Civil society organizations urge sponsors of Baku 2015 to consider human rights impacts

Update: 17 March 2015: Response from Coca-Cola to NGO letter

Azerbaijan will host the Baku European Games in June 2015.  As it prepares for the games, the government has stepped up its crack-down on human rights activists - many are now in prison or have left the country.

In August 2014, the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights and the Polish Institute for Human Rights and Business wrote a letter to four "Official Partners" of the Games - BP, Nar Mobile, P&G and Tissot (part of Swatch Group), as well as to two companies listed as "Official Supporters" - McDonald's and TicketHour.  The letters asked the companies the extent to which they had taken into account the human rights situation in the country in their decision to sponsor / support the Games.  Signatories of the letter include Article 19, European Coalition for Corporate Justice, International Service for Human Rights, World Organization Against Torture, and many NGOs based in Central Asia and Eastern Europe.

First the coaltion of civil society organizations, then Business & Human Rights Resource Centre, invited the companies to respond.  BP, Tissot, McDonald's and P&G have responded - all the letters and responses are available below.

Update: In January 2015, Coca-Cola also became an Official Partner - the NGOs' letter to Coca-Cola and the company's response of 17 March 2015 are also below.

Within the letters, the organizations asked if the company:

  1. Took into consideration the political situation in the country, particularly the long-lasting repression nor civil society in the country and the wave of arrest of human rights defenders in July and August 2014?
  2. Analysed the impact of development of sports infrastructure on local communities, particularly bearing in mind the unlawful evictions in various Baku districts that have preceded this event e.g. for the Eurovision contest?
  3. Required the Games organizer to conduct and disclose the results of the human rights and environmental impact assessment of the new building/infrastructure projects?
  4. Required inclusion of a human rights clause that would enable BP to terminate the sponsorship agreement if the organization of the Games gave rise to increased human rights violations?
  5. Has in place adequate policies, processes and grievance mechanisms to enable those negatively affected by the Games, in organization of which it is financially involved, to seek effective remedy and justice in case adverse human rights impacts occur?

Official partners

Letter to BP - BP response - NGO rejoinder to BP

Letter to Coca-Cola - Coca-Cola response

Letter to Tissot (part of Swatch Group) - Swatch Group response

Letter to Nar Mobile - not yet responded

Letter to P&G - P&G response

Official supporters

Letter to McDonald's - McDonald's response - NGO rejoinder to McDonald's

Letter to Tickethour - not yet responded

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All components of this story

Company response
17 March 2015

Coca-Cola response re sponsorship of Baku 2015

...In terms of the Baku Games, we are not providing financial support and are only making our products available.

As a business, we are committed to ensuring that people are treated with dignity and respect across the Coca-Cola system. Our Human Rights Policy and Supplier Guiding Principles make clear our global commitment to respect human rights in line with the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human rights. The sale and marketing of product at the Baku Games does not rise to the level of due diligence suggested in your letter. The level of due diligence you outlined is more in keeping with the work we do within our own business and in our supply chain.

Should you learn of any human right concerns directly related to the Baku Games, the best course of action would be to work with the European Olympic Committee to resolve the matter.

We appreciate the opportunity to comment and would welcome a dialogue with your organizations to discuss further.

Download the full document here

Article
25 February 2015

Letter to Coca-Cola re sponsorship of Baku 2015 European Games, Azerbaijan

Author: Sport for Rights coalition

Download the full document here

Article
21 October 2014

P&G response re support for Baku 2015 European Games, Azerbaijan

Author: Procter & Gamble

14 October 2014

...Given the questions you raised regarding our support of the 2015 European Games we would like to clarify our involvement. We have not contributed funds to the organizing committee of the European games, but are supporting the athletes and teams that will compete from a variety of nations, including Azerbaijan.

As a company, our respect for Human Rights is fundamental to the way we manage our business...

Read the full post here

NGO rejoinder
6 October 2014

Response to BP, from Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights, Polish Institute for Human Rights and Business, regarding Baku 2015 sponsorship

While we appreciate your response of September 19th, we feel it is important to state that in our opinion it does not provide convincing and reliable information that BP is undertaking any steps to ensure that its engagement with Baku 2015 does not cause adverse human rights impacts…We look forward to further constructive exchange, but also to concrete actions on BP’s side to ensure that its support to Baku2015 does not result in increased human rights violations due to the funding available from sponsorship contracts…

Download the full document here

NGO rejoinder
6 October 2014

Response to McDonald's, from Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights, Polish Institute for Human Rights and Business, regarding Baku 2015 sponsorship

Thank you for your reply of September 16th to our letter and providing us with information about McDonald’s commitment to human rights, non-discrimination and diversity.  We also appreciate your readiness to engage in dialogue with company’s stakeholders. 

We note however that while you have provided us with information about the general policy of the company with regards to human rights, some of our concerns and questions remain unanswered…

Download the full document here

Company response
19 September 2014

BP response re sponsorship of Baku 2015 European Games, Azerbaijan

Author: BP

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Article
17 September 2014

Letter to McDonald's re sponsorship of Baku 2015 European Games, Azerbaijan

Download the full document here

Article
17 September 2014

Letter to Nar Mobile re sponsorship of Baku 2015 European Games, Azerbaijan

Download the full document here

Article
17 September 2014

Letter to TicketHour re sponsorship of Baku 2015 European Games, Azerbaijan

Download the full document here

Article
17 September 2014

Letter to Tissot (part of Swatch Group) re sponsorship of Baku 2015 European Games, Azerbaijan

Download the full document here