Management of human rights impacts by companies in the mining and oil & gas industries is part of a broader trend towards increased corporate social responsibility within the extractive sector as a whole.
Greater due diligence by project lenders, advances in technology that have increased the speed with which information is disseminated, and heightened awareness on the part of extractive companies about the financial and reputational risks associated with human rights impacts have all played a role in bringing this issue to the forefront. This blog post will discuss sources of information on human rights that are available for extractive companies that seek to implement human rights policies for the first time or wish to improve upon existing practices.
It would be impossible to address the issue of human rights and business without mentioning the work of John Ruggie. As Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary General on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations from 2005 to 2011, Ruggie produced a number of reports that have been extremely important to advancing the human rights discourse. Ruggie’s final report Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights: Implementing the United Nations “Protect, Respect and Remedy” Framework is the culmination of six years of work and is a valuable resource for businesses and governments alike.
Business and human rights resources
As its name implies, the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre is an excellent source of information on the subject, and it contains information on more than 180 countries and over 5,100 companies operating internationally. The Human Rights and Business Department of the Danish Institute for Human Rights and the Institute for Human Rights and Business are good sources for publications on a variety of human rights related topics that companies may encounter. Several free online guides exist for companies that are seeking to incorporate human rights considerations into their decision-making processes.
The Guide to Human Rights Impact Assessment and Management is a product of the International Finance Corporation and the International Business Leaders Forum that offers practical guidance and useful links to a number of helpful external resources. The Guide for Integrating Human Rights into Business Management, created by the Business Leaders Initiative on Human Rights, uses a concise and straightforward process to aid companies in adapting their internal business practices to better accommodate human rights considerations.
Companies operating in countries where human rights violations are possible should also strongly consider adopting human rights policies aligned with the new ISO 26000 Guidance for Social Responsibility, the UN Global Compact, and the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises. The Global Compact is a corporate responsibility and sustainability initiative that brings together more than 8,000 companies, civil society organizations, and governments in an effort to promote the integration of human rights, labor, environmental, and anti-corruption concerns in corporate operations.
The Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights have been adopted by a number of high profile companies operating in the extractive sector and are the result of collaborative dialogue between industry, nongovernmental organizations, and a number of national governments.
These principles have been used by the NGO International Alert to form the basis for a set of human rights performance indicators that can be used to assess company human rights performance over time. A number of human rights best practice guidance documents have also been produced by industry groups. The ICMM publication Human rights in the mining and metals industry: Overview, management approach, and issues provide helpful guidance relating to industry-specific human rights challenges.
The ICMM has also published a best practice document on addressing local level grievances and concerns that may have human rights implications. Similarly, IPIECA has created a human rights training toolkit available to companies working in the oil & gas industries and an informative publication on Human rights and ethics in the oil and gas industries.
We hope you have found these resources useful, and if you have not already read our blog on Human Rights Challenges in the extractive sector you can do so below.