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Investors hold power to limit human rights abuses in renewables

Gamesa employees provide O&M services. Source: Gamesa.

July 17 (Renewables Now) - A new report out this week says there is “an urgent need to raise the bar on human rights in the renewable energy sector” and urges investors to use the power they have to make that happen.

The Business & Human Rights Resource Centre counted 152 allegations of human rights abuses related to wind, solar, bioenergy, geothermal, and hydropower projects globally between 2010 and now. An increase in the frequency of allegations has been observed in recent years as one third of the total occurred in 2017-2019. 

The allegations relate to killings and threats, land grabbing, poverty wages, dangerous working conditions, and harm to the lives and livelihoods of indigenous peoples. Latin America is the source of 60% of allegations globally, while Southeast Asia accounts for 25%, according to the “Fast & fair renewable energy: A practical guide for investors” report.

To produce the report, the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre surveyed 109 renewable energy companies, engaged with investors, and sought insights from an expert advisory group. They found that most renewable energy firms have not yet adopted basic human rights policies and processes, through which to avoid or mitigate abuses and de-risk investment. 

“Investors can influence renewable energy companies to do better, using the power of their investment to ask critical questions and push companies to think about these issues before abuses occur,” says the report, giving examples of key questions that investors need to ask:

-- Does the company have a publicly available commitment to respect human rights that refers to internationally recognised human rights norms?

-- Does the company provide a grievance mechanism to workers and community members when rights abuses occur, as outlined by Principle 31 of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights?

-- Does the company have a human rights due diligence process in place to identify and address salient human rights risks before they become abuses?

-- Does the company expect its suppliers and business partners to adhere to the same human rights standards, and does it include this expectation in contracts and agreements?

The full report is available at https://www.business-humanrights.org/en/fast-fair-renewable-energy-a-practical-guide-for-investors.

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Browse all articles from Tsvetomira Tsanova

Tsvet has been following the development of the global renewable energy industry for almost nine years. She's got a soft spot for emerging markets.

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