Our approach to human rights is a fundamental aspect of the way we treat our people and seek to see others within our sphere of influence treated.
Our reputation as a responsible business is influenced by how well stakeholders believe we manage human rights in those countries with challenging human rights environments.
Stakeholders have high expectations of responsible corporate conduct in countries with challenging human rights environments and there is notable scrutiny of our presence and behaviour in these countries.
One of the Core Beliefs within our Business Principles is that ‘universally recognised fundamental human rights should be respected’. Our Framework for CSR clearly sets out where we feel we should take action, namely in ensuring that our companies respect workplace human rights and in encouraging our suppliers and commercial partners, where possible, to adopt similarly high standards to our own. We support the United Nations Global Compact’s guiding principles on human rights, which state that businesses should:
- Support and respect the protection of internationally proclaimed human rights within their sphere of influence; and
- Make sure they are not complicit in human rights abuses.
Eliminating child labour
Due to our agricultural supply chain, one human rights issue to which we are potentially exposed is exploitative child labour. We recognise that this issue can affect our industry and we are committed to the principles of protecting children from child labour exploitation, believing that their development – as well as that of their communities and countries – is best served through education, not child labour.
In 2001, British American Tobacco helped to establish the Eliminating Child Labour in Tobacco Growing (ECLT) Foundation with the International Tobacco Growers’ Association and the trades union in our sector, the International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers’ Associations.
The ECLT Foundation Board is advised by the International Labour Organisation and members now include other tobacco companies and the world’s leading leaf processing companies.
The Foundation’s work focuses on:
- Independent research to produce an objective picture of the conditions and level of child labour in tobacco growing;
- Supporting and funding local and community-based projects;
- Establishing and sharing best practice and lessons learned.
How do we manage human rights?
We expect all our companies to operate to the same high standards no matter where they are located. Respect for the human rights of our employees is reflected in our Employment Principles, which embody universally recognised human rights as they apply to the workplace, such as in relation to discrimination, freedom of association, child labour, forced labour, health and safety, and terms and conditions of work. The Employment Principles apply to all Group companies and adherence is monitored regularly through our internal audit.
We also expect our companies to encourage positive approaches to human rights in their sphere of influence, such as with our supply partners. Human rights considerations are incorporated in our major supply chain programmes, Social Responsibility in Tobacco Production (SRTP) and Business Enabler Survey Tool (BEST).
Currently, we deploy several means of ensuring that we are aware of where there is a higher risk of human rights abuses occurring and enabling our companies to have the appropriate systems in place to manage human rights.
- Our CSR Checklist: It contains a requirement that all our companies have effective systems for managing human rights;
- Our Human Rights Diagnostic Tool: This requires Group companies to identify their appropriate level of human rights management proficiency (Basic, Positive or Advanced) based on the level of human rights risk in the countries where they operate;
- A political sensitivity report: This details our presence in countries that are listed by Freedom House as ‘Not Free’ and by FSTE4Good’s research partner EIRIS as ‘countries of concern’. It is updated twice yearly, to incorporate significant changes in the countries’ political situation, their human rights records and in external concern. This helps us to anticipate and manage business and reputation risk.
Our approach to managing human rights is evolving and will increasingly reflect systematic risk analysis, based on recognised external authoritative sources and assessments at local, regional and Group levels.
Measuring our performance in human rights is difficult and we do not assume that our systems are perfect.
We continue to develop measures to help us and we are keen to make more use of external sources of information on human rights risk.
During 2008, we will review our CSR Checklist, our Human Rights Diagnostic tool and our related governance processes to enable continuous improvement in human rights management. We will report on any changes we make in next year’s Sustainability Report.
More information on our approach to human rights management, including details of our business presence in ‘countries of concern’ as defined in the FTSE4Good list, can be found at www.bat.com/humanrights