Latest news & stories

Responding department: Global External Affairs

Stock exchange symbol: (RIO:AU)

Note re preparation of response to survey: "Rio Tinto takes a co-ordinated, cross-functional approach to human rights including through its multi-product group, cross-functional internal human rights working group. Accordingly a variety of key corporate functions were consulted in answering these questions including those working on security, communities’ and procurement matters."

Does your company have a publicly available commitment to respect human rights?

A stand-alone human rights policy: [link]

Other Policies and Standards

The following provides a sample of other relevant policies and standards in addition to our Human Rights Policy referenced above. Information on how various existing policies and standards support our human rights approach is available at our stand-alone human rights webpage. For a full list of Rio Tinto’s policies, standards and other internal controls please visit [link]- 5243.aspx.

  • The Way We Work (Rio Tinto’s global code of business conduct, including a stand-alone human rights chapter) [link]
  • Procurement principles [link]
  • Employment Policy [link] Communities Policy [link]
  • Communities Standard [link]
  • Guidance Notes and other tools Please visit [link] for relevant guidance notes and other tools further helping our employees to implement human rights related policies, standards and other internal controls.  Note in particular “Why human rights matter” ([link]), a guide for communities and social performance practitioners on how to integrate human rights considerations into their work. We have also made commitments to and/or participate in the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises, UN Global Compact and Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights (VPSHR).

How are human rights governed in your company?

The Rio Tinto Board’s Sustainability Committee ([link]) has oversight of human rights. It is one of the committee’s core areas of responsibility. There is a designated human rights risk owner in the Executive Committee and an in-house human rights coordinator to advise our employees on how to implement our human rights approach in practice. An internal human rights working group helps to ensure a coordinated approach. The group comprises representatives from all product groups (Exploration, Diamonds and Minerals, Iron Ore, Copper, Aluminium and Energy) and key functions including those working on matters relating to communities, procurement, security, health, safety, the environment and human resources. The group’s mandate includes raising awareness within functions and product groups (including our sites) of our human rights approach and providing a discussion forum for systemic issues and best practice.

How are human rights managed within your company?

In line with the human rights due diligence process in the UNGPs, we look to understand our actual and potential human rights impacts, ensure we are managing them and communicate our performance. We take an integrated, coordinated and risk-based approach to human rights. As much as possible we incorporate human rights due diligence into existing corporate processes including social and environmental impact assessments, third party due diligence and broader site-level risk management. The topic of human rights encompasses a broad range of issues which are already embedded into the work of a variety of functions including those working with communities, health, safety, environment, procurement, security and human resources. We work with those functions to ensure that they understand the human rights implications of their work and encourage internal dialogue so that we take a co-ordinated approach. While we respect all internationally-recognised human rights, there are some issues to which we pay particularly close attention because of our geographical and operating footprint. These include: security; land access   and resettlement; environment including access to water and sanitation; cultural heritage including the rights of

Indigenous peoples; labour rights; and influx related impacts on local communities including access to health services. While we respect human rights wherever we operate we also know we have greater risks in some operating   environments than others. In countries that are higher risk for human rights we may conduct stand-alone human rights studies and programmes such as human rights impact assessments and human rights training. We communicate our human rights policy internally and externally. Our group-wide human rights online training programme is available to all employees. We have also developed more targeted and practical training packages based on sites’ and functions’ priority areas. A case-study highlighting an example of this training in action can be found here [link].  To  help  sites  ensure  their security personnel and providers understand why the VPSHR matter, and have the practical support to implement them, we have developed practical guidelines on implementing the VPSHR, a Security and Human Rights Toolkit and training courses. Our online training on the VPSHR is mandatory for all security personnel at high risk sites, and is strongly recommended for all others. We strive to provide training to relevant public and private security forces when a gap is identified between their current training and the VPSHR. We also conduct in-person Rio Tinto VPSHR and Use of Force training for security guards at high-risk sites. Both private and public security providers have been invited to these sessions. If needed, we also help sites and contracted security providers to establish their own VPSHR training capacity. Using a risk-based approach, we continue to monitor and support sites with the implementation of controls and safeguards to help mitigate the risk of human rights abuses as part of our security arrangements. We work to avoid involvement in adverse human rights impacts through our business relationships. We also try to positively influence human rights through these relationships. The way we work applies to all suppliers and contractors in their dealings with or on behalf of Rio Tinto. Its guidance is reinforced in other key tools including the Rio Tinto Procurement principles. These principles reiterate that we oppose and prohibit forced, bonded or child labour. They highlight that suppliers should maintain policies that respect basic human rights. And they specify that suppliers should have a  process to assure human rights compliance. In our dealings with joint venture partners and non-controlled companies in which we participate, we will make every effort to ensure that the standards of conduct in The way we work are respected at all times. Read more about our overall human rights approach at our Sustainable Development Report: [link].

What is the company’s approach to the engagement of stakeholders (including workers, and local communities impacted by the company’s activities), on human rights issues?

We regularly and proactively engage with stakeholders including workers and local communities to better understand their concerns around operations and projects as well as how we can work together to help support the realisation of human rights, including through community programmes. We seek mutually beneficial agreement with affected communities when we develop and carry out our operations. We strive to achieve the free, prior and informed consent of Indigenous communities as defined in the 2012 International Finance Corporation Performance Standard 7 and the 2013 ICMM Position Statement on Indigenous Peoples and Mining. We respect the law of the countries in which we operate, so we will also seek consent as defined in relevant jurisdictions and ensure agreement-making processes are consistent with such definitions. As a signatory and participant to the VPSHR, we continue to benchmark and share best practices and lessons learned. This involves active participation in the VPSHR Annual Plenary Meeting and workgroups as well as engaging with academia, NGOs, humanitarian agencies and other extractive companies

around VPSHR implementation. Our confidential whistleblowing service Speak-OUT is available to all employees as well as suppliers and contractors wishing to make a complaint, including in relation to human rights. Under our Communities Standard, all businesses must have a complaints, disputes and grievance mechanism in line with the effectiveness criteria for operational-level grievance mechanisms in the UNGPs. Rio Tinto has set up a stakeholder engagement academy which has already trained 810 employees on successful engagement with a variety of different stakeholders. A key factor is ensuring that our employees understand the local context in which they are operating. We actively participate in national and international business and human rights dialogues including global, thematic and regional events. This includes those convened by the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights as well as the UN Annual Forum on Business and Human Rights. We also engage with stakeholders such as governments, civil society and investors on our human rights approach including through publications, briefings and responses to general and specific queries. Read more about our stakeholder engagement in our Sustainable Development report: [link]

Priority human rights issues: What are some of the priority human rights issues for your company?

We believe that all internationally recognized rights are relevant to our work. For more information please see Why human rights matter ([link]). [From the checklist provided for this survey Rio Tinto selected all the listed issues:Health (including environmental health, workplace health & safety)

  • Health (including environmental health, workplace health & safety)
  • Workplace  diversity / non-discrimination
  • Forced labour and human trafficking (including in supply chains)
  • Operations in  conflict zones
  • Sexual harassment
  • Displacement and  community relocation
  • Access to water
  • Housing
  • Freedom of association and trade union  rights
  • Freedom of expression and/or right to privacy / digital rights
  • Relations with security forces
  • Conflict minerals
  • Transparency in payments to governments / responsible tax practices
  • Product Misuse
  • Women
  • Racial and ethnic  minorities
  • Children (including child  labour)
  • Indigenous peoples
  • Migrant workers

How are human rights commitments and information about how the company addresses its human rights impacts communicated, internally and externally?

Rio Tinto’s main forms of reporting and communications are as following:

  • Group Annual Report ([link]): human rights is considered a material issue for inclusion in the report and we generally feature information about our human rights policy, commitments and activities
  • Group Sustainable Development Report ([link]): the Governance section of our annual SD report has a section on human rights, with more detailed information on our human rights approach and outcomes of the year, including case studies. Note also that other sections including communities and social performance also contain relevant information about human rights-related issues.
  • Group website ([link]): a human rights page on Rio Tinto’s website with information about our relevant partnerships and voluntary commitments as well as case-studies of how we have managed human rights challenges, and links to human rights-related guidance and documents.
  • Investor briefings and participation in socially responsible investment indices: Rio Tinto regularly provides information about our human rights approach to the investor community. This includes responding to indices such as the FTSE4Good and Dow Jones Sustainability Indexes regarding our human rights practices and performance. Rio Tinto hosts a sustainable development workshop ([link]) for investors annually, where investors are briefed and given the opportunity to raise questions related to human rights. Additionally, Rio Tinto responds to individual investors’ queries upon request.
  • Voluntary commitments: Rio Tinto submits reports requested through its participation in voluntary commitments. These include reports for the VPSHR; the ICMM Sustainable Development Framework, and the UN Global Compact Communication on Progress ([link]).
  • As noted above Rio Tinto also regularly engages with key stakeholders including workers and local communities through a variety of form. A report ([link]) on how companies currently report their human rights performance and how this maps against the UNGPs was published by the Shift Project in May 2014. In the report, Rio Tinto’s disclosures about communication with affected stakeholders; grievance mechanisms and processes for reviewing human rights risks are cited as good practice examples.

What provisions does your company have in place to ensure that grievances from workers and affected communities or individuals are heard, and can you provide examples of remedies provided?

Rio Tinto has a communities’ complaints, disputes and grievances guidance ([link]) which has its foundations in the Communities Policy ([link]) and Communities Standard ([link]).

According to the guidance, all businesses (i.e. sites) must have a community complaints, disputes and grievances procedure in line with the criteria of effectiveness for operational-level grievance mechanisms in the UNGPs. This includes being publically available, locally appropriate and easily accessible to all community members affected by group operations and businesses. Employees and contractors can also use Speak-OUT, a confidential and independently operated telephone reporting system to raise concerns to senior management at Rio Tinto including around human rights issues. For more information on grievance procedures and access to remedy including examples, please see relevant chapters in Why human rights matter ([link]).

Which external and collaborative human rights initiatives does your company participate in, and what is the nature of your involvement?

  • UN Global Compact: We report annually by submitting the Communication on Progress ([link]), and we actively participate in its local networks, such as in the UK and Australia. We also participate in the Global Compact’s human rights working group.
  • OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises: Our Human Rights Policy specifically references our commitment to the OECD Guidelines.
  • International Council of Mining and Metals (ICMM): Rio Tinto is a founding member of the ICMM and has been involved in the process of incorporating the UNGPs into the ICMM’s guidance for companies. Rio Tinto has been an active participant in regional and international multi-stakeholder human rights and Indigenous Peoples’ workshops organised by the ICMM.
  • Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights (VPSHR): Rio Tinto is a founding member of the VPSHR and reports annually to it.
  • Rio Tinto supported the development of the Human Rights and Business Country Guide created by the Danish Institute for Human Rights ([link]).
  • Rio Tinto is a member of the Business for Social Responsibility Human Rights Working Group and other peer learning forums. See www.riotinto.com for more information including more product group specific initiatives such as our commitment to the Responsible Jewellery Council and participation in discussions around the Aluminium Stewardship Initiative.

Which are the key one, two or three elements of your approach to human rights that been developed or amended since June 2011? Please indicate if these actions were in response to the UN Guiding Principles.

  • Since 2011, Rio Tinto’s human rights working group has revised the group’s overall human rights approach to be in line with the UNGPs. Some key elements of the revised approach include:
  • A revised stand-alone human rights policy which set the foundation of our human rights approach, developed in May 2012.
  • Updated stand-alone human rights online training programme to reflect the revised human rights policy. The programme was rolled out across the company. We have also developed more tailored, practical training sites and functions.
  • Continue to incorporate human rights into our existing processes including social risk analysis and environmental and social impact assessments; security and human rights risk assessments and third party due diligence. Stand-alone human rights studies are conducted at high risk sites as needed.
  • Evolved our human rights reporting (see question 6 above).
  • Created and have continued to evolve the make-up and mandate of a multi-product group, cross-functional human rights working group.
  • In-house human rights coordinator.
  • In-house experts supporting the implementation of the VPSHR.

What are some of the obstacles and challenges that your company encounters in implementing its human rights commitments?

Please see the report from the ICMM’s recent International Workshop on Business and Human Rights, in which we participated, which highlights some of the common trends and challenges facing ICMM member companies: [link].