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Just energy transition principles for human rights in business and investment

Climate change is a growing catastrophe and an enormous opportunity for the world. It requires a rapid, global energy transition. The speed of the shift will depend on the scale and scope of investment available. It will also depend on retaining broad public support, and particularly from those directly affected by its vast new mining operations and renewable mega-projects. Impacts of the global climate crisis are multiplying quickly, and particularly for Indigenous and marginalised communities. But the transition cannot come at their expense. A fast transition will also be a fair one. The alternative is abuse, distrust, delay and cost.

A just transition to clean energy must centre on three core principles: 

Shared prosperity

Effective business models driving fast transitions will build trust and stability and reduce systemic risk through shared prosperity models that build worker and community rights in companies’ operations and supply chains.

Human rights and social protection

Governments and companies have a duty of care to shield workers and communities from harm; to demonstrate due diligence to minimise human rights and environmental risks; and to ensure social protection, retraining and creating new decent work.

Fair negotiations

Communities and workers need guarantees that negotiations will be fair throughout operational life-cycles and when accessing remediation for harm. There will be inclusive community consultation and robust implementation of the principles of Free, Prior, and Informed Consent (FPIC) for Indigenous Peoples; and guarantees that workers, Indigenous and community leaders will not be silenced through intimidation or violence.

A clean energy future

Phil Bloomer explores the ingredients for a just energy transition at TEDxLondonBusinessSchool

Recommendations for companies in the Just Energy Transition:

  • Assign clear Board responsibility for and oversight of respect for human and environmental rights: Board approves policies and regularly reviews salient human and environmental rights abuse allegations, due diligence plans and remedy outcomes.
  • Implement human rights due diligence processes, including providing remedy for harm, throughout the business cycle and supply chain, built on worker and community engagement that is safe and inclusive: Adopt and effectively communicate support for good jobs and decent working conditions, co-benefit, inclusive remediation processes and zero tolerance policies for abuse of communities, workers and human rights defenders, including labour rights activists and Indigenous, land and environmental defenders.
  • Commit to obtaining consent and to co-ownership through equal dialogue on shared asset models: Respect and publicly report on inclusive consultations with communities and implementation of Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) principles for Indigenous Peoples prior to taking investment and operational decisions, followed by joint interrogation of shared asset models. Ensure communities and workers are well-advised for equal negotiation of these terms, and that these processes are accessible, culturally appropriate, safe and effective.
  • Develop decarbonization and just transition plans to deliver good jobs and co-benefit in consultation with democratic representatives and rightsholders: Especially unions, Indigenous and community organisations, in operations and supply chains.

Shutterstock (purchased)

Recommendations for investors and banks in the Just Energy Transition:

  • Commit to rights-respecting investments: With board oversight, undertake and promote analysis consistent with the UN Guiding Principles for Business and Human Rights (UNGPs) for all transition minerals mining and renewable energy investments. Evaluate risks and impacts of investee companies on people and the planet, alongside financial materiality.
  • Actively engage with investee companies: Adopt stewardship policies, and develop and implement plans to proactively prevent and mitigate human rights and environmental risks and related costly conflict, alongside reputational, legal and regulatory risks. 
  • Undertake inclusive human rights and environmental due diligence: Throughout the business cycle, undertake due diligence and engagement with worker organisations and communities, including reviewing potential  investees’ up-to-date record of environmental harm and human rights abuse.

Recommendations for governments in the Just Energy Transition:

  • Accelerate growth in responsible renewable energy and reduce conflict with impacted communities: 
    - Adopt ambitious green policy and regulatory frameworks to direct foreign and domestic investment flows to responsible renewable energy infrastructure in consultation with rightsholders, including workers and Indigenous organisations, with specific consideration given to land rights, FPIC, gender and human rights defenders, including labour rights activists and Indigenous, land and environmental defenders.
    - Legislate mandatory, inclusive human rights and environmental due diligence enforced by corporate civil liability, alongside targeted incentives to shift investment and business behaviour. Ensure access to domestic and extra-territorial justice and effective remediation for victims of abuse.
    - Commit to exploring policy frameworks supporting shared asset models between companies and communities impacted by transition mineral mining and renewable energy projects.
  • Support an equitable energy transition: Ensure that renewable energy development results in greater access to reliable, clean and affordable energy for all; good jobs with freedom of association and right to collective bargaining; and greater retention of the value chain in the region.
  • Adopt policies to protect the environment, support recycling and re-use of minerals and increase efficiency in product design: Minimise environmental and human impacts related to new mining activities, where community consent has been obtained and equitable benefit and joint monitoring agreements and grievance mechanisms are in place.
  • Insist that international human rights standards are embedded in multilateral Just Energy Transition Agreements: With commitment to the UN Guiding Principles for Business and Human Rights and ILO conventions, and social dialogue to develop transition plans that build public support.

The Business and Human Rights Resource Centre has consolidated these principles from our research on the just transition and tested them through engagement with partners and allies. These principles are intended to guide stakeholders, rather than function as public statements of endorsement and will remain iterative as we continue our consultation and collaboration with frontline communities.

Research and resources

Transition Minerals Tracker

Tracking the human rights impacts of the mineral boom powering the transition to clean energy

Renewable Energy Benchmark

Are the biggest renewable energy companies doing enough to ensure respect for human rights?


100+ civil society organisations call on UNFCCC and State parties to centre shared prosperity and corporate justice in climate action

Shared prosperity models & Indigenous leadership for a just transition

News and resources from Indigenous Peoples Rights International and Business & Human Rights Resource Centre