Our commitment to human rights is core to our values. It is fundamentally about treating people with dignity and respect – our employees and contractors, workers in our value chain, communities where we live and work and others affected by our activities and business relationships. We believe respect for human rights starts with our everyday actions.We take our commitment to human rights seriously – from governance of our human rights approach, which is overseen by the Board Sustainability Committee, to processes like pre-screening suppliers and providing human rights training to key employees.
Our approach to respecting human rights
We know we can affect human rights everywhere we work and beyond our operations. We also know that what we do in one location may affect people’s trust in how we will respect human rights elsewhere.
We are committed to respecting internationally recognised human rights as set out in the United Nations Universal Declaration on Human Rights and implementing the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs).
We voluntarily uphold a range of other international standards including the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights (VPSHR), the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises (OECD Guidelines), the Maritime Labour Convention (MLC), the International Finance Corporation’s Environmental and Social Performance Standards, the International Council on Mining and Metals Mining Principles and the UN Global Compact’s 10 Principles.
Consistent with the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, we are committed to acknowledging and respecting Indigenous peoples’ connections to lands and waters and strengthening the application of the principles of Free, Prior and Informed Consent of affected Indigenous communities in line with the International Council on Mining and Metals Position Statement on Indigenous Peoples and Mining.
At a minimum, we comply with national laws, applying our own standards when they are more rigorous. When national laws conflict with our standards, we look for ways to encourage the adoption of international standards, including through multi-stakeholder dialogue. We may also reconsider whether we can operate in such locations.
We recognise the importance of acting on any involvement we might have in human rights harm through our business relationships, consistent with the UNGPs. We look for ways to work with our business partners to advance respect for human rights in line with international standards and our values. At our non-managed operations, this may include sharing best practice on complaints handling, discussing human rights issues at joint management meetings and making our experts available to support the capacity of operational employees.
In 2021, we strengthened our processes across a range of areas to help prevent involvement in adverse human rights impacts and to provide for, or co-operate in, remediation when we identify we have caused or contributed to human rights harm.
Key actions during the year
- Revised our salient human rights issues informed by workshops with all of our product groups
- Consulted on an updated human rights policy to be published in 2022
- Started development of a responsible sourcing action plan to evolve our approach on labour rights risk management across Rio Tinto Procurement managed suppliers
- Completed an external audit of our community complaints, disputes and grievance mechanisms for alignment with the UNGPs’ criteria for effective non-judicial grievance mechanisms
- Integrated human rights considerations into our refreshed marine safety and crew welfare strategy
Training and awareness-raising
- Delivered mandatory human rights training for our Procurement and Logistics teams
- Provided targeted human rights training for our Sales and Marketing, Ethics and Compliance, Legal, Communities and Social Performance, and Marine teams, including ship managers for our Rio Tinto owned fleet
- Refreshed our VPSHR training for security personnel
Stakeholder engagement and reporting
- Published our fourth VPSHR Implementation Report and our fifth Modern Slavery Statement in compliance with the Australian and UK Modern Slavery Acts
- Engaged with the Australian National Contact Point responsible for promoting the OECD Guidelines, the Human Rights Law Centre and community representatives regarding the former Panguna copper mine in Bougainville
- Provided support to the Compagnie des Bauxites de Guinée SA in its discussions with the International Finance Corporation’s Office of the Compliance Advisor Ombudsman and community complainants regarding the Sangaredi mine in Guinea
- Engaged with human rights-related shipping initiatives, including in relation to risks faced by seafarers during the COVID-19 pandemic
- Hosted more than 40 civil society organisations in three environmental, social and governance roundtables with Board and Executive Committee members in North America, Europe and the UK and Australia which included discussions about human rights
In the coming year, we will publish our updated human rights policy, refresh our human rights training programme, and work to increase awareness of our salient human rights issues across the business.
Our work on the ground
In line with the UNGPs, we undertake human rights due diligence to identify, prevent, mitigate and account for adverse human rights impacts with which we may be involved. Human rights due diligence comprises four elements: identifying and assessing our impacts; integrating the findings from those assessments into relevant internal functions and processes and taking appropriate action; tracking the effectiveness of our response; and communicating how impacts are addressed. We prioritise action around our salient human rights issues. We recognise that effective management of human rights issues requires daily vigilance – from the way we work with local communities to the way we choose our suppliers and beyond.
As human rights issues are complex, and not always readily apparent, we build our employees’ understanding through general and tailored training. All our sites are required to provide human rights training to staff, contractors and visitors. We also offer specialised training to key functions such as Procurement, Sales and Marketing, Exploration, Security, Marine and Communities and Social Performance, and look to build awareness on our salient human rights issues and how to manage them.
Complaints, disputes & grievances
In line with the UNGPs and our responsibility to respect human rights, we are committed to providing for, or co-operating in, remediation when we identify we have caused, or contributed to, human rights harm. We also look to play a role in remediation where we are directly linked to harm through our products, services or operations. We understand the importance not just of agreeing to legitimate remediation, but ensuring it is implemented by our operational teams and is fit for purpose.
Talking to our stakeholders and getting feedback, including receiving complaints, is a vital part of our human rights approach and due diligence process. It is a crucial part of understanding systemic issues and helps us improve the way we run our operations.
All of our sites must have a complaints, disputes and grievance mechanism, in line with the UNGPs' criteria for effective non-judicial grievance mechanisms.
Criteria of effectiveness for non-judicial grievance mechanisms
Source of continuous learning
Based on engagement & dialogue
In addition to our site-level mechanisms, we have a confidential, anonymous and independently operated whistleblowing programme, myVoice, which is available to all employees and their families, suppliers, contractors, business partners and community members. We make it clear in our Supplier Code of Conduct that suppliers have access to myVoice.
Measuring and reporting on our performance
Our communities and social performance targets for 2016-2021 include reducing repeat and significant complaints at our operations. We are focused on reducing repeat and significant complaints, rather than the number of complaints we receive. This is because we want to ensure that people are willing to use our grievance mechanisms to make complaints but also that we are managing complaints effectively so that the same issues are not recurring without being addressed, especially significant complaints.
Our internal assurance processes help us to track our performance. We conduct periodic business conformance audits which audit a business or operation against our health, safety, environment and communities performance standards and management system. This includes compliance with the human rights section of our communities and social performance standard. Each of our product groups conduct an annual self-assessment and certification of social risks including human rights risks. Given the nature of our Commercial team’s work, its certification focuses on managing human rights risks relating to our business partners, with a focus on labour rights risks. Our Group Internal Audit team also conducts third line assurance on human rights related issues (such as its grievance mechanism review conducted in 2021).
Our annual Modern Slavery Statement explains the risks of modern slavery in our operations and supply chains, the actions we take to assess and address those risks and how we assess the effectiveness of those actions.
We have also taken steps to increase our transparency around our human rights performance, reporting annually on our human rights performance through our online Annual Report, Sustainability Fact Book and VPSHR report.
Our human rights performance is also assessed through various external initiatives including the Corporate Human Rights Benchmark, Aluminium Stewardship Initiative, Copper Mark and the International Council on Mining and Metals.
Our human rights commitments
We have committed to follow a range of international standards, including:
- United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights
- United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights
- Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights
- United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
- OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises
- United Nations Global Compact's 10 Principles
- International Council on Mining and Metals Principles for Sustainable Development and Performance Expectations
- International Finance Corporation’s Environmental and Social Performance Standards
- Maritime Labour Convention
Human rights and our supply chain
We recognise the importance of acting on any involvement we might have in human rights harm through our business relationships, including with our suppliers, in line with the UNGPs.
Using a risk-based approach, we pre-screen potential business partners on human rights and require suppliers (including subcontractors) to adhere to our Supplier Code of Conduct, which requires respect for human rights.
Our standard global supply contract and purchase order terms and conditions requires that suppliers take reasonable steps to prevent and address modern slavery in their supply chains, and grants us the right to audit our suppliers for compliance against these requirements. Our Marine chartering contracts also include a modern modern slavery provision.
We have developed a number of public guides on human rights related issues to help further public awareness and the capacity of our own people and business partnersRead More
Working with human rights defenders
We know we do not always get it right and welcome conversations and partnerships that help us improve. We value diversity of thoughts and ideas, and know that civil society organisations and other human rights and environmental defenders can be important advocates for change. Human rights defenders are people who, individually or with others, act to promote or protect human rights and protect the environment in a peaceful manner. We respect the human rights of these individuals and groups and recognise the importance of an open civic space. We make it clear that attacks on human rights and environmental defenders will not be accepted, including when we engage with our business partners.
Our statement on the role of civil society organisations outlines our approach to engaging with civil society organisations and other human rights defenders. This includes regular dialogue with civil society organisations on human rights issues.
Salient human rights issues
Our salient human rights issues are those that stand to have the most severe impacts on people through our own activities or business relationships.