Employee, Australia

Human rights

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.

 

Everyday Respect Report

In February 2022, we published a comprehensive external review of our workplace culture, commissioned as part of our commitment to ensure sustained cultural change across our global operations. The review was carried out by former Australian Sex Discrimination Commissioner Elizabeth Broderick. It identified disturbing findings of bullying, sexual harassment, racism and other forms of discrimination throughout the company, which are linked to various human rights including rights to non-discrimination, just and favourable conditions of work and security of person.

The report, which outlines 26 detailed recommendations, will inform work being carried out to improve how we prevent and respond to discrimination and unacceptable workplace behaviour.

Find out more about the Everyday Respect Report >

 

2021 performance

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

Governance

  • 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.

Training

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

1.

Legitimate

2.

Accessible

3.

Predictable

4.

Equitable

5.

Rights-compatible

6.

Transparent

7.

Source of continuous learning

8.

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.

VISIT OUR WHISTLEBLOWER PROGRAMME WEBSITE >

 

Reviewing our grievance mechanisms

In 2021, we reviewed – via internal audit and external review – our site-level complaints, disputes and grievance mechanisms, including the extent to which they meet the UNGPs’ criteria for effective non-judicial grievance mechanisms. 

The reviews found opportunities for improvement, including better governance and increased community engagement and dialogue to help meet the needs of communities, and especially vulnerable groups. 

Follow-up actions include clarifying site-level roles and responsibilities, developing clearer guidance and training on design and implementation, and improved reporting. 

Enhancing these critical local processes will help provide communities with more transparent, accessible and legitimate channels to have their complaints heard and resolved, improve the way we work, and ultimately, help contribute to more trusting relationships between our company and the communities where we operate. 

 

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:

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.

Public guides

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 partners

Read 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.

 

Updating our salient human rights issues

In 2021, we updated our salient human rights issues. This was informed by workshops with our product groups where we assessed potential human rights impacts and undertook a severity analysis in line with the UNGPs (ie assessing the scale, scope and remediability of each impact). These workshops also provided an opportunity to conduct human rights refresher sessions with our teams, helping ensure we were starting with similar foundational knowledge and reinforcing our human rights commitments. 

Once we identified each product group’s salient human rights issues, we then looked for commonalities to help inform our group-wide salient issues. The resulting eight salient issues help prioritise our due diligence activities and guide our external engagement and interaction on human rights. 

 

In line with the human rights due diligence process set out in the UNGPs, we manage our salient human rights issues through ongoing risk management processes. These aim to identify, prevent, mitigate and account for how we address any involvement in adverse human rights impacts.

Our salient human rights issues are:

  • Land access and use
  • Indigenous peoples’ rights
  • Security

  • Inclusion & diversity
  • Community health, safety and wellbeing
  • Workplace health and safety
  • Labour rights
  • Climate change and just transition

Land access and use

EXAMPLES OF HUMAN RIGHTS THAT COULD BE IMPACTED

  • Right to an adequate standard of living
  • Right to property
  • Right to clean drinking water and sanitation
  • Right to health
  • Right to participate in cultural life

EXAMPLES OF HOW WE MANAGE RISKS

We manage sustainable change for local community members that may be resettled, economically displaced or experience restricted access to land, as a result of our operations.

We ensure that resettlement is avoided where possible, and where unavoidable complies with the International Finance Corporation Performance Standard 5 on “Land Acquisition and Involuntary Resettlement” so that resettled people and communities have their standard of living and livelihood sustainably restored or improved over the long term as a result of the resettlement.

Indigenous peoples’ rights

EXAMPLES OF HUMAN RIGHTS THAT COULD BE IMPACTED

  • Right to non-discrimination
  • Rights to self-determination and free, prior and informed consent
  • Right to participate in cultural life
  • Rights to land, territories, waters, resources and traditional knowledge
  • Rights to language, cultural and spiritual identity

EXAMPLES OF HOW WE MANAGE RISKS

Long before mining starts, our teams do cultural and environmental studies to understand the area and look for ways to reduce any potentially negative impacts.

We respect Indigenous peoples’ connection to their traditional lands in a way that respects their culture and right to self-determination. We strive to achieve the Free, Prior and Informed Consent of affected Indigenous communities as defined in the International Finance Corporation's Performance Standard 7 on “Indigenous Peoples” and the International Council on Mining and Metals Position Statement on Indigenous Peoples and Mining. One way we demonstrate our commitment is through making agreements with Indigenous communities.

Read more about our agreements with traditional owners >

Security

EXAMPLES OF HUMAN RIGHTS THAT COULD BE IMPACTED

  • Right to life
  • Right to liberty and security of person
  • Right to freedom from arbitrary detention
  • Right to freedom from torture, cruel, inhumane and/or degrading treatment
  • Right to freedom of movement

EXAMPLES OF HOW WE MANAGE RISKS

We train public and private security personnel, to ensure they're aware of our expectations in relation to securing our operations in a way that respects human rights. Our online VPSHR training is mandatory for all security personnel at high-risk sites and is strongly recommended elsewhere.

Inclusion & diversity

EXAMPLES OF HUMAN RIGHTS THAT COULD BE IMPACTED

  • Right to non-discrimination
  • Right to just and favourable conditions of work 
  • Right to participate in cultural life
  • Right to family
  • Right to freedom of religion

EXAMPLES OF HOW WE MANAGE RISKS

We are committed to an inclusive environment where people feel comfortable to be themselves. 

As stated in our inclusion and diversity policy, we set stretch targets to achieve an inclusive and diverse workplace. With respect to gender diversity, we have established clear targets to improve the number of women in our organisation, at all levels. We have rolled out a global policy for gender-neutral parental leave and revised our policy on inclusion and diversity to reinforce our expectations around behaviours and personal accountability.

Community health, safety and wellbeing

EXAMPLES OF HUMAN RIGHTS THAT COULD BE IMPACTED

  • Right to life
  • Right to health
  • Right to an adequate standard of living including the right to food
  • Right to clean drinking water and sanitation
  • Right to education

EXAMPLES OF HOW WE MANAGE RISKS

We work to prevent and minimise impacts – social, environmental and health and safety –by conducting detailed assessments, in consultation with local communities, and by following robust internal standards and practices. In accordance with our communities and social performance standard, we identify and manage social, economic, environmental, cultural and human rights impacts throughout the life cycle of our projects.

Workplace health and safety

EXAMPLES OF HUMAN RIGHTS THAT COULD BE IMPACTED

  • Right to life
  • Right to health
  • Right to just and favourable conditions of work
  • Right to security of person

EXAMPLES OF HOW WE MANAGE RISKS

Through our Health, safety, environment and communities policy, we make the safety and wellbeing of our employees and contractors (and communities) our priority. We have global safety standards which address key areas of risk. The standards provide consistency in safety management and performance across our global operations and projects.

Labour rights

EXAMPLES OF HUMAN RIGHTS THAT COULD BE IMPACTED

  • Right to life
  • Right to just and favourable conditions of work
  • Right to freedom from slavery
  • Freedom from child labour
  • Right to freedom of association and collective bargaining

EXAMPLES OF HOW WE MANAGE RISKS

We pre-screen suppliers to identify risks relating to their human rights performance.

Through The Way We Work and our Supplier code of conduct, we create clear expectations for employees and suppliers (including contractors) to safeguard labour rights.
Our standard contractual terms also require compliance with our Supplier code of conduct. We also now have a modern slavery clause as detailed in our Modern Slavery Statement.

Climate change and just transition

EXAMPLES OF HUMAN RIGHTS THAT COULD BE IMPACTED

  • Right to food
  • Right to clean drinking water and sanitation
  • Right to an adequate standard of living
  • Right to property
  • Right to health

EXAMPLES OF HOW WE MANAGE RISKS

Early and ongoing identification of risks and opportunities within our operations and in our value chain. 

Engaging in social dialogue to support fair and inclusive practices. 

Participating in collective efforts such as the collaboration by Business for Social Responsibility (BSR) and the B Team, which brings together global companies to create tools and guidance to help enable a more worker and community-centred transition to a net-zero economy. 

Developing closure plans informed by community, Traditional owners and regulator expectations regarding future land use and their social, cultural and environmental objectives for a transition to viable post-mining land use.