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29 Jun 2020

Renewable Energy & Human Rights Benchmark

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BHRRC Renewable Energy & Human Rights Benchmark Briefing

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

The deployment and expansion of renewable energy technologies will play an integral role in reducing our collective carbon footprint, but can come at a cost for workers and communities if companies do not ensure respect for human rights in their operations and through their supply chains. The ambitious and necessary goal of achieving carbon neutrality by 2050 requires equally robust steps to ensure this transition is truly just.

This first human rights benchmark of the largest renewable energy companies reveals that most lack the essential human rights policies to avoid abuse of the communities and workers on which a just transition depends.

The results of the benchmark suggest that none of the companies analysed are currently fully meeting their responsibility to respect human rights, as defined by the UN Guiding Principles. Nearly half the companies benchmarked (7/16) scored below 10%, with three quarters (12/16) scoring below 40%. The average score was just 22%, indicating that, as a whole, the industry has a long way to go to demonstrate its respect for the human rights of communities and workers in their operations and supply chains.

BlackRock, IberdrolaEnel and Orsted responded to this benchmark post publication. EDP appealed its score. After review, the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre increased the score from 34 to 38% (see our review).

The lack of human rights policy strongly correlates with allegations of abuse.

The widespread and egregious practice of land grabs, for example, is reflected in the fact that no companies scored points for having policies to respect land rights, to govern their process of land acquisition, or on just and fair relocation of residents.

Phil Bloomer on renewable energy & human rights

Since 2010, Business & Human Rights Resource Centre has identified 197 allegations of human rights abuses related to renewable energy projects, and asked 127 companies to respond to these allegations. Abuse allegations include: killings, threats, and intimidation; land grabs; dangerous working conditions and poverty wages; and harm to indigenous peoples’ lives and livelihoods.   

Allegations have been made in every region and across all five sub-sectors of renewable energy development: wind, solar, bioenergy, geothermal, and hydropower. The region with the highest number of allegations is Latin America (121 allegations since 2010, 61% of allegations globally). 

This benchmark is also available in French, Spanish and Chinese.

Benchmark Key Findings Report

Download and explore our key findings

Download Scoring Data

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

Find out more

Case Studies

Explore positive and negative cases related to renewable energy and human rights


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

Download allegations data

Explore data collected on allegations of human rights abuse related to benchmarked companies

Mexico: Renewable energy and human rights

Civil society organizations share their analysis of the current situation in Mexico regarding energy regulation, the impacts of solar and wind projects on human rights and their ideas on how a just energy transition could take place

Press release

Renewable energy sector falling short on human rights, putting efforts to tackle the climate crisis at risk