WATCHING THE WORLD: A company plan on human rights

June 5, 2006
ExxonMobil Corp has instructed managers of its worldwide facilities to stand up for human rights in communities where the company operates.

ExxonMobil Corp has instructed managers of its worldwide facilities to stand up for human rights in communities where the company operates. It is a landmark decision-and a welcome one, at that.

Andre Madec, ExxonMobil’s global community-relations manager, said: “We are making our expectations very clear to the host governments.”

Those expectations are a development of earlier initiatives of the company, including its benchmark Framework on Security and Human Rights for implementing the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights in seven countries: Angola, Cameroon, Chad, Equatorial Guinea, Indonesia, Nigeria, and Venezuela. The framework provides guidance and expectations for managing security relationships with host governments and private security providers. It is being integrated into the company’s Operations Integrity Management System worldwide. ExxonMobil’s effort has won kudos.

‘Substantial progress’

“ExxonMobil, perhaps surprisingly given its late entry into the (Voluntary Principles) process in 2002, has nonetheless made substantial progress over the last 3 years in designing a global implementation process now being tested in seven target countries,” said Bennett Freeman, former US deputy assistant secretary of state for democracy, human rights, and labor and advisor to Amnesty International.

Freeman also said ExxonMobil “has taken a characteristically centralized approach, focused on framing specific management expectations and measurements and then adapting them to address country-specific operating issues and challenges.”

ExxonMobil’s policy results from dialogue-sometimes difficult-that started in 1998 with human rights watchdog Amnesty International USA. AIUSA wanted to persuade ExxonMobil to adopt a comprehensive and transparent human rights policy that included an explicit commitment to support and uphold the principles and values contained in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Setting standards

Moreover, AIUSA firmly believes that any adequate company human rights policy should also include:

  1. A policy on the use of security personnel, both private security and security forces provided by the government of a host country, that is based upon and consistent with internationally accepted human rights norms.
  2. A policy requiring a human rights and social impact assessment be conducted prior to the company’s decision to invest in countries that are experiencing civil conflict or which have poor human rights records, such as Chad or Indonesia.
  3. A plan for implementing these commitments and policies throughout the company’s global operations that provides for a secure and independent complaint mechanism, provisions for consultation with local affected communities about human rights and environmental concerns, provisions for social auditing by credible independent agencies, and annual public reporting of performance under these policies.