BHP Billiton boss Andrew Mackenzie has defended the resource giant’s environmental credentials in the face of criticism from a former chairman of the Australian Coal Association.
Ian Dunlop, now an environmental campaigner, is standing for election to the company’s board claiming BHP doesn’t understand the threat posed by dangerous climate change.
“Climate change is relevant to us all,” Mr Mackenzie said on Thursday at the company’s AGM in London.
“As a significant user of energy, we are working to drive down our greenhouse gas intensity and we are seeing results.
“Our current emissions are below our 2006 baseline despite the substantial growth of our business since then.”
Mr Mackenzie, addressing his first AGM as chief executive after replacing Marius Kloppers earlier this year, insisted “we are environmentally responsible”.
BHP is Melbourne-based, but is listed in both Australia and London. The Australian AGM will be held in November in Perth.
The company is urging shareholder’s to vote against Mr Dunlop’s bid.
Chairman Jac Nasser on Thursday told the AGM that BHP looked out at least five years when planning for board succession.
“We are confident that our board renewal process ensures that we have the right blend of skills, experience and perspectives critical to the effective oversight of BHP Billiton on behalf of shareholders,” Mr Nasser said.
BHP’s net profit plunged by 30 per cent in the 2012/13 financial year to $ US10.9 billion ($ A12.03 billion).
Weaker commodity prices were the main cause and the company is slashing costs and capital expenditure in response.
However, Mr Nasser said in London that BHP continues to expected the Chinese economy to grow at more than seven per cent next year.
“China, and other emerging economies, will be the major drivers of economic growth in the long term which could deliver up to a 75 per cent increase in demand for some commodities over the next 15 years.”
The chairman said the company was “confident” of continued recovery in the United States while conditions in Europe “remain challenging”.
Mr Mackenzie said while the 2012/13 financial year was challenging “we are already seeing signs of recovery in the global economy”.
“Our focus on productivity is extracting more value from existing operations,” the chief executive said.
Mr Mackenzie said that in terms of write-downs there had been a prolonged period of low levels of profitability and price in both nickel and aluminium “and that has had to be recognised in the value of the assets”.
The BHP boss said he’d need a crystal ball to say if there’d by any future write-downs in those sectors.