BHP chief external affairs officer Geoff Healy said the company was part of a society that expected more from it.
"If there is a phrase that gets to the heart of the evolution of our thinking it is: ‘from licence to value'," he said.
"We believe we must move from ‘social licence' to ‘social value'; or from ‘tolerance and acceptance' to ‘trust and partnership'.
"We know this will be a challenging evolution. "
Healy said if BHP gets it right, it will give the company a sustained competitive advantage with the access to the best talent, resources and markets.
While sustainable business practices have long been a part of BHP's strategy, the company was now embedding social value at every level.
"To obtain access to the best resources, we must be the partner-of-choice for governments," Healy said.
"To secure the best talent, we must be committed to making a positive societal impact.
"And, to secure the best partners, we must be trusted by our community partners."
Healy said access was a key word.
"There are two sides to that access. One, protecting and maintaining the access we currently have. And two, securing access to new resources, new talent, and new partnerships to take full advantage of future opportunities."
Every asset now has its own social value plan.
At Western Australian Iron Ore, communities are polled monthly and annually to identify the issues that are important to them, with the information used for annual and five-year plans.
"As a result, over time we will be able to more effectively see ahead to unearth risks and create opportunities: in and across all of our assets," Healy said.
"But beyond hardwiring social value into planning, it must be part of every leader's mind-set and day job."
BHP recently made a US$400 million commitment over five years to develop technologies to reduce emissions.
"By making sure our own ‘house is in order' and by protecting demand for our products, we will preserve and create value for BHP," Healy said.
"Our climate investment fund is global in focus and is being managed, on a portfolio-basis, by a dedicated team; the fund has an embedded governance process, and the team will consider opportunities from inside and outside the company.
"We are committed to doing this with the same rigor and discipline we apply to any capital management."
Healy said since 2016, BHP's ‘favourability rating' among Australians has risen from 37% to 54%.
"We are not perfect - but we are definitely heading in the right direction," he said.
Healy said while BHP's products were essential to human life, the mining sector faced unprecedented challenges.
"The winners will be those who can see past the risks to the opportunities and who can grasp them and turn them into a competitive advantage.
"This is the spirit that underpins our transition from licence to value."