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Organization Name

Rio Tinto plc

Case Story Title

Human rights guidance for managers

Case Story Date

2004/01/02

Issues Addressed

  • Principle 1 - Businesses should support and respect the protection of internationally proclaimed human rights

Case Story Category

Partnership Project

Countries of Impact

Case Description

Rio Tinto operations have a long tradition of supporting and protecting the dignity, well being and rights of those with whom we are directly involved: our employees and their families and the neighbouring communities local to our operations. Building on this experience, we have adopted a formal policy on human rights based on our support for the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights and on our proper care for those involved directly with our operations. Managers have recently been issued with the publication Human Rights Guidance for Managers. The publication covers what human rights are, why we need guidance, and the role of business in protecting human rights. It also provides specific guidance on protecting the human rights of communities and employees, as well as human rights in Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights. A link to the publication is included below.
Rio Tinto operations are expected to look for opportunities to support positive efforts to promote a broader understanding of the values of human rights, particularly where those efforts assist our local communities. We have no mandate or role for global diplomacy over human rights generally, nor do we seek to intervene in those areas or about those issues where our operations are not directly involved.
Rio Tinto aims to develop greater understanding of human rights issues and of their consequences for our operations. We seek dialogue and partnership with a wide range of representative bodies, international and other non governmental organisations, the voluntary sector and the business community. We are thus able to ensure that we can identify and develop best practice in the area of corporate social responsibility.The Rio Tinto Human Rights Guidance and the increased focus on human rights issues generally has enhanced the implementation of community policy and programmes around the group. Much of this activity can be characterised as human rights in action.

At the broad level, Rio Tinto is a global investor in communities. Across the world we fund hospitals, housing, education and training, health programmes (including HIV treatment), water and sanitation, community facilities and infrastructure like roads, schools and libraries. Some of our operations are effectively the only provider of social services in their region. So this work is delivering human rights in the most practical sense.

Our community activity is based firmly on a partnership approach. We try to ensure that all our business is conducted with sensitivity to local needs. This involves deep and extensive community engagement. For example, a new diamond development in the Canadian Northwest Territories involved over 300 meetings with local individuals and groups.

All Rio Tinto operations are now required to produce five-year community plans. These are detailed documents, containing assessments of the social, economic and cultural characteristics of each local community. Operations must explain how they are consulting with local people and to set out their programmes and strategy for community relations, just as they also do for matters like financial and production goals.

But the approach also acknowledges a responsibility to provide leadership in human rights issues. For example, Rio Tinto is widely acknowledged as the leading company in reconciliation with Indigenous people in Australia (nearly 50% of the company’s assets are situated in Australia). It was the first major corporation to acknowledge Native Title and to negotiate directly with Indigenous Australians.

The company now enjoys more than fifty land access agreements with Traditional Owners across Australia, and has initiated a broad range of programmes with communities. The education and training programme established by the company’s iron ore subsidiary, Hamersley Iron, recently won a Prime Minister’s Award for Indigenous education.

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