In 2011, the United Nations' (UN) Human Rights Council endorsed the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, creating a global standard for preventing and addressing human rights risks linked to business activity. Companies engage stakeholders, human rights experts, clients and peers to find practical ways to uphold the guidelines.
We believe all industries share responsibility for preserving human rights, and it has been an increasing focus on financial institutions in recently years. We assess how our business and operations may affect human rights and evaluate the impacts of our financing activities on people and the environment. We work diligently to apply our human rights policies across our entire value chain to positively influence our employees, suppliers, clients, communities and countries where we do business.
To learn more about how Citi is accelerating progress in preserving human rights worldwide, download our 2015 Fact sheet.
Human Rights in the Palm Oil Supply Chain
Human rights risks exist across the palm oil supply chain, often in rural, low-income, ethnically diverse tropical countries. In 2010, Citi joined the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), a multi-stakeholder group and sustainability certification body that holds members accountable to environmental and human rights standards. Our Environmental and Social Risk Management team looks into client adherence to RSPO human rights principles and participates in the RSPO complaints panel, which manages and mediates compliance breaches. We perform annual reviews of palm oil clients and, when human rights risks emerge, ensure they make progress toward prescribed resolutions.
Addressing Human Rights Abuses in the Thai Fishing Industry
In 2014 and 2015, investigations by journalists and human rights organizations found labor and human rights abuses in the Thai fishing industry, which is part of several Citi clients' supply chains. Our policies expressly prohibit forced labor and we responded immediately. Our Environmental and Social Risk Management team and senior regional risk officers engaged clients to understand the situation. We found them auditing operations to ensure their supply chains were free of forced labor, raising awareness of human rights and sustainability in their companies and developing policies and systems to track input and product sources. Where subcontractor labor violations were detected, clients hired those workers directly. Concurrently, the Thai fishing industry started a task force to share solutions and increase accountability. The Thai government mandated registration of all Thai fishing vessels and audits for labor protection. Companies intend to implement a tracking system that, by the end of 2016, will allow consumers to scan the barcode on a can of tuna at the supermarket and see the location, vessel and legal status of the vessel that caught the fish. We are monitoring this issue and helping clients address human rights risks.
Upholding LGBT Equality Around the World
Social acceptance and legal protections of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) individuals vary around the world, but we try to treat all of our employees equally and fairly. In 2015, we equalized domestic partner benefits and extended them to same-sex partners in all of our markets in Asia, where legally permissible. While these benefits were available in some countries in the region before, they were inconsistent and not always available to same-sex partners. Now, all domestic partners of Citi employees in these locations are eligible for the same leave, medical and beneficiary benefits. We plan to expand these benefits to additional geographies. We also discuss our LGBT equality views and approach with stakeholders. In January 2015, we participated in a call with a socially responsible investment firm to discuss our approach in countries where being LGBT is illegal and sometimes publicly opposing anti-LGBT laws can trigger retaliation against our employees. We discussed how we uphold our policies while ensuring employee safety. We also raise awareness and inclusion through our PRIDE employee networks around the world. We work with organizations such as the Human Rights Campaign in the United States, Stonewall in the United Kingdom, and with other companies to promote LGBT equality.
Guided by our Statement on Human Rights, we keep human rights at the forefront and work with our stakeholders to address societal, regulatory and ethical issues across our value chain.
We have been named a 100% Corporate Equality Index Company by the Human Rights Campaign annually since 2004.
We review transactions covered by our ESRM Policy for human rights risks as a part of our due diligence and meet with human rights experts to discuss emerging issues and how we can positively influence change. In 2015, we explored how Citi can incorporate a human rights risk-based due diligence approach, looking at risks not just to us, but to human rights holders.
For a list of awards and recognition Citi received in 2015 for our citizenship activity, click here.