Positive human rights development, still room for improvements in Brazil

The Danish Institute for Human Rights has supported Hydro by providing a high-level human rights perspective on their CSR assessment of Hydro’s operations in Pará, Brazil.

September 17, 2015
Image of summary report sign


The assessment found that overall Hydro’s CSR efforts have led to a number of positive improvements that have strengthened the company’s ability to respect human rights.  However, there still needs to be more specific thinking and initiatives around implementing Hydro’s human rights policy at the operations level.

“We can identify with the main conclusions and work continuously to improve our standards,” says Head of Bauxite & Alumina, Executive Vice President Alberto Fabrini.

In general, the Danish Institute for Human Rights’ assessment is positive. The report was developed as part of a broader CSR assessment and was primarily focused on the human rights that could be at stake in Brazil. On average, four to six people in each of the stakeholder groups – workers, local management, local government representatives and local communities – were interviewed.

“Hydro has taken over a set of complex challenges in Brazil and we are happy to see that they are embracing a human rights approach to address these challenges,” says Allan Lerberg Jørgensen, who is Director for Human Rights and Development at the Danish Institute.

The Danish Institute states in the report that the ”CSR strategies are understood to an extent by most functional staff across Hydro Brazil operations. When the assessment was performed, there had been a number of very positive improvements to the internal coordination and structuring of CSR efforts. This made it possible for the CSR units in the various sites to support better planning and measurement of impact through various projects and initiatives.”

However, the assessment also found that there is a need for more specific thinking and initiatives around Hydro’s human rights policy at operational level.

“As of today, management at Hydro Brazil understands the policy as refraining from negatively impacting the human rights of e.g. workers and communities. While committing to and better communicating this, management should in addition promote CSR efforts that are more geared towards advancing positive contributions to human rights enjoyment. This includes clarifying what efforts are linked to addressing the concrete impacts of Hydro, and the efforts that are focused on community development and support beyond refraining from negatively impacting rights.”

The Danish Institute for Human Rights finds that a clearer distinction between identifying and managing negative human rights impacts, contra positively contributing to human rights realization through community development and support, would help Hydro identifying and managing potential and actual negative impacts, while also showing efforts to positively contribute to local communities.

Hydro has established a grievance mechanism to capture and address complaints and suggestions from the communities affected by our operations. The report states that the company “should put in place efforts to further ensure the trust and support for the grievance mechanisms.”

In addition, the assessment process indicated that there are potential challenges when it comes to labour standards for sub-contractors in Brazil. The Danish Institute for Human Rights recommends Hydro to “implement a training programme for contractors and sub-contractors and/or include a labour standards module into HSE trainings and briefings for workers”.

Image of Alberto Fabrini
Alberto Fabrini

”We are clear that contractors shall have the same standards and working conditions as our own employees and we have taken measures to make that happen,” says Executive Vice President Alberto Fabrini.

The assessment also indicated that there are areas where Hydro Brazil could engage more strategically with the community to foster greater engagement and dialogue.

“Hydro Brazil should do consultation and dialogue with the fence-line communities (Vila Nova, Itupanema, and Vila do Conde) on a more frequent and regular basis. Main aims could be to inform these communities of current CSR activities, listen to them for their perspectives on needs and CSR preferences, and learn about any ongoing impacts.”

“We recognize that relations to our neighbours are very important and have already kicked off several initiatives to improve local engagement in Barcarena and with the Quilombola communities along the bauxite pipeline,” says Fabrini.

Fabrini is head of Hydro’s Brazilian operations and points out that also several of the other proposed improvements have been implemented over the last months. For example, employees and contractors get the same personal protective equipment and the same basic training, for example with regard to safety.

“We are working hard every day to improve our standards and believe we are in the forefront in several areas. Still, we can improve, and the report points at some areas that we find very interesting.”

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Anne-Lene Midseim

“I am happy to receive the report,” says Hydro’s head of Corporate CSR, Executive Vice President Anne-Lene Midseim. “The main conclusion is that we are doing quite well with regard to human rights in Brazil. However, the Danish Institute for Human Rights has identified room for improvements in some areas. A number of the weaknesses have already been handled, others are in the process of being improved”.

Midseim adds that “Hydro on corporate level is constantly working to improve the human rights due diligence system, assuring that human rights issues are continuously addressed throughout our business cycle “.

More information on the Danish Institute for Human Rights: http://www.humanrights.dk/

 


Updated: September 22, 2016