The transition to a net-zero carbon economy is a human rights imperative for all peoples, but cannot come at the expense of the most vulnerable among us. This first global human rights benchmark examines the human rights policies of 16 of largest wind and solar companies.
Climate change is among the most important and complex issues our planet and its people have faced in centuries, and the COVID-19 pandemic has only reinforced the urgency and necessity of building global economic systems that are both equitable and sustainable.
The deployment and expansion of renewable energy technologies will play an integral role in reducing our collective carbon footprint, but can come at a cost for workers and communities if companies do not ensure respect for human rights in their operations and through their supply chains. The ambitious and necessary goal of achieving carbon neutrality by 2050 requires equally robust steps to ensure this transition is truly just.
The results of the benchmark suggest that none of the companies analysed are currently fully meeting their responsibility to respect human rights, as defined by the UN Guiding Principles. Nearly half the companies benchmarked (7/16) scored below 10%, with three quarters (12/16) scoring below 40%. The average score was just 22%, indicating that, as a whole, the industry has a long way to go to demonstrate its respect for the human rights of communities and workers in their operations and supply chains.
The widespread and egregious practice of land grabs, for example, is reflected in the fact that no companies scored points for having policies to respect land rights, to govern their process of land acquisition, or on just and fair relocation of residents.
Since 2010, Business & Human Rights Resource Centre has identified 197 allegations of human rights abuses related to renewable energy projects, and asked 127 companies to respond to these allegations. Abuse allegations include: killings, threats, and intimidation; land grabs; dangerous working conditions and poverty wages; and harm to indigenous peoples’ lives and livelihoods.
Allegations have been made in every region and across all five sub-sectors of renewable energy development: wind, solar, bioenergy, geothermal, and hydropower. The region with the highest number of allegations is Latin America (121 allegations since 2010, 61% of allegations globally).