“One of the challenges, as I see it, for both business and government – is to regain public trust,” said Jan du Plessis in a speech given to Australian business leaders in Sydney on Thursday. “Around the world, and I have observed this acutely in the UK, public trust in both business and the political class is at an all-time low.”
The comments from du Plessis, who heads the world’s largest iron-ore producer and the second-largest mining conglomerate listed in the UK, come amid a slew of scandals involving British business such as the revelations concerning the former chairman of the Co-op Bank and various investigations into price fixing in the City of London.
Speaking in terms of Rio Tinto’s own operations, du Plessis said: “We are focusing on the need for greater discipline and accountability across the business, particularly in the way we manage and allocate capital.”
On global growth, du Plessis said that increasingly the strength of the world economy was dependent on Asia but that the mining company has seen encouraging signs in the developed world.
“The UK is showing clear signs of meaningful economic recovery, although I am sure we will still see some bumps along the way. There is a similar sense of recovery in the United States,” he said.
Du Plessis added: “To paraphrase Voltaire, China is well on its way to becoming an industrial empire unlike any the world has seen.”
Speaking as England’s top batting order collapsed against an onslaught by Australia’s fast bowlers in the Ashes, du Plessis said that executives could learn much from Test Cricket.
“Business is a lot like Test cricket: the competition is global; a good outcome requires patience, strategy and tactics; you have to take well considered chances; it requires a strong team; and, ultimately, you’re judged by your results,” he said.