The key challenge concerning human rights issues is that they are systemic and cannot be solved by one company only. From the outset of the Neste Singapore Expansion Project, we have worked with different partners to ensure that respect for human rights is embedded across the project. Already during the planning stage, before a final investment decision was made, we partnered with an external human rights advisor to carry out a risk assessment to better understand the potential human rights impacts that could occur in the construction phase. The assessment highlighted migrant workers as a vulnerable group and identified the need to implement mitigation actions to manage these potential human rights impacts onsite. Addressing these and other areas of concern proactively from the start set the foundation for engaging on human rights with the construction contractors and sub-contractors.
Safeguarding workers’ rights
In line with the recommendations of the human rights risk assessment, we put in place a number of measures to protect the rights of workers on the construction site beyond the requirements of local laws and regulations. First and foremost, we established a supply chain monitoring programme that begins with a pre-qualification process with strong social criteria for potential vendors and contractors. During the construction phase, social audits of all direct construction contractors were conducted, including a sample of their larger subcontractors. In addition to heavy focus on safety programmes, we also carried out diversity and inclusion activities aiming at increasing workers' wellbeing and awareness of their labour rights.
Another key initiative was the establishment of a local complaint mechanism to enable workers to safely raise their concerns regarding work-related issues directly to Neste via suggestion boxes installed on the construction sites. When implementing remediative actions, we always aim to tackle the root cause and find the optimal solution with our partners. At the end of 2021 when we evaluated the feedback received and actions taken in handling them, we found that suggestion boxes functioned as an effective channel between workers and management, enabling us to handle various questions, complaints and inquiries.
Together in action for human rights
In order to drive effective change, it is not only about promoting positive human rights practices across our own operations and supply chains, but also about trying to have a wider impact across the industry. After the social audit activities wrapped up at the beginning of 2022, we organised a seminar with all the companies that took part in the audit in order to share learnings and best practices.
The event organised in May 2022 called “Together in action for labour and human rights in the construction sector” sums up well our approach to human rights work in the Neste Singapore Expansion Project and brought together 17 construction companies, including several whose work in the project had ended some time ago. We discussed topics such as forced labour, responsible recruitment and living wages, and also highlighted initiatives that companies can join to drive these topics forward and learn from each other. Besides increasing awareness on salient human rights issues, by organising the seminar we also wanted to offer the participating companies a possibility to connect and network with each other. Working together is key – both with regard to human rights and the sustainability agenda beyond.