bp launches updated Human Rights Policy

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Published

17 July, 2020

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Member spotlight

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Jessica Burton

bp has launched an updated Business and Human Rights Policy following a period of review and consultation with NGOs and independent organisations. The significant update sets out how its approach has evolved and provides more detail around how it will deliver on commitments.  

bp’s human rights and social performance manager, and human rights expert Nili Safavi notes the pertinence of the launch as it comes against the backdrop of a worldwide pandemic, “recent global events have magnified the need for such a policy. We are seeing that if the most vulnerable in society don’t have social protections, a decent wage and access to healthcare, it affects us all.”

She says of the policy “Essentially, it’s about respecting people’s rights in all our business activities and that goes hand in hand with our new purpose – we want to help the world reach net zero and improve people’s lives.”

bp believes that respecting its workforce and local communities is absolutely key to enabling a fair energy transition – “making sure they are not left behind as we move from traditional fossil fuels to newer sources of energy but rather that we work with government, civil society, trades unions and others to enable them to  thrive through opportunities to be reskilled, support for jobs and livelihoods and benefit from future resources.” – Safavi.

Since bp published its previous human rights policy seven years ago, much has changed; bp has progressed, and the world has moved on too.

The updated policy takes account of areas that hadn’t previously been included but are now expected by investors, stakeholders and civil society.

It not only states that it respects everyone’s human rights, but also specifically calls out the rights of groups that may be more vulnerable; which includes women, national or ethnic groups, religious and linguistic minorities, LGBT+ people, persons with disabilities and migrant workers and their families.
Previously, the policy wasn’t always explicit about certain terminology, but bp’s procurement teams have done a lot of work to help suppliers understand what is actually meant by ‘human rights’ and to incorporate that into pre-contract due diligence questionnaires and contractual agreements.
“It’s hard to get things on the ground fixed without being really clear about what we mean when we say ‘no modern slavery or no human trafficking’, for example – this is what we have now through our recently published Labour Rights and Modern Slavery Principles.” says Safavi.

And bp is now explicit about how it respects key aspects of human rights that are material to the work it does, for example, water and sanitation, land, indigenous peoples and human rights defenders (HRDs).  

But, for a global organization like bp, there are challenges. Successful application of the policy can be dependent on what’s going on in a host country. “Poor human rights situations can occur despite good intentions – if a country has no means to support those intents; for example, access to clean water, education, etc. Or if a host government doesn’t promote and protect worker rights or land rights in line with international norms and conventions – it’s harder for us to get things right in practice. It’s a collaborative effort and can be a hard balance to strike, but we are committed to getting it right. That is exactly why we have a Human Rights Policy to guide us in difficult situations.” – Safavi

This recent update is an advancement of bp’s position in a space it has been active in for some time. Highlighting some of the work bp does with workers and local communities to help improve the lives others, Safavi says: “There are many examples. Most recently, we have made a significant effort to respect and protect the rights of our contracted workforces in Oman and Malaysia, among other places. Also, I want to mention our daily efforts in Indonesia and Australia to have respectful and positive relationships with indigenous and Aboriginal communities. And, how we are helping communities gain access to fundamental utilities, such as water in Mauritania.”

To read the full interview with Nili Safavi visit: https://www.bp.com/en/global/corporate/news-and-insights/bp-magazine/bp-launches-updated-human-rights-policy.html

EVP Strategy and Sustainability op-ed: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/people-our-updated-human-rights-policy-giulia-chierchia/?trackingId=uzI57EAP1grzM3X31678Ag%3D%3D