Renewable Energy Risking Rights & Returns: An analysis of solar, bioenergy & geothermal sectors

This briefing analyses 59 solar, bioenergy and geothermal companies' human rights policies and practices on five key areas: human rights commitment, community consultations, grievance mechanisms, labour rights and supply chain monitoring. It includes information on allegations against companies as well as emerging best practices.

Key messages

  • Renewable energy is key for our transition to a low-carbon economy, but companies’ human rights policies and practices are not yet strong enough to ensure this transition is both fast and fair.
  • Evidence shows failure to respect human rights can result in project delays, legal procedures and costs for renewable energy companies, underlying the urgency to strengthen human rights due diligence. We cannot afford to slow the critical transition to renewable energy with these kinds of impediments.
  • As renewable energy investments expand in countries with weak human rights protections, investors must step up their engagement to ensure projects respect human rights.

Press release|Full briefing|Company platform

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What others are saying about the briefing:

Mary Robinson, former President of Ireland and President Mary Robinson Foundation – Climate Justice:

Worryingly, figures from Business & Human Rights Resource Centre show that just because climate action is good for the planet does not mean it is always good for people. Whilst not questioning the need for a rapid transition, business and investors should take heed to such cases highlighted in this report from both a moral standpoint but also from a business standpoint, as such cases undermine a license to operate and cause costly delays. As opportunities arise in this transition to sustainable development, it is imperative that investors and businesses protect human rights in their investments, operations and supply

Paloma Muñoz-Quick, Program Director, Investor Alliance for Human Rights:

The benefits of action on human rights, as well as the costs of inaction, are clear for all companies - the renewable energy sector is no exception. This briefing underlines the importance for investors to ensure their green investments also take human rights into account, which would go a long way in strengthening our transition to a low-carbon economy.

Sumi Dhanarajan, Associate Director for APAC, Forum for the Future:

As the renewable energy sector begins its transition from niche to mainstream, this report critically highlights an urgency for it to attend to its human rights impacts. Now is the time for the sector to course-correct its business model so that it makes a net-positive contribution to society’s need for a rights-respecting, sustainable future.

Joan Carling, Indigenous Peoples Major Group for Sustainable Development / Right Energy Partnership:

The Right Energy Partnership with Indigenous Peoples is grounded on the respect and protection of human rights. It considers indigenous peoples not only as rights holders but also a critical partner as development actors in providing energy solutions to those furthest left behind. The active engagement and participation of companies and investors in this partnership guided by human rights and social equity will be a trailblazer in combatting climate change and realising sustainable development for all.

Sunniva Gautvik, ShareAction:

Both investors and renewable energy companies would benefit from taking this briefing's message to heart: They have both a moral responsibility and a significant business interest in ensuring their climate actions respect human rights – indeed the E and S of ESG are closely linked. ShareAction shares this vision of an urgent need for a just transition to a low-carbon economy.