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Human rights

We recognize that businesses have a responsibility to respect human rights. We also recognize that business can have an important role in supporting and promoting human rights.

Greeting community members

Hydro respects the human rights of all individuals and groups that may be affected by our operations. This includes employees, contractors, suppliers, agencies, partners, communities, and those affected by the use and disposal of our products. 

Our commitment to respect human rights is guided by internationally recognized human rights and labor standards, including those contained in the International Bill of Human Rights and the ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work (Core Labor Standards).

Our approach is based on key frameworks that define human rights principles for businesses:

  • UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights
  • OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises
  • OECD Due Diligence Guidelines for Responsible Business Conduct
  • The UN Global Compact’s Ten Principles

Hydro’s major risks to people

We have identified the human rights salient to our operations and which we are most at risk of impacting:

  • Modern slavery, forced labor and child labor abuse
  • Principles of freedom of association and collective bargaining
  • Freedom from discrimination and harassment
  • Decent working conditions
  • Right to privacy
  • Right to health
  • Right to safety
  • Rights of vulnerable individuals and groups
  • Provide information, dialogue and participation
  • Rightful, respectful and lawful resettlement, relocation and repossession

Hydro’s Human rights management

Managing and improving our human rights impact is an ongoing process. You can find more information about Hydro’s human rights management in Hydro’s Human Rights Policy and in our Annual Report.

Policy commitment and governance

  • Hydro’s Human Rights Policy was developed in 2013 through a multi-stakeholder process. The policy was updated in 2016 and in 2020. In the most recent update, several internal and external experts were consulted with competence from social responsibility, health, safety and environment, legal, human rights, as well as NGOs. The policy outlines the company’s commitment to respecting human rights. The commitment is integrated in key procedures, including supply chain management, HSE, HR, new projects, and risk management. The policy is approved by Hydro’s Corporate Management Board.
  • Respecting human rights is part of Hydro’s Code of Conduct, with which we expect all of our employees to comply.
  • Hydro’s Code of Conduct is approved and owned by Hydro’s Board of Directors. Hydro’s Governance Documents concerning human rights are approved by the relevant Executive Vice Presidents.
  • We have set minimum requirements relating to human rights to our suppliers. These are stated in Hydro’s Supplier Code of Conduct. We expect our suppliers to comply with and promote the same principles in their own supply chain.
  • We communicate our performance in our Annual report according to the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) Standards. The report also includes our Modern Slavery Transparency Statement.

Due diligence: Identifying, assessing, acting, monitoring and communicating impacts

  • Human rights risk assessments and mitigating action plans are integrated in Hydro’s enterprise risk management process.
  • In line with our risk-based approach, we aim to conduct more thorough stand-alone human rights impact assessments with mitigating action plans where there is a higher risk for adverse human rights impact.
  • Before new projects, major developments or large expansions are undertaken, we aim to conduct risk-based environmental and social impact assessments, when relevant, which include evaluating risks for adverse human rights impacts. We are guided by The IFC Performance Standards on Environmental and Social Sustainability in doing so.
  • We have procedures to assess new suppliers against human rights criteria. Where relevant, we conduct risk-based audits and reviews of suppliers, and work to improve supplier performance through corrective action plans or supplier development programs.

Stakeholder engagement

  • Where relevant, we consult parties we may impact through cause, contribution or linkage in the identification, assessment and management of significant human rights impacts associated with our activities.
  • We engage and collaborate with stakeholders both internally and externally where relevant to help inform us about, and evaluate the effectiveness of, our human rights management. This may include civic organizations, NGOs, unions, local associations, authorities, etc.
  • We also consult with human rights experts knowledgeable about the local territories where we operate or through established partnerships. See more under Industry commitment and collaboration below.
  • We engage in dialogue where relevant with employees’ representatives, employee forums or unions. Hydro has a Global Framework Agreement with international and national unions.
  • Where relevant and in line with our risk-based approach, we have regular dialogue with communities, and more frequent and structured dialogue in communities with higher risk of facing adverse human rights impacts. Read more about community engagement here.
  • We aim to contribute to the economic and social development of our employees, our partners and the communities in which we operate, and promote principles of good governance in doing so. Read more about community development here.

Grievance mechanisms and remediation

To help facilitate informed and effective participation by people who are potentially affected by our operations, we establish or facilitate access to effective grievance mechanisms where relevant.

We encourage, and will not retaliate against, individuals who in good faith raise concerns regarding Hydro’s respect for human rights.

A companywide AlertLine for reporting concerns involving illegal, unethical or unwanted behavior is available, on an identified or anonymous basis, for employees and on-site contractors. In countries with higher risks for adverse human rights impact to communities according to our risk-based approach, we aim to have local community-based grievance mechanisms.

In situations where we identify adverse human rights impact that we have caused or contributed to, we work to cooperate in, promote access to and/or provide fair remediation.

Hydro is committed to not interfere, retaliate or hinder access to judicial or non-judicial mechanisms. Non-judicial mechanisms include the OECD National Contact Points and the Compliance Advisor Ombudsman (CAO).

Industry commitment and collaboration

We recognize the importance of working collaboratively across our industry to promote the respect for, and fulfillment of, human rights. We are members of the International Council on Mining and Metals and the Aluminium Stewardship Initiative, and actively participate in working groups related to human rights and social development.

Furthermore, we participate in forums such as the UN Forum on Business and Human Rights and are members of Norwegian KAN (Coalition for responsible business) and the and the Danish Institute for Human Rights’ Nordic Business Network for Human Rights.  

Hydro has had a long-standing partnership with Amnesty International Norway since 2002. The partnership is based on human rights education and dialogue meetings on relevant human rights dilemmas. We also cooperate with the Danish Institute for Human Rights for external expertise to further develop, maintain and strengthen our approach to human rights. As a Signature Partner of UNICEF Norway, we contribute to children and youth education, and discuss how to further integrate respect for children’s rights in our processes and procedures.

Hydro Brazil is also a member of the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights and the Global Business Initiative on Human Rights.

Managing human rights risks: examples

In line with our risk-based approach and major risks to people, we are working closely with specific cases with high human rights risk. We welcome dialogue and encourage you to contact us if you would like to discuss further.  

Many of our risks are described in several human rights impact assessments, which we are continuously working to mitigate. More information can also be found in our Annual Report

At the primary aluminium producer Qatalum, a joint venture where Hydro holds 50 percent, the large majority of employees are migrant workers. Qatalum strives to secure good working conditions for its employees and to follow up the conditions for contracted workers.

Risks of impacted rights include:

  • Modern slavery, forced labor and child labor abuse
  • Decent working conditions
  • Principles of freedom of association and collective bargaining

How we work to mitigate risks:

For legal entities where Hydro holds less than 100 percent of the voting rights, Hydro’s representatives in the boards of directors or in other governing bodies will endeavor to follow the principles and standards in Hydro’s governing documents. We work through Qatalum’s board of directors and support Qatalum in the development of governing documents related to corporate social responsibility (CSR) and human rights.

GIEK (Norwegian Export Credit Guarantee Agency) conducted a review of the social responsibility performance in 2019. Qatalum has followed up on the recommendations identified. Some recommendations have been delayed due to travel restrictions during Covid-19. In 2020, Qatalum put in place measures to limit the spread of Covid-19 among its employees and for contracted workers. This included information campaigns and steps to reduce mobility such as home office, shift changes, etc.

In Brazil, Hydro’s bauxite mine, Paragominas, and alumina refinery, Alunorte, are located in the state of Pará in Northern Brazil, and are connected by a 244 km bauxite slurry pipeline. Located next to Alunorte is the primary aluminium plant Albras, were Hydro owns 51 percent. In addition, Hydro has three aluminium extrusion plants in Southern Brazil. Hydro employs around 6,000 permanent employees and 8,000 contractor workers (full-time equivalents) in Brazil in total. In addition, Hydro has a 5 percent ownership interest in Mineração Rio do Norte (MRN) and off-take agreements with Vale for a further 40 percent of the bauxite volume produced by MRN.

Risks of impacted rights include:

  • Rights of vulnerable individuals and groups, especially indigenous and tribal peoples, and traditional communities
  • Provide information, dialogue and participation
  • Rightful, respectful and lawful resettlement, relocation and repossession

How we work to mitigate risks:

We have a range of social and community projects in the communities where we operate to strengthen them through education and capacity building and drive economic growth. Through a structured stakeholder engagement, we strive to have an open dialogue and foster transparency with local institutions and communities. In 2020, over 800 community dialogue meetings were conducted with communities next to our operations in Pará state. We continue implementing an Open-Door program, facilitating systematic visits to our units from main stakeholders. We had over 1800 visitors through this program in 2019.

The Brazilian human rights consultancy Proactiva has conducted a thorough human rights due diligence of our operations in Pará state, Brazil. The due diligence covers the alumina refinery Alunorte, primary aluminium plant Albras and the Paragominas bauxite mine, including the bauxite slurry pipeline from Paragominas to Alunorte. Several positive impacts have been identified, including the contribution to direct and indirect job creation in the region, considerable improvements to health and safety at our plants, and healthcare and access to education for our employees. The due diligence points to important groundwork already underway to strengthen systems for anti-discrimination and diversity, strengthen our knowledge related to traditional communities in the municipalities where we operate, and strengthen environmental information to the public. Some of the main suggestions for improvements include better internal implementation and awareness on Hydro’s Human rights policy, and strengthening the local grievance mechanism, Canal Direto, and security and dialogue with communities along the pipeline. We acknowledge that several identified topics are complex and have historical relevance to the region. Some topics date back to before Hydro took over the majority shareholdings in 2011. Examples include the original land appropriation process by the authorities in the 1970s/80s to create the industrial area for Alunorte and Albras and settlements of financial compensation for Quilombolas communities in the Jambuaçu Territory. We are investigating further to understand the history and what influence we may have for meaningful actions today in accordance with the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGP). An action plan is under implementation, prioritized by severity for implementation by 2023. During 2020, we made progress in several areas. Examples include conducting human rights training for employees and for suppliers and improving human rights in the Bauxite & Alumina’s Enterprise Risk Management and procurement processes. On February 5, 2021, CAINQUIAMA – Associação dos Cablocos, Indigenas e Quilombolas da Amazônia (an association with office in Barcarena) and nine Brazilian individuals filed a lawsuit with the Rotterdam District Court, in the Netherlands, against Hydro’s Dutch entities and Norsk Hydro ASA (Hydro) seeking compensation for alleged financial damages and personal injuries suffered as a result of Alunorte and Albras activities in the municipality of Barcarena. According to the plaintiffs, Hydro’s Dutch entities and Hydro are part of Alunorte and Albras’ corporate group and, therefore should be liable for the alleged environmental violations caused in the municipality of Barcarena throughout the years. CAINQUIAMA has since 2017 initiated five lawsuits in Brazil against Hydro entities. The matters brought forward by Cainquiama in the Netherlands are similar to the cases that are already ongoing before Brazilian courts and Brazilian authorities and earlier publicly reported by Hydro. The cases are related to allegations following the rainfall in the municipality of Barcarena in February 2018, incidents dating back to 2002, as well as the historic land appropriation process back to the 1970/80s. Hydro became the majority owner of Alunorte, Albras and Paragominas in 2011. For more information about the civil lawsuit in the Netherlands, see our information page

Unresolved issues remain related to identifying individuals directly impacted by the construction of a 244-km-long bauxite pipeline that crosses areas inhabited by traditional Quilombola groups in the Jambuaçu Territory in Pará. These issues relate back to the time before Hydro became owner, and the former owner of the pipeline is still the legal party. Hydro maintains its relations with Quilombola representatives through dedicated staff and is collaborating with Fundação Cultural Palmares to foster the dialogue and establish a positive agenda within the Quilombola territory. The Fundação Cultural Palmares foundation is the Brazilian agency in charge of Quilombolas affairs. As part of an integrated plan to remedy impacts along the pipeline, Hydro reached an agreement in 2020 with 61 families identified as directly impacted by the construction, but not covered under the legal agreement with the former owner. In addition, Hydro is currently working together with different stakeholders, including Quilombola communities, Fundação Cultural Palmares, State of Pará and INCRA to reach an agreement to support six community associations, and establish a fund for social investments for the Jambuaçu Territory that Hydro aims to contribute to. INCRA is the Brazilian agency in charge of land certifications, including Quilombola matters, as part of the environmental licenses. Through the establishment of a fund for social investments, we will continue the Moju Sustainable Territory Program in the Jambuaçu Territory. The program supports local associations along the pipeline to strengthen their legal, administrative and governance structure.

In Barcarena, also in Pará, in an area surrounding Hydro’s operations and regulated for industrial purposes, illegal logging and irregular settlements have accelerated since 2016. We realize that we need to better understand the situation in collaboration with the relevant stakeholders, the municipality and civil organizations. In addition, allegations have been made by local groups about potential environmental impacts.

In the municipality of Oriximiná in Pará, Brazil, where the MRN bauxite mine is located, there is an ongoing dispute between Quilombola communities and Brazilian authorities regarding title to land owned by the federal government. The territory claimed by these communities encompasses certain areas that are planned to be mined by MRN in the future, but MRN is not a legal party in this conflict. Concerns have been raised about traditional peoples’ rights during the process for the mine expansion. Hydro engages with MRN through its board of directors and committees to request that the scope of the planned environmental and social impact assessment (ESIA) and Quilombola consultation processes for the expansion project comply with local, national and international standards. MRN is currently engaged in understanding and responding to local stakeholder expectations regarding concerns over the impacts of MRN’s operations on local communities. MRN is engaged with stakeholders and supports the Sustainable Territories Program, a social program to promote long-term development of traditional communities in Oriximiná. In 2020, MRN put in place measures to reduce the spread of Covid-19 including providing medical equipment and food to local Quilombola and other traditional communities.

 

Hydro has more than 30,000 active suppliers globally. Most are located in the same countries as our production facilities.

Risks of impacted rights  include:

  • Modern slavery, forced labor, child labor abuse
  • Decent working conditions
  • Right to health and safety

How we work to mitigate risks:

We have set minimum requirements relating to human rights to our suppliers. These are stated in Hydro’s Supplier Code of Conduct. We expect our suppliers to comply with and promote the same principles in their own supply chain. Read more about Responsible supply chain here.

Based on our process for integrity due diligence, we assess new suppliers against human rights criteria. We conduct risk-based audits and reviews of suppliers and work to improve supplier performance through corrective action plans or supplier development programs. Around 100 audits are conducted every year depending on risk.

A non-compliance with or breach of the principles in Hydro’s Supplier Code of Conduct that is not able to be corrected within a reasonable period may lead to termination of the supplier contract. In 2019, we for example terminated a contract with one of our metal suppliers. Hydro was concerned about the metal supplier’s compliance with the principles, but was not given permission to audit the supplier’s operations. In 2020, the Covid-19 situation had major impact on parts of our supply chain, and we implemented actions to support our suppliers in a challenging situation.

Hydro works to strengthen and improve suppliers’ sustainability performance. This may be done through dialogue, sharing of knowledge, innovation processes, incentives or supplier development programs. In Brazil, critical suppliers can participate in a comprehensive, year-long supplier development program. In 2020, 21 supplier companies participated in the program totaling over 300 participants.

Definitions:

Due diligence: the process to identify, prevent, mitigate and account for how Hydro addresses actual and potential adverse impacts in our own operations and supply chain 

Salient issues: those human rights that are at risk of the most severe negative impact from Hydro’s operations or suppliers

Major risk to people: salient human rights issues that our operations are most at risk of impacting

Risk to people: risk of potential or adverse human rights related impacts

Risk-based: prioritizing based on highest severity and likelihood of an adverse impact