In a global environment that demands better corporate performance in human rights, the challenges of sustainable procurement, tackling modern slavery risks and building social license to operate are becoming ever more complex.
Our 2019 Human Rights Outlook examines key developments in human rights across the globe. This year we use a combination of our global risk analytics and expert analysis to unwrap five diverse human rights issues that will have a fundamental bearing on the way global companies conduct business or manage their supply chains:
- Freedom of speech and privacy
- Climate change and modern slavery
- Xinjiang labour camps
- Escalating anti-mining protests in Latin America
- Renewable energy and human rights
Overall, two key themes have emerged from our research. The first is the impact of technology on human rights issues. Fast-moving developments in technology, such as advanced surveillance methods and the rising demand for renewable energy, will leave companies grappling with human rights issues that may not have surfaced for them before.
The second is the fact that companies cannot view human rights issues in isolation. They need to understand the drivers of risk, including cross-cutting external factors, such as climate change and political risk, which will shape the current and future operating environment.
Our 2019 Human Rights Outlook includes:
1. Freedom of speech and privacy
We’ve seen the number of countries rated ‘extreme risk’ in our Freedom of Expression and Right to Privacy Indices rise significantly and expand beyond the most hardcore autocratic states. This tells us that more countries are now prioritising control of the public narrative and the quashing of public dissent above the rights of citizens. This has worrying implications for tech and media companies, but all sectors should take note – moves in this direction can signify a worsening of the rule of law.
2. Climate change and modern slavery
Climate change is already driving migration, with rural populations moving towards urban centres or making perilous journeys to reach wealthier nations. But as these numbers surge so does the likelihood that vulnerable migrants will be subject to exploitation, including modern slavery. We use our data to identify the regions migrants are most likely to originate from; where they will head; and what the risks of modern slavery are for them and company supply chains.
3. Xinjiang labour camps
With over a million Uyghurs now detained in camps, the likelihood of more companies being swept into controversy over the use of forced and child labour in China’s Xinjiang region is increasing. Apparel brands have already been linked to labour rights abuses, but there is evidence to suggest these violations could move beyond the sector and even’s China’s borders, as raw materials produced in Xinjiang are being used in manufacturing in other countries.
4. Escalating anti-mining protests in Latin America
Over the last decade, the number of socio-environmental conflicts against mining projects in Latin America has spiralled. We assess nine regional mining jurisdictions against key human rights issues that can help drive an environment of protest, including indigenous rights, labour rights and security force violations. What we find is that there is a growing need for mining firms to improve how they secure and maintain a social licence to operate.
5. Renewable energy and human rights
The green energy revolution is well underway, led by new technologies and the adoption of cleaner alternatives to fossil fuels. But is there a darker side to renewable energy? We explore the human rights issues that may be flying under the radar for the sector, including labour rights violations in the raw materials used in solar panels and the production of biofuels, alongside the land rights abuses against vulnerable communities that can occur in the development of wind projects.