Rio Tinto Workplace Report Reveals ‘Deeply Disturbing’ Culture

SourcingFeb 08, 2022

Rio Tinto Workplace Report Reveals ‘Deeply Disturbing’ Culture

Employees reported instances of sexual assault and harassment, racism, bullying, and other forms of discrimination.

Rio Tinto employees in the Pilbara region of Western Australia, where the mining company owns iron ore assets. The company recently issued a report about its workplace culture, detailing accounts of sexual assault and harassment, racism, bullying, and other forms of discrimination. (Image courtesy of Rio Tinto)
Melbourne, Australia—Rio Tinto published a review of its workplace culture earlier this month, uncovering reports of sexual assault and harassment, racism, bullying and other forms of discrimination throughout the company.

The review, facilitated by former Australian Sex Discrimination Commissioner Elizabeth Broderick, was carried out as part of the mining company’s “Everyday Respect” task force.

The company launched the task force in March 2021, looking to “better understand, prevent and respond to harmful behaviors in the workplace,” according to a press release about the findings.

What the report uncovered was “deeply disturbing,” said Rio Tinto Chief Executive Jakob Stausholm.

The study was conducted over eight months and involved asking 10,303 people to share their experiences via an online survey, which was available in 10 languages.

There were also 109 group listening sessions, held in 7 languages at nearly 20 different locations, as well as 85 confidential individual listening sessions, and 138 individual written submissions.

Looking at the last five years, the review found that bullying and sexism are systemic across worksites.

Employees said they were expected to “toughen up,” with nearly half (48 percent) of those surveyed reporting being bullied. Women (53 percent) were more likely to experience bullying than men (47 percent).

By location, employees in Australia (52 percent) and South Africa (56 percent) were the most likely to experience bullying.

Of those surveyed, 28 percent of women and 7 percent of men reported having been sexually harassed at work. Twenty-one women reported actual or attempted rape or sexual assault.

Women also reported various instances of sexism and discrimination, including fear of letting managers know they were pregnant and difficulty getting a flexible work schedule.

They also reported being denied gender-specific bathrooms, being left out of decisions and overlooked for promotions, and being asked to take notes, get coffee, or do a colleague’s laundry.

One respondent said that she “would not recommend Rio Tinto as a place to work for female friends or colleagues.”

Racism was said to be “common” in several areas, especially for those working outside of the country where they were born.

Of those who identify as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander in Australia, 40 percent of men and 32 percent of women said they experienced racism.

“I have copped racism in every single corner of this company,” said one employee.

 Related stories will be right here … 

LGBTQI+ employees reported significantly higher rates of bullying, sexual harassment, and racism compared with employees who do not identify themselves in that way.

These employees reported not feeling safe to identify themselves as LGBTQI+ to their colleagues and, when they did, were excluded and targeted by harassment.

“Overall, their comments suggest that the same hypermasculine norms and culture that can fuel everyday sexism and sexual harassment can also fuel heterosexism, making the inclusion and safety of employees who identify as LGBTQI+ a priority in any cultural reform,” said the report.

Employees also reported “harmful behavior” between employees and leaders and pointed to a “hierarchical, male-dominated culture” as a specific risk factor.

This behavior has been tolerated or normalized, said the report, and the identities of serial offenders are often an open secret.

The report found that employees feel there is little accountability, particularly for senior leaders, who behave in this manner and that these leaders are able to avoid consequences for this behavior.

Employees also highlighted a “capability gap” among those leading and managing people across all areas of the company, but particularly on the frontline.

“The findings of this report are deeply disturbing to me and should be to everyone who reads them. I offer my heartfelt apology to every team member, past or present, who has suffered as a result of these behaviors. This is not the kind of company we want to be,” said Stausholm.

He said he felt “shame and enormous regret” at what has gone on and added that he was grateful to those employees who came forward and shared their stories.

Apologies aside, the company’s report outlined 26 recommendations to improve workplace culture and prevent discriminatory and otherwise unacceptable behavior.

The recommendations focus on five key areas, including preventing harmful behavior via training and education programs.

“Rio Tinto places considerable and critical importance on safety and risk minimization. It is considered that this should extend to the prevention of harmful behaviors,” said the report.

Another key area of focus is leadership, with the report suggesting the company recruit and promote people with both subject matter expertise and people management ability.

The report also highlighted the need for a “caring and human-centered response to disrespect and harmful behavior,” suggesting the formation of an independent, confidential, and discrete unit that can respond to reports of harmful behavior and take a “trauma-informed” approach to supporting those affected.

The report noted the importance of providing employees with safe and appropriate facilities and the benefit of evaluating the company’s progress toward reform.

“Whilst progress is occurring at Rio Tinto, the challenge now is to ensure that this cultural shift—embedding everyday respect, eradicating harmful behaviors and ensuring consequences for those who use them—is replicated at all levels of the organization,” said the report.

The report recommended the company have an independent review of its progress within two years of implementing the recommendations.

“This report is not a reason for reduced confidence in Rio Tinto,” said Elizabeth Broderick.

“By proactively commissioning this study, one of the largest of its kind within the resources industry, it demonstrates a very clear commitment to increased transparency, accountability and action.”

Rio Tinto’s leadership team is motivated to change, said Broderick, and recognizes that a new approach needs to be taken to combat these serious issues.

There is also a high level of confidence among employees that significant changes can be made over the next two years, Broderick added.

Stausholm said, “I am determined that by implementing appropriate actions to address the recommendations, and with the management team’s commitment to a safe, respectful and inclusive Rio Tinto in all areas, we will make positive and lasting change and strengthen our workplace culture for the long term.”

The full report can be found here.

The Latest

AuctionsMar 21, 2023
Marlene Dietrich’s Van Cleef & Arpels Bracelet Going Up for Auction

Expected to earn up to $4.5 million, the “Jarretière” bracelet is the star of Christie’s “The Magnificent Jewels of Anne Eisenhower” sale.

ColumnistsMar 21, 2023
Squirrel Spotting: Customer Retention Mindset—The New CRM

With jewelry sales coming down from their pandemic highs, retailers need to do all they can to retain existing customers, Peter Smith says.

Events & AwardsMar 21, 2023
ASJRA’s May Conference Examines ‘Iconic’ Jewelry Companies

Jewelry historians, authors, and experts will explore the works of Tiffany & Co., Oscar Heyman, Verdura, and more.

Brought to you by
Full Disclosure at Your Fingertips

Distinguishing natural diamonds from laboratory-grown stones – now more available than ever – has been difficult for jewelers. Until now.

IndependentsMar 21, 2023
Borsheims Executive Jennifer Johnson Retires

Johnson joined the retailer in 1987, establishing its first human resources department.

Weekly QuizMar 17, 2023
This Week’s Quiz
Test your jewelry news knowledge with this short test.
Take the Quiz
Recorded WebinarsMar 20, 2023
Watch: Lab Grown Diamonds: What's Now? What's New? What's Next?

Supplier Spotlight Presented by IGI

Events & AwardsMar 20, 2023
Gem Awards Shine Spotlight on Design, Dedication, and Family

The industry gathered to celebrate those who elevate the jewelry and watch industries.

Brought to you by
Bringing Over 130 Years of Diamond Expertise to Modern Grading

De Beers Institute of Diamonds provides the very best in diamond verification, education and diamond services.

CrimeMar 20, 2023
Jewelry Crime Reached Record Level in 2022, JSA Says

At JSA’s annual luncheon, President John J. Kennedy said the organization recorded more than 2,000 cases last year.

CollectionsMar 20, 2023
A New Book on Chanel Is a High Jewelry Lover’s Dream

It highlights Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel’s lasting influence on modern design.

Recorded WebinarsMar 17, 2023
Watch: Lessons From Gems

Jewelers of America’s Amanda Gizzi explores the qualities and accomplishments that make this year’s Gem Award nominees shine.

Events & AwardsMar 17, 2023
JCK Industry Fund Announces Grant Recipients

Here’s what the nine chosen organizations plan to do with the funds.

TrendsMar 17, 2023
Piece of the Week: Anita Ko’s Award-Ready Earrings

The designer is nominated for a Gem Award for Jewelry Design.

FinancialsMar 16, 2023
Winter Weather, Declining Engagements Weigh on Signet’s Results

The jewelry giant’s full-year sales were essentially flat, brought down by fourth-quarter declines.

FinancialsMar 16, 2023
Brilliant Earth Took a Record Number of Orders in 2022

In its recent results, the company highlighted non-bridal jewelry sales and said its “inventory-light” showroom model may change.

Events & AwardsMar 16, 2023
Amanda’s Style File: Sparkling Gems

See 15 fabulous pieces from the 2023 Gem Award for Jewelry Design nominees: Anita Ko, Kirsty Stone, and Ron Anderson and David Rees.

WatchesMar 16, 2023
Citizen’s New Eco-Drive Watches Run for a Full Year

The new Cal. E365 movement doubles the running time of the current Eco-Drive models.

Lab-GrownMar 15, 2023
India’s Lab-Grown Diamond Industry Is Growing Up

The mood is bullish as more companies get into the business despite the dramatic drop in lab-grown diamond prices.

Policies & IssuesMar 15, 2023
When Diamonds Replenish the Earth

Hari Krishna Exports and the Dholakia Foundation’s “Mission 100 Sarovar” aims to create 100 lakes to help revive an area of Gujarat.

TechnologyMar 15, 2023
Sarine’s New Website Schools Consumers on Traceability

The educational resource will highlight the positive impact diamonds can make on their journey from mine to market.

SourcingMar 15, 2023
Canada’s Ekati Diamond Mine to Get a New Owner

Australian mining company Burgundy Diamond Mines announced plans to buy the mine in a deal valued at $136 million.

AuctionsMar 15, 2023
Antique Rings Discovered by Retirees Perform Well at Auction

A 17th-century gold seal ring and an 18th-century memento mori ring met or exceeded estimates at a recent Noonans auction.

Events & AwardsMar 15, 2023
JSA Announces Award Recipients

They will be recognized at the organization’s annual luncheon this weekend in New York City.

ColumnistsMar 14, 2023
On Data: How Did Independent Jewelers Do in January and February?

Sherry Smith breaks down the results so far this year, including which categories are the sales standouts and which are struggling.

MajorsMar 14, 2023
Dutch Historian Discovers Medieval Jewels

The 1,000-year-old find is now on display in the Dutch National Museum of Antiquities.

Events & AwardsMar 14, 2023
GemGenève Is Gearing Up for Its Biggest Show Yet

More than 200 exhibitors are scheduled for the May 11-14 event.

SourcingMar 14, 2023
Bonas Group’s Jimmy Gove Joins Opsydia

Gove, who has more than a decade of experience in the diamond industry, is Opsydia’s new sales and marketing director.


This site uses cookies to give you the best online experience. By continuing to use & browse this site, we assume you agree to our Privacy Policy