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2 Nov 2021

Renewable Energy & Human Rights Benchmark 2021

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Also available in español, español, 简体中文, Русский

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.

Key findings report 2021

Our findings on the wind and solar sectors

Download scoring data

How did companies score under each indicator? Take a look at the raw data

Find out more


How did we assess companies? Take a look at our methodology

2020 Benchmark

Take a look at how companies scored in the first Renewable Energy & Human Rights Benchmark

Transition minerals tracker

Tracking the human rights implications of the mineral boom powering the transition to a low-carbon economy