Quarterly Trailblazer – Mohammed Ali

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Our Quarterly YellowYellow (YY) Trailblazer series aims to shine the spotlight on industry professionals who are making a difference by prioritizing – and championing – sustainability.   

Mohammed, who trained as a chemical engineer in Turkey, is now the Vice President of Sustainability and Regulatory Affairs of a global mining company.   In addition to leading ESG and sustainability strategy, he is an active volunteer in the industry.  He chairs various mining, environmental and sustainability committees and conferences around the world.  From working  to enact legislative change in sustainability to facilitating the convergence of  ESG reporting as a member of the Canadian Sustainability Standards Board (CSSB), he has stepped forward to make an impact.  In fact, the Canadian Institute of Mining has recognized his strong commitment to sustainability with the Central District Distinguished Service Award and the Sustainable Development Award.

Our interview with Mohammed reveals his lifelong passion for promoting sustainability in his work and volunteer endeavors. Read on to learn more about how Mohammed is doing his part to make an impact on the mining industry!

YellowYellow (YY): First and foremost, please give us a little background on yourself and your journey to get to where you are today.

Mohammed Ali (MA):   I’ve always been interested in the environment and shifting the way we process things. I studied chemical engineering in Turkey.  My thesis explored recovery systems and raw material optimization. I was curious about the  circular economy, long before it was coined that way.  I kicked off my career at a niche management consulting firm conducting life cycle assessment (LCA) and life cycle engineering to truly quantify sustainability efforts and carbon inventories for mining companies.

YY: So it sounds like you weren’t initially planning on going into mining, but it was the opportunity to work in sustainability that led you to that field.

MA: That’s exactly it. When I graduated, sustainability wasn’t an operational thing, it was a boardroom topic. Today it is more integrated into every aspect of the industry. 

YY: As the VP of Sustainability and Regulatory Affairs of a mining company, what do you consider to be the biggest challenge in leading your company towards a greener future? How do you overcome these challenges to create strong ESG goals and strategies?  

MA: Overcoming the negative perception of mining is our biggest challenge. The mining sector plays a crucial role in modern society and the mining of yesterday is not the mining of today.  Like any industry, the mining industry has some bad actors, and this can generate a lot of headlines, and paint all mining companies with the same brush. One thing that we need to make clear is all the ways we have been able to reduce our impact and reclaim former mines back to their natural state. Although many aspects of reclamation are embedded in Canadian legislation, many mining companies do go above and beyond, and they work hard to leave the land in the same state they found it. It makes business sense to reduce or eliminate such liabilities.  

The second challenge is trying to build that type of regenerative, circular philosophy into mining, and to design projects such that we can leave a positive legacy behind, ensuring that our footprint is minimalized, and our environmental impacts are benign. 

One final challenge is the remote locations of mining projects. When you are developing projects in these remote areas, you don’t just build mines, you build communities. You need places to house the workers, places for them to shop and visit, hospitals, and schools. But mines have a lifetime, they don’t operate forever, so what do you do when there aren’t jobs to support everyone who lives in those towns? We want to avoid these so-called ‘ghost towns’, so we work hard to consider how we can fill the void that is left when mining is no longer operational.

As for how we overcome these challenges, there are many different things we try to do. First we focus on building the mining operation in a prolific mining area that allows us to operate in the region for decades so that we aren’t one and done and try to make long-lasting impacts. Secondly, we try to build a mine in a way that will allow us to deconstruct it when we’re done with minimal environmental and economic impacts. We start to calculate those closure responsibilities before we even break ground so that we know what we’re in for down the road. On the environmental side, we consider how we can reclaim the land, and remove our machinery/waste, while on the economic side, we try to think of spin-off industries that we can build up to support the residents of the communities when we leave. An important part of this is to use local skill development and procurement for every aspect of the mine so that we can build up a general skill base such that the town can support itself when the mine leaves. Other options are to look for other potential mineral resources nearby such that the town could then be supported by a new project. The main thing to remember is that all of these things take time. Sudbury and Timmins weren’t built in a day, but over time they’ve grown and developed into thriving multi-sector towns. 

YY: How are Canadian mining companies doing with their long-term sustainability goals and targets? Are their goals ambitious enough?

MA: Canadian mining companies have very low emissions operations, thanks to clean power. While most companies have put in place quite ambitious goals, they will only be feasible if we use green energy and carbon capture technologies. One further aspect that helps us remain accountable is our relationships with Indigenous groups.

YY: How do you ensure that the sustainability solutions you devise in your Toronto office are received, understood, and implemented by your operations around the globe?

MA: What’s interesting about our operations globally, is that regardless of location, when it comes to emissions reductions and sustainability, it is still the same planet. The system boundary is the same, so it is essential that you reproduce the sustainability initiatives developed in one region that you can try to replicate to all operations where possible. The only challenge with this is remaining competitive in global trade and with global legislation. 

YY:  Any final thoughts?

MA:  It’s encouraging to see how sustainability as a concept has progressed over the past couple of decades. We have moved on from: “why sustainability? to “how can we institutionalize sustainability so that it becomes integrated into our decision making?”.

Join us in congratulating @Mohammed Ali on his inspiring professional journey! A heartfelt thanks to Mohammed for kindly agreeing to be featured as our latest trailblazer and for sharing his insights on how to overcome industry challenges and champion sustainable practices. 

Interested in nominating someone for our Trailblazer Series?  Need help with your environmental, social and governance efforts?  Drop us a line at: hello@yellowyellow.ca 

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Jeff Garcia-Seminario

Associate

He holds a Bachelor of Anthropology from Universidad Nacional Mayor de San Marcos (Peru) and a Masters in Science in Sustainability and Responsibility  (Ashridge Business School, UK).   As a lifelong learner, he recently completed a Global Business Management (High Honours) at Seneca College in Toronto. 

Jeff brings global experience in leading corporate social responsibility (CSR) and community engagement projects in the extractive sector.   Jeff excels in stakeholder mapping, community engagement, and conflict resolution.   Applying his private and public sector experiences, Jeff can bridge cultural and historical divides between extractive industries and their communities.  His areas of focus include food security, sustainable procurement, and good governance. Most recently, Jeff contributed to the development of an ESG strategy for a multi-national company.  

Jeff’s native language is Spanish. He enjoys morning runs in the neighbouring parks.

Kaitlyn D'Lima

Associate

Kaitlyn D’Lima holds both a Bachelor of Business Administration and a Master of Science and Sustainability Management degree from the University of Toronto.   She is also trained in greenhouse gas (GHG) accounting.

She brings extensive experience in sustainability and business transformational projects. She is known for her ability to execute projects of any size with both urgency and accuracy.   Kaitlyn has a natural talent for improving stakeholder engagement. She’s a real trailblazer when it comes to benchmarking and research.

Kaitlyn is a runner who participates in outdoor adventure races.

Arun Balu Pazhayannur

Advisor

Arun B Pazhayannur holds a degree in mechanical engineering and is a Chartered Accountant. He also has an MBA from the Ivey Business School at the University of Western Ontario. Along with his academic achievements, he has a thorough knowledge of Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) principles, which he incorporates into his consulting work. 

Arun is well-known for his leadership abilities as well as his strong skills in data analysis, financial modeling, and operations management. He has been recognized for his ability to identify practical solutions and deliver value to clients ranging from banks to payment companies to software providers. Arun is also a past President of Toastmasters Club. 

In his free time, Arun enjoys scuba diving.In his spare time, Arun likes to scuba dive. 

Gregory Donovan

Senior Advisor

Gregory  Donovan is a Chartered Accountant. He is a Fundamentals of Sustainable Accounting (FSA) Credential Holder.  He obtained an Honours in Business Adminstrations (HBA) from the Ivey Business School (Western University) and a Master or Laws (LLM) from the London School of Economics. Gregory is the CEO of Avondale Private Capital, a sustainable finance firm focused on energy transition finance and carbon markets.  He has presented on these topics at conferences in Canada, the US and UK.  

Greg participates in the occasional triathlon and loves to go skiing and sailing with his two young children.

Margaux Loptson

Associate & US Operations Lead

Margaux Loptson holds a Bachelor of Arts (Psychology) and a Bachelor of Arts (Criminology) from Pennsylvania State University. In addition, she holds several research certifications, including Ethical Conduct for Research Involving Humans

She has been an essential player in AI-powered teaching and learning projects as a User Experience (UX) lead.  Margaux is known for applying her design thinking, problem-solving and analytical skills to make a positive impact. She is a native French speaker

Margaux is a fitness enthusiast who can be found hiking around Central Park in NYC.

Ritika Jain

Associate / Responsible Supply Chain Lead

Ritika Jain holds a Masters in Environmental Sciences, Policy and Management from Lund University (Sweden)  and a Bachelor of Technology from Indraprastha University (India). As a lifelong learner, she is pursuing a Graduate Diploma in Corporate Social Responsibility and Sustainability at the University of Toronto.

Ritika is a recycling and responsible supply chain specialist.  Through her work, she collaborates with organizations to implement circular economy focused policies to ensure compliance with regulations.  

Her proficiency in data analytics and with the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) enable her to manage complex sustainability data. Ritika also volunteers with the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network, engaging with youth to drive positive change.  

Ritika is a native Hindi speaker.  She is a certified hiking leader who enjoys travelling.

Jonathan Spence

Associate & Western Canada Operations Lead

Jonathan Spence holds an Honours Bachelor of Integrated Sciences (Earth and Environmental Sciences) from McMaster University and has his certification in Geographic Information Sciences from the ESRI Canada Center of Excellence at McMaster University. Jonathan worked as a research analyst in the environment and sustainability group for a TSX listed company.  

He is pursuing his Ph.D. in Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at the University of Alberta, where he is researching the development of carbon capture techniques and their applications to the mining industry.  Jonathan is focused on helping companies to minimize their carbon footprint while supporting their economic growth.   

Jonathan is an avid water polo player and coach. He plays for the local National Championship League team. 

Gurnoor Gandhi

VP Business Development & Strategic Partnerships

Gurnoor Gandhi holds an MBA from Ivey Business School (Western University) and a postgraduate diploma in Maritime Energy Management (Sweden). Gurnoor brings experience with sustainability frameworks including TCFD, GRI, and CDP and is pursuing FSA credential (SASB). 

Gurnoor has global leadership experience in the shipping industry managing assets worth millions of dollars on the high seas and has led diverse teams worked in Monaco, Singapore, and India. Most recently, he led organizational development and client partnerships at CARD, a non-profit focused on rural development and renewable energy.

Gurnoor brings a blend of technical and leadership skills. He applied his knowledge of greenhouse gas accounting and carbon capture to support clients with niche energy transition projects. He is known for putting his problem-solving, stakeholder management, and project management skills to work to help firms expedite their ESG Journey. 

Gurnoor is a certified BMW adventure motorcyclist who finds off-road rides rejuvenating for body and spirit.  He enjoys hiking with his family.

Lisa-Annabel Ellis

Founder & CEO

Lisa Annabel Ellis holds an Honours Bachelor of Science (Environmental Science) from the University of Toronto and an MBA from the Ivey Business School (Western University). She is a certified Project Manager Professional (PMP) with a Six Sigma Green Belt. Lisa is a Fundamentals of Sustainable Accounting (FSA) Level II Candidate. Applying her deep expertise in business and operational strategies, she has led award-winning transformational initiatives.

Drawing on her well-rounded science and finance expertise, she launched YellowYellow to help clients advance their sustainability practices. As an advocate of transparency and good governance, she partners with clients to understand their risks and opportunities to generate superior long-term value. Stakeholders across the value chain recognize the impact of this effort. She has been called upon to be a keynote speaker and lecturer.

Lisa is an advanced scuba diver who enjoys most water-related sports.