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CSR Dilemma – Environment Vs Human Rights

human rights vs renewable energy

The corporate sector is increasingly getting involved in solving climate problems by making a lot of changes in its operations as well as through their core product offerings. In the last several years there has been an advancement in technology that works towards solving environment-related problems.

The Indian renewable energy sector is the fourth most attractive renewable energy market in the world, according to Renewable Energy Country Attractiveness index 2018 by EY. As of October 2018, India ranked 5th in installed renewable energy capacity. Installed renewable power generation capacity has increased at a fast pace over the past few years, posting a CAGR of 19.78 per cent between FY14–18.

In the US, solar energy generation employed more people in 2016 than coal, gas and oil combined, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association. In the EU, wind now generates EUR 72 billion in annual turnover, According to Wind Europe.

While this sounds very encouraging, it takes a hit at human rights. According to the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre, the organisation had received 94 human rights abuse allegations for renewable energy companies since 2010, till 2016. Through their outreach to the renewable energy sector, they found ‘an alarming lack of transparency, awareness and implementation of human rights responsibilities’ within the companies.

Renewable energy companies such as hydro and solar, although climate-friendly, may not necessarily be community-friendly. These companies occupy a lot of land for building the infrastructure. This may go against community interests. Unprivileged class of countries with weak governance and land rights suffer the most in this scenario.

Apart from the company’s direct operations, their supply chains might also be interfering with human rights. For example, electric cars are taking up the world by a storm. However, Lithium-ion batteries required in electric cars, cannot be made without using cobalt. According to a report by Amnesty International, some 63% of the world’s cobalt comes from the Democratic Republic of Congo, where 20% of this cobalt is mined by hand, prevalently using child labour and other inhumane conditions.

While it is important to take steps to conserve the environment, it is important to not overlook human rights in the process.

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The CSR Journal Team