Renewable Energy & Human Rights Benchmark 2021 (By Business & Human Rights Resource Center)

Full Text Sharing

Climate change is among the most important and complex issues our planet and its people have faced in centuries. The COVID-19 pandemic, well into its second year, has only reinforced the urgency and necessity of building global economic systems that are both equitable and sustainable.

Accelerating the transition to clean energy is a critical part of that essential economic transformation. But, while that transition may help avoid the ecological destruction of the planet and contribute to shared prosperity and decent work for all, it is by no means guaranteed.

Our first benchmark set out to evaluate the human rights policies and practices of 15 of the largest global renewable energy companies, using evaluative indicators drawn from well-recognised human rights standards used to evaluate other major business sectors. That analysis found significant shortcomings in the industry’s embrace of these standards, with many companies failing to implement even basic policies to acknowledge and commit to respect human rights in their operations and supply chains.

Our second edition of the benchmark shows that just over one year after our inaugural evaluation, there has been some modest progress within the industry towards adopting these essential human rights policies and practices. A few companies improved their scores significantly, and nearly all benchmarked companies showed some improvement when compared with last year.

However, the overall results remain profoundly concerning, with companies scoring an average of just 28%. Additionally, companies scored lowest on benchmark indicators that represent the sector’s most salient human rights risks – land rights, indigenous people’s rights, and protections for human rights defenders.

Without real and rapid progress, communities that host renewable energy projects will continue to face human rights risks with often tragic consequences. Renewable energy companies will face ongoing reputational, operational and legal risks, and investors will be exposed to those risks as well. And, governments will struggle to uphold human rights for their constituencies while also advancing efforts to combat the climate crisis.

The renewable energy sector, like others, has struggled with a broad range of allegations of serious human rights violations and how to resolve them. The Business and Human Rights Resource Centre has recorded over 200 allegations linked to renewable energy projects in the last 10 years. Almost half of these (44%) are from the wind and solar sectors. Abuses include land and water grabs, violation of the rights of Indigenous nations, and the denial of workers’ rights to decent work and a living wage.

For this energy transition to be successful it must be fast but also fair. Renewable energy companies should integrate robust human rights due diligence (HRDD) on their operations and supply chains into their company practices so they can act to prevent, mitigate, and remedy the human rights impacts associated with their business. And this benchmark is a tool which enables companies to achieve this goal.

About Business & Human Rights

We work with everyone to advance human rights in business and eradicate abuse.

We empower advocates….

We amplify the voices of the vulnerable, and human rights advocates in civil society, media, companies, and governments.

  • Our Regional Researchers – located all over the world – go to local communities to understand the impacts of businesses on the ground, and regularly talk with businesspeople and government officials.
  • We release briefings and analysis, synthesising the work of hundreds of advocates across the world and make recommendations for companies, governments, regions, and sectors.

We strengthen corporate accountability…

We help communities and NGOs get companies to address human rights concerns, and provide companies an opportunity to present their response in full.

  • We take up alleged abuse quickly and directly with companies. We’ve made over 6,000 approaches to companies asking them to respond to specific human rights allegations. Our global response rate is 55-60%.
  • We systematically follow up on company responses, pursuing companies that fail to respond adequately to allegations of egregious abuse. See examples of our impact.
  • Advocates and communities thank us for eliciting responses from companies. Companies thank us for providing them the opportunity to present their responses in full.

We build corporate transparency…

We collect data on the human rights policy and performance of over 10,000 companies in over 180 countries, making information publicly available. We engage with companies and governments to urge them to share information publicly.

  • Our website is the only global business and human rights knowledge hub, delivering up-to-date and comprehensive news in 11 languages. We receive over 415,000 page views on our site every month. 
  • Our free Weekly Update e-newsletter has over 14,000 subscribers around the world, including advocates, activists, businesspeople, governments, investors and the UN (Sign up / View archive).

Our approach

  • Focused on impact: We make a difference for vulnerable people and victims of abuse. We highlight the efforts and struggles of human rights advocates and take up alleged abuse quickly and directly with companies.
  • Collaborative: We seek to strengthen and support the broad business and human rights movement, cooperating with allies and partners around the world. We have a commitment to the global South, opening civic space, and supporting human rights defenders.
  • Independent: We are independent of any government, religion, or political and economic interest. We do not accept donations from companies, company foundations or senior executives of corporations.
  • Fair and objective: We commit to represent fairly all sides of debates on business and human rights issues.  We highlight good practice as well as criticisms of companies’ impacts and give companies a real opportunity to respond in full to allegations of abuse before we post them.
  • Beyond the headlines: we draw attention to under-the-radar cases and countries and forgotten victims, alongside those in the public eye. We highlight emerging debates and issues.

Who are we?

We are 13 trustees and 70+ colleagues dedicated to advancing human rights in business and eradicating abuse.

Our Regional Researchers are based in Australia, Brazil, Cambodia, China, Colombia, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Japan, Jordan, Mexico, Philippines, Senegal, South Africa, Tunisia, UK, Ukraine, Uruguay and the USA. They are supported by our two offices in London and New York. Oversight is provided by our board of trustees which consists of former business people, human rights, development, and environmental advocates and academics.




Position: Co -Founder of ENGAGE,a new social venture for the promotion of volunteerism and service and Ideator of Sharing4Good

Add new comment

Filtered HTML

  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <blockquote> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.