Towards Responsible Renewable Energy

With rising allegations of abuse, are 50 wind & hydropower companies' human rights policies fit for purpose?

 Company Response Platform | Briefing | Press Release

A fast transition to renewable energy is essential, but it will be neither fair for people nor sustainable for companies unless undertaken with human rights considerations at its core.

The Paris climate agreement and the Sustainable Development Goals are driving commitments to climate action and universal access to energy globally. Renewable energy will be central to achieving these commitments, and with falling technology costs, investments in the sector are already on the rise.

But this welcome increase in investment is not without problems: there is also a rapid rise in allegations of human rights abuse linked to renewable energy projects. At Business & Human Rights Resource Centre, we have reached out to companies about human rights allegations since 2005. 94 out of 115 human rights allegations related to wind and hydropower projects took place after 2010.

Renewable energy projects, including dams and wind farms, are associated with serious human rights abuses including in Central and South America, East Africa and Southeast Asia. Local communities are faced with some of the most damaging impacts including dispossession of their lands, livelihoods undermined, threats and intimidation, killings, displacement, among other abuses.

The sector has the opportunity to avoid this fate, but to do so it must act now to radically strengthen its human rights due diligence prior to investment. The success of the industry and our transition to a low carbon economy depend upon it.

This is why Business & Human Rights Resource Centre reached out to 50 companies involved in renewable energy projects with a set of 10 questions on their approach to human rights, focusing on community engagement. We received responses from 20 firms and conducted desk-based research on all 50. Responses are available on our interactive, comparative platform.

Key Findings:

  • Weak commitment to community consultations: 34 companies demonstrated some commitment to local consultations. However, the quality of the majority is weak, with only 5 out of 50 referring to respect for indigenous peoples’ right to free, prior and informed consent (FPIC);
  • Policies need to be reflected on the ground: 3 out of the 5 companies that have FPIC commitments in place have faced challenges about this commitment on the ground;
  • UN Clean Development Mechanism does not guarantee against human rights abuses: 31 companies we reached out to had projects registered with the UN’s Clean Development Mechanism funding renewable energy projects; however 11 of these faced human rights allegations including abuse of the right to FPIC, right to land, and violence against communities.