Andrew was appointed as Chief Executive Officer of BHP Billiton effective from 10 May 2013. He joined in 2008 as Chief Executive Non‐Ferrous with responsibility for over half of BHP Billiton’s 100,000 strong workforce across four continents. His portfolio included Escondida in Chile, the world’s largest single source of copper. He has over thirty years’ experience in oil and gas, petrochemicals and minerals and has held senior positions in BP and Rio Tinto. He has been a non‐executive Director of Centrica and has served on the Audit, Remuneration and Corporate & Social Responsibility committees. He has also chaired Demos, one of the UK’s most influential think‐tanks. Andrew has a doctorate in Chemistry and a first‐class degree in Geology. In early 2014 he was announced as being on the Science Council’s list of top 100 UK practising scientists. On 1 May 2014 he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of London.
Andrew discussed his experiences as a scientist in the business world and how he has incorporated his instinctive value set into his leadership style as a CEO. He provided valuable leadership insight including the challenges of prioritising your time and the power of saying no. He believes the only way for a CEO to be successful is to learn how to motivate their team to come in a do a better job than the day before. Decisions should be made based on strong values, and it is these values that will help to show your organisation how to be a force in the world. The best leaders are authentic and decent, and he believes it is important as a leader to play to your strengths and be aware of your weaknesses.
Andrew’s unique strength as CEO of BHP Billiton comes from his interest in geology and scientific understanding. He admitted the carbon economics between coal, gas and renewables is complicated. Oil and gas companies are marketing gas as a better environmental option compared to coal, which may not be the case. If carbon can be captured, coal may be a better option. He said today’s hypotheses might be disproved tomorrow. He believes that even if there is a shift away from coal as an energy resource, mining companies will continue to prosper in their production of copper, iron and steel. Andrew also discussed the relationship between governments, communities and the mining industry and the responsibilities it confers.
A lasting takeaway from the discussion – you can’t argue with a rock.