that we will be emitting.

A large part of my involvement is ensuring that, from a strategic standpoint, that we are creating a competitive advantage out of our approach to ESG and empowering the team to achieve that. When you’re building a mine, a big part of that is building all the infrastructure and making sure that we’re doing things through the lens of making economic decisions to decarbonise a modern-day mining operation.

AMR: What got you started on the sustainability journey?

LG: I completed a Master of Science in Mineral and Energy Economics in late 2018 and a large part of the study work that we were doing was effectively looking at the economics of mining operations. Given it was a mineral and energy economics course, we were looking at the levelised cost of energy or the economics that sat behind the decision-making process. A lot of the stuff I studied was based on theory, but we’ve been practically applying that in the building and construction of the Bellevue gold project. It was pretty much bringing theory into practice – the things that were in textbooks at the time – into reality.

(Image source:Evan Collis Photography)
(Image source:
Evan Collis
Photography)

AMR: What’s the importance of having net zero on mine sites and how is this being implemented at Bellevue?

LG: Investors, particularly in mining and across every sector in Australia, are being asked to decarbonise their businesses. The importance of it at Bellevue is that we’ve tried to create some tangible benefits with our ESG initiatives and a large part of that has been investor-led. At Bellevue there’s been a big focus on making sure we’re doing things that align with our passion, accountability, care and excellence (PACE) core company values. This also aligns with a lot of our employees own personal values and opinions – and decarbonisation is certainly something that’s topical. Our approach to sustainability has allowed us to recruit over 200 full-time employees in an extremely tight labour market over the last four years as we built the project.

There’s increased investor appetite for companies to decarbonise, particularly in mining. There’s also a strategic opportunity to look at insulating the business to future input costs, such as energy inputs, and it’s mitigating the risk of carbon risks into the future. From a government standpoint, they could require mining companies to decarbonise at an accelerated rate in the future. There are various ways the government could look at it and the attitude we’ve taken at Bellevue is we want to try and mitigate a lot of those risks. Doing what we’ve done, this certainly positions us to be less affected than other companies that aren’t running a renewable energy component in their operation.

We’ll be running 80% renewable energy from our off-grid power station and this certainly derisks the business from a cost and carbon perspective moving forward. There’s the potential with the gold we are producing at Bellevue that we could pick up a price premium for generating supply chain provenance net zero emissions gold.

AMR: What are your stretch targets for ESG going forward?

LG: There are certain internal targets we’ve got in the business around diversity — that’s a target that’s important to the business — and decarbonisation, with the goal of being net zero by the end of 2026. We are the first mining company to align our employees to achieving this goal. We are looking at a few other initiatives around environmental initiatives given the business is now in cash flow and in steady state of production. From a social perspective we’re aligning ourselves with community sponsorships and donations in accordance with the Bellevue core values of passion, accountability, care and excellence.