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Driving respect for human rights: three ways to collaborate for a just value chain
The global transition to a low-carbon and circular economy requires both environmental and social transformation. This includes upholding human rights and reducing inequality so that everyone can thrive. However, human rights issues are often systemic and cannot be solved by one company alone. Driving effective change means not only advancing socially responsible practices across the company’s own operations and value chains, but also trying to have a wider impact across the industry. How does Neste collaborate to drive respect for human rights?
1. Working with global brands to achieve structural change
Cosmetics and personal care companies, retailers - when taking a look at Neste’s partners in the Consumer Goods Forum (CGF), one may wonder about the synergy for Neste, producer of sustainable aviation fuel, renewable diesel and sustainable feedstock for polymers and chemicals.
“This may not seem like the most obvious alliance at first sight. But by collaborating with other companies acting within the same supply chains and regions as Neste does, we can increase our leverage for addressing human rights issues and learn from our peers who work with similar topics in their supply chains,” explains Nina Norjama, Head of Human Rights at Neste.
CGF is a global organisation that brings consumer goods retailers and manufacturers together to collaborate with the vision of better lives through better business. Neste has been an active member of the CGF’s Human Rights Coalition since 2021. “The Human Rights Coalition acts as a collective voice towards local governments to advance human rights, such as recruitment practices, on a structural level. We are also benefiting from the expertise from the Fair Labour Association and International Organization for Migration, as they are both actively involved in the CGF work,” Norjama says.
2. Increasing human rights awareness among employees
Modern slavery is a growing global issue from which no country or sector is immune. It can be mitigated when employees understand and are aware of the prevalence of labour exploitation around the world. Neste has a fundamental expectation set out in its Code of Conduct, requiring all employees to know how to recognize and report signs of modern slavery, and to be aware of how their work impacts the human rights of people in Neste’s operations, value chains, and communities.
In 2022, Neste partnered with the The European Institute for Crime Prevention and Control (HEUNI), to educate Neste employees on topical human rights issues, in particular modern slavery. HEUNI led a seminar and discussions with Neste’s key experts to raise awareness on the occurrence of labour exploitation in the regions and sectors connected to the company’s value chains.
"All companies should be proactive in abolishing modern slavery and all forms of labour exploitation. Modern slavery exists also in the so-called low-risk countries so it is very important that Neste has acknowledged this and increased the awareness of the whole organization. Global forerunners show great example to others and set expectations and criteria forward in their supply chains," says Saara Haapasaari, sustainability specialist at HEUNI.
3. More than a document: Neste’s Human Rights Principle
One of the cornerstones of Neste’s human rights work is the company’s Human Rights Principle, applicable to all Neste’s operations and employees.
Neste as a company as well as the world around it has changed a lot since the Human Rights Principle was first published in 2017, so a thorough review was conducted in 2022 to ensure compliance with upcoming EU legislation and sufficient human rights risk mitigation, and to stay aligned with best practices.
“We started the renewal process by reaching out to a number of external stakeholders including human rights experts, government representatives, NGO and trade union experts, and asking their opinion for the improvement needs. This dialogue with external stakeholders challenged our thinking and helped us in creating a holistic view of the improvement areas with an outside-in view,” Nina Norjama explains.
The review was followed by benchmarks against legislative requirements, ratings and other companies’ positions, but most importantly a wide range of internal discussions with different teams and experts at Neste to validate the contents and needed changes. Finally, the principle was discussed and reviewed at Neste’s Executive Committee.
“We are talking about more than just a document. Our Human Rights Principle guides the company and all us employees in understanding our business impacts and how we can ensure that human rights are not violated,” Norjama concludes.
Read more about how Neste is addressing human rights.