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Our approach to human rights

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The responsibility for ensuring respect for human rights in our daily operations sits in the business line. The Corporate Sustainability team, within Safety, Security and Sustainability (SSU) is the corporate function responsible for developing implementation of our due diligence processes, capability building and reporting.

The Executive Vice President (EVP) of SSU is the Chair of Equinor’s Human Rights Steering Committee. This steering committee is mandated by our Corporate Executive Committee (CEC) to oversee and provide guidance to the implementation of Equinor’s human rights policy and reports bi-annually to the Board of Directors Safety, Sustainability and Ethics Committee (BoD SSEC) on progress. Members of the Human Rights Steering Committee are EVPs leading Exploration & Production International; Projects Drilling and Procurement; Marketing, Midstream and Processing; Renewables; Legal and Compliance; People and Organisation; and EVP Communication.

The CEC and the BoD SSEC regularly discuss human rights dilemmas.

More regular and comprehensive information towards our progress in the field of human rights can be found in our Annual Sustainability Reports.

Awareness and collaborations

We believe constantly learning and raising awareness of human rights is the foundation to fostering a culture of respect for human rights within Equinor, which in turn develops our risk awareness and mitigation approaches.

To strengthen our employees’ understanding of their responsibility towards business and human rights, we have a company-wide e-learning course available to all. This can also be used by partners and suppliers on request via the Equinor company point of contact. Equinor actively promotes human rights training and awareness through classroom sessions, webinars, dilemma discussions and safety moments. Striving to ensure human rights is an integral part of senior leadership training is of particular focus.

We also work with other organisations to continually develop our understanding of human rights and how we can respond to potential or emerging issues. Such organisations include Shift, Impactt, and IPIECA and we participate in the UN Annual Forum on Business and Human Rights. In Norway we also contribute in discussions on business and human rights matters, with governmental institutions and non-governmental organisations.

Risk management

Risk management is an integrated part of all our business processes and decisions.

Equinor has developed an integrated human rights risk assessment tool allowing us to evaluate risk to people in all operations and supply chain activities. This approach enables Equinor’s senior leaders to take holistic business decisions, which incorporates mitigating measures and risk re-assessments. In this way, risk to people’s human rights are regularly reported to CEC and Board of Directors as part of the internal risk reporting process.

Our management system allows the human rights, country entry and supply chain risk assessments to be evaluated alongside our impact assessments and in conjunction with key milestones within our Capital Value Process.

Working with communities

We know that our ability to operate safely and reliably is dependent on gaining the acceptance and trust from the communities near our operations. Using a set of risk assessment processes, we develop stakeholder mapping and strive for collaboration with local representatives to help us understand the topics that communities are interested in discussing.

Practices recommended in international guidelines and standards support our approach to consultation, which has ranged from council meetings with tribal elders in New Zealand to larger scale townhall tours where we have made topical experts available to the communities in Australia.

Routinely using public consultations, surveys, interviews, one-to-one meetings and community panels to better understand the expectations from local communities is an important process to ensure our commitment the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Human rights due diligence supply chain priorities

Our human rights policy prescribes a risk-based approach to human rights due diligence. But what does this mean in practice for Equinor with approximately 9000 first tier suppliers?

Here is how we for the first time, with the assistance of external human rights expertise and through a holistic assessment, have defined the Equinor supply chain due diligence priorities for the period of 2021-2023.

Equinor’s Human Rights Policy (‘Policy’) sets out our commitment to perform human rights due diligence consistent with the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs). Human rights due diligence is an ongoing risk-based process including identifying, avoiding/preventing, mitigating and accounting for adverse human rights impacts occurring when products or services are being produced, directly or indirectly, for Equinor.

The Equinor supply chain universe is vast due to the sheer number of involved parties. Our main suppliers have multiple sub-suppliers, which in turn have their own supply chains. All these companies are delivering products and services towards an end-product ultimately delivered to Equinor, and the many workers involved are therefore all part of Equinor’s human rights scope.

Since 2019, Equinor has had a specific Human Rights Expectations of Suppliers Framework in place. The framework includes expectations of all current and new suppliers to Equinor, a guideline for how to meet the expectations, and specific human rights provisions in our contracts.

Our salient human rights issues are our main priorities as identified in our Policy. Our efforts in our supply chain build on these by focusing on opposing forced labour and child labour, non-discrimination, and safe and healthy working conditions for workers.

Equinor performs a basic desktop human rights risk assessment for all contracts as part of our procurement process. The contract scope is screened for actual and potential human rights risks, and the supplier’s approach towards their own workers and underlying supply chain is assessed. Risks, impacts and weaknesses in the supplier’s system which are not improved before a contract is signed, but still considered tolerable and manageable with an agreed action plan, will be further followed up after signing. Human rights risks shall be documented, reported, and followed up in the Equinor risk management system in accordance with our corporate requirements.

To progress our work on human rights, we acknowledge the efforts needed both by us, our peers and our suppliers to address systemic issues together, such as forced labour. We have therefore decided to focus our deeper engagement around specific priorities, supported by good practice.

The UNGP’s recognise that no company can address all potential human rights impacts in their full value chains, and certainly not at the same time, and so expect companies to approach human rights due diligence by prioritising their efforts according to the scope, scale and irremediability of potential and actual human rights impacts.

When deciding where to focus our efforts we have considered:

  • Risk to People – Where are the workers most at risk, how severe is the potential impact and how many might be impacted? People in this context is defined as supply chain workers, regardless of where in the supply chain. Vulnerable groups include low-skilled or unskilled workers and migrant workers.
  • Connection to Equinor – How closely are we connected to a supplier or a supplier activity? Connection in this context implies for example, a degree of impact Equinor has on the technical specification of the product or service and/or the delivery of such, repetitive or rare sourcing of the product or service, relationship with the supplier and whether the service is delivered on our premises.

Using this methodology, Equinor has defined specific priorities for supply chain human rights due diligence for the period 2021-2023:

  • Construction of fixed and floating oil and gas installations
  • Solar cells and wind turbine generators
  • Marine operations and installation of facilities for offshore wind and oil & gas projects
  • Integrated drilling and well services
  • Services to onshore and offshore producing assets in Norway involving foreign personnel
  • IT and business support services delivered to Equinor from supplier offices
  • Security, catering and cleaning services to select Equinor offices based on known risk

For those areas prioritised in the listing above, our human rights approach extends beyond basic qualification procedures and contractual requirements and will be supported by internal and external expertise. Typical activities of this extended approach could include:

  • Senior level management dialogue
  • Supply chain mapping and traceability to verify whether known risk factors are present
  • On site assessments and worker engagement
  • Capacity building and support to suppliers and sub-suppliers in implementing processes and practices to strengthen workers’ rights
  • Joint initiatives between suppliers or with peers to address common issues
  • Developing specific indicators to track performance

The above presents the areas of priority for Equinor’s proactive human rights due diligence efforts within our own supply chains. If we detect or receive information about adverse human rights risks or impacts with a supplier or sub-supplier outside these priorities, our Human Rights Expectations of Suppliers Framework will guide what actions should be taken.

This risk-based prioritisation has been developed based on internal experience and with support from external advisors on human rights. It will enable us to channel resources effectively – focusing both on human rights risks to people and our ability to effectively address these, in line with our human rights commitment and as expected by our stakeholders.

Our human rights policy documents

Working conditions in the supply chain

We expect our suppliers to maintain high standards of safety, security and sustainability, including respecting human rights in ways similar to our approach, throughout their value chain when performing work for us.

Safety, security and sustainability requirements apply throughout all phases of our procurement process. Most of our suppliers, based on certain criteria, must confirm that they will comply with our minimum standards for ethics, anti-corruption, security, health and safety and human rights issues including the ILO core conventions. More practical information on Equinor’s supply chain can be found via the link below.

In collaboration with Impactt we have been developing our approach to supplier assessments in high risk areas, focusing on direct engagement with the supply chain workforce, where the workers voice is at the core. This method is be embedded through our Expectations of Suppliers.

Furthermore, Equinor has been a driving force in the industry initiative on human rights in the supply chain, as we believe that we can be most impactful through collaboration with partners and suppliers to improve working conditions throughout the supply chain.

Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights

Equinor is an active participant in the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights Initiative and strives to respect and implement these principles in our operations.

Our commitment to the principles is reflected in our policies and procedures for risk assessment, deployment, training and follow-up of private and public security providers in high-risk locations.

Equinor uses armed security services in Brazil and Nigeria; human rights training is provided in each case. In addition, such training is provided for unarmed guards and security personnel protecting our operations in Algeria, Angola and Tanzania.

Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights Initiative

Community grievance mechanisms

In larger operations we have implemented community-based grievance mechanisms, please visit the ‘Where we are’ section of our website to navigate to a specific country for more details. Long-standing community based non-judicial grievance mechanisms are accessible at our operations in Tanzania and Brazil, which have been adapted from the IPIECA tool kit and applied in line with IFC standards. For assets where our partners are operating, we expect an equivalent grievance system to be in place.

Equinor will cooperate, as appropriate, with other non-judicial and judicial remedy processes, such as the OECD National Contact Points and Ombudsman offices, as well as providing the applicable regulatory and legal processes for grievance handling and access to remedy.

In line with the Code of Conduct Equinor will not tolerate any form of recrimination or retaliation to those who raise a concern with us. We recognise the right to advocate for and to defend human rights in a peaceful manner on behalf of those who’s rights may be at risk.

Human rights cases and examples

Impact on local communities in Tanzania

Land for the Tanzania LNG project

Equinor together with its partners in Block 2 continue to work with the government of Tanzania to advance the project by developing a legal, fiscal and commercial framework that will enable the LNG project to become a reality.

Following an extensive site selection process in 2013, a site was identified in the Lindi region to host the onshore LNG plant once the final investment decision is made by the investors. TPDC is the license holder for the offshore Block 2 and the land title holder for the selected LNG site.

In May 2020, TPDC, as the company responsible for the acquisition of the LNG site, commenced the compensation process for the affected communities at the LNG site consistent with Tanzanian law.

An independent third-party is closely monitoring TPDC’s compensation and relocation process against the Tanzanian law and the commitments included in the Resettlement Environmental Impact Assessment (REIA).

Throughout the TPDC’s compensation and relocation process, Equinor and its partners maintain dialogue with the relevant authorities. In line with UN guiding principles for business and human rights, Equinor is assessing impacts from this process to define mitigating actions toward the impacted communities.

If an investment decision is ultimately made, this process will be reviewed in the context of international best practice principles.

Toolbox Talks – applying the human rights lens to safety practices

In one of our construction projects we have, together with our external expert Impactt, piloted a way of integrating human rights topics into the Toolbox Talks. Toolbox Talks is a widely used worker engagement programme that encourages foreman-worker dialogue related to the tasks of the day and to highlight any safety concerns in a bid to mitigate potential risks.

Over a period of 8 weeks, various human rights topics were explored with safety in mind focused on motivating workers to stay safe and on reminding the workers of the human factors needed to create safe, respectful workplaces. “One of the biggest challenges in achieving safe workplaces is changing entrenched habits and behaviours”, says Alistair Pyle from Impactt.

“A company’s OHS policies and Toolbox Talks set the expectation, which must also be coupled with addressing fundamental changes in attitudes. In Impactt’s experience, there are simple ways to do this – encouraging people to rethink their relationships with one another, whilst implementing a safety process that identifies and reinforces safe behaviour and reduces unsafe behaviour, resulting in better jobs and safer workplaces,” added Rose Martin of Imapctt.

An assessment of impacts after the completion of the 8-week programme was carried out involving 25 workers and 5 foremen from 4 different nationalities. Findings included a 31% increase in unsafe behaviour reporting, an increase in reported incidents by workers and a 65% decrease in the number of unsafe Hand Injury Prevention (HIP) behaviours observed.

It is more than safety, we talk about how to look out for each other and about our family who are our motivation for being here - to work and to ensure we get home safely to our loved ones” said one of the foremen from the interviews.

A worker commented; “I can bring my whole self to the yard, I don’t feel like I have to leave myself and my worries at the gate”.

We are now exploring how we can leverage the learning from this pilot across Equinor.

Positive learnings from remote worker engagement during Covid-19

The pandemic limited our access to construction sites. Together with our external partner Impactt, we explored new ways of conducting onsite assessments and worker interviews remotely. A new protocol was developed and, we have found they’ve been effective.

The situation for many migrant workers has become increasingly challenging due to the pandemic. This is true for workers in many of the large dormitories in South East Asia.

Giving workers a voice during the pandemic lockdown has given them a forum to express their worries and concerns. The workers were able to set the time and place for contact to take place which meant a limited risk of interference which in turn built the required trust for workers to feel safe and speak more freely. As one worker commented, “I feel tense as 3 of my room mates tested positive for COVID 19 and the government is delaying the rollout of tests for us. We are unsure whether any more people in my room are infected, even me!”

These direct conversations with workers have allowed us to keep the momentum on important ongoing assurance work and to keep risks on our radar. We have focused on understanding the workers’ well-being in dormitories during lockdown and on improving accommodation conditions.

In addition, a survey relating to workers’ well-being and living conditions was conducted across 13 dormitories at one of our construction sites. The survey was done remotely through direct engagement with the workers during 30-45-minute phone calls. 394 workers responded to questions regarding physical and mental health, living accommodation in dormitories, communication channels, and salary payment.

In collaboration with our external partners we will continue to leverage digital tools in assessments and follow up of the conditions for workers in our supply chain.