James AgarGroup Procurement Officer, BHP
James Agar is Group Procurement Officer at BHP, one of the world’s largest mining and metals companies. He leads a global team responsible for procurement activities across the enterprise and developing strategic procurement plans and supplier partnerships to create value through productivity, innovation, social value and decarbonization. He spoke recently with Joel Makower, CEO and founder of GreenBiz, about several critical issues related to the global sustainability agenda.
Asked about what levers need to be pulled to help the company meet its ESG goals, Agar pointed to the critical role of procurement, saying it provides an opportunity: “Opening the company up so that we can bring the best of BHP to the outside world, but also bring the best of the outside world into BHP.”
He emphasized BHP’s partnerships with other companies, such as Caterpillar and Komatsu, as a way of advancing decarbonization. BHP talked with these companies about the future direction of mining, which he says, “was very influential in them changing the way they think about the long term and the types of products that they supply our industry.” And through those conversations, he says, “we've been able to form decarbonization partnerships. We've got a greenhouse gas alliance with Komatsu and with a number of our other peer companies, and we've got a similar agreement with Caterpillar, which really looks to accelerate the path to move away from diesel engines in our haul trucks to battery electric fleets and beyond.”
Agar wants to see these partnerships anchored in what he calls “radical transparency.” This means that “BHP really opens itself up, and at the same time, our partners really open themselves up as well. We are open about the fact we don't have the answers. We have a shared ambition around what we're trying to achieve, and we come together to solve problems in a collaborative sense.”
At BHP, says Agar, ESG is part of the company’s “social value agenda.” It includes decarbonization, but also building more inclusive and diverse workforces – issues that he said have historically “come in at the back end of our planning processes.” What’s changed over the past decades, he says, is that BHP has been “building that social value framework into the very front end of our planning processes, our investment decisions, our mine planning decisions, our operational planning, our social value framework.” This planning “really influences all of our decisions at the front end of the process to make sure that we are making the best business decisions that allow us to accelerate the decarbonization agenda, be more inclusive.”
Asked about the ESG story that BHP hopes to be able to tell in five years, Agar says that he hopes the company is regarded “as an essential partner to the decarbonization agenda,” both in its own operations but also in supporting the world's decarbonization agenda. “Our products are so fundamental to life as we know it today, but also to the future direction that we see many of the big demand trends tracking. And so really to be viewed and welcomed as that essential partner for decarbonization end-to-end through our supply chains.”